Service Animals & ESAs

Animals on Campus

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a postsecondary educational institution may not exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any part of its programs or services, or otherwise discriminate against an applicant or student with a disability.

Under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation of an assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, in housing when its use is necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and/or the common areas of a dwelling.

For more information on animals at the University of Mary Washington, please review the UMW Animals on University Property Policy and Assistance Animals Policy.

For further information you can view the following resources:

Service Animals

Service animals provide active support and are permitted to accompany the animal handler in all public areas at the University with limited exceptions.

If it is readily apparent that an individual has a disability and requires on-campus assistance of an animal that qualifies as a service animal, no further information will be requested, with limited exceptions (for example, the use of a service animal in a science lab setting may require additional information sharing to allow for the safety of all participants and the animal as well as the use of protective gear). In rare cases when it is determined that an animal cannot enter the environment, additional information will assist with determining alternative supports. It is strongly recommended for students using service animals to register with the Office of Disability Resources so that the student has a working relationship with ODR, which can provide helpful support throughout their time at UMW.

An individual may be required to explain the work or task that the animal has been trained to perform, but the animal will not be required to demonstrate this task and no documentation of training will be required.

If the service animal will be residing in campus housing, the student is required to provide advanced notice to Residence Life and Housing and provide the following:

  1. Assistance Animal Owner/Handler Responsibilities – Student is required to agree to these responsibilities and provide this completed agreement to Residence Life and Housing
  2. Assistance Animal Registration Form – Student is required to provide this completed form to Residence Life and Housing.

Please review the Guidelines for Supporting Students with Service Animals in Labs if you are a student who requires the use of a service animal in a lab at UMW. Due to matters related to health and safety, it is extremely important that service animal handlers in labs consider registering with the Office of Disability Resources in advance of the start of their labs and discuss considerations of service animals in labs with their ODR specialist.

The Service Animals Flyer also includes helpful information to learn more about service animals.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is defined as any animal with a primary role of providing a person with a disability emotional comfort. These animals are not required to undergo specialized training. Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals in that they are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. A request for an ESA will be primarily treated as a housing accommodation request. ESAs may not reside in housing without approval from the Housing Accommodation Committee and the completion of the ESA procedures outlined below.

Requesting an Emotional Support Animal

In order to make a request for an ESA, a student must complete the ESA Request Packet located on our website and submit the required information.

ESA Request Packet includes:

  • Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Request Form – This form must be completed by both the student and licensed provider and submitted to the Office of Disability Resources.
  • ESA Roommate Acknowledgement – The student is required to discuss bringing the animal to live in campus housing with their roommate and share this completed acknowledgment with Residence Life (after being approved for an ESA). This discussion (or evidence of attempt) is required prior to the animal living in campus housing. It is important to ensure that the student makes all efforts to have this conversation with their roommate prior to the animal coming to campus. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure this form is completed for every roommate from the point of approval throughout their time at UMW, and it should be provided to Residence Life as soon as possible. If issues arise with the completion of this acknowledgment, it is the student’s responsibility to share these concerns with Residence Life and/or ODR as early as possible so that assistance can be provided. We understand that it may not always be possible to talk with your roommate before coming to campus for the first time, and flexibility will be extended for new students to allow for reasonable, additional time for this conversation. If it is not possible to reach the roommate, please attach email correspondence.
  • Assistance Animal Owner/Handler Responsibilities – If approved for an ESA, the student is required to agree to these responsibilities and provide this completed agreement to Residence Life and Housing.
  • Assistance Animal Registration Form – If approved for an ESA, the student is required to provide this completed form to Residence Life and Housing. This form must be updated on an annual basis. It is the student’s responsibility to provide an updated Assistance Animal Registration Form each year to Residence Life and Housing.

After ODR has reviewed the request, the student will be notified via UMW email to schedule an initial meeting with the assigned ODR specialist. The ODR specialist will meet with the student to engage in the interactive process and learn more about the student’s request for an ESA. After this meeting, the request will be presented to the Housing Accommodation Committee for a decision. The student will be notified via email of the Housing Accommodation Committee decision.

Considerations Before Requesting an ESA

Please note that accommodation requests should be directly related to the individual with the disability and disability-related needs, and should not be requested in order to better accommodate the animal. For example, a request for a first-floor room or single room in order to better accommodate an assistance animal are not considered reflective of disability-related needs for an individual with the disability.

It is strongly recommended to create a personal safety plan for the potential of an emergency/fire drill situation and its impact on the animal, as an individual would plan for these situations for themselves (for example, considering having a “grab bag” with needed supplies/medications, leash, and other important emergency items to be able to quickly leave in the event of an emergency or drill).

Taking appropriate responsibilities to plan is essential for every emergency, including considerations for your animal. Several additional resources to assist with emergency planning are provided below:

It is important to note that the complete responsibility of being an animal handler on campus falls on the student. Therefore, some important considerations are provided below to assist the student in determining whether the accommodation of an Emotional Support Animal is an appropriate one for them:

  • Space limitations within the campus Residence Life and Housing environment.
  • Time obligations related to caring for specific species.
  • Student schedule, lifestyle, other responsibilities.
  • Financial cost of food, supplies, veterinarian visits.
  • Previous ownership of species or anxiety an animal may experience in a new environment.
  • Caring for the animal during school breaks.
  • Travel, Study Abroad, Job/Internship commitments, extracurricular activity commitments, other extended time away.
  • Training of animal (housebroken/litter trained, appropriate behavior to avoid distractions and disruptions to others in the shared living environment).
  • When is the ideal time to bring the animal to campus.