Emotional Support Animals

Information Regarding ESAs on Campus

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) assures that people with disabilities be allowed to have an assistance animal in residence with them if the animal is necessary for the individual to have full benefit, enjoyment, and use of a residential facility.  The term “assistance animal” encompasses both service animals and emotional support animals (ESA). The following information is specific to ESAs in Residence Halls, and do not pertain to Service Animals (as defined by the ADA). An ESA provides comfort to a person with a psychiatric/psychological disability. They are distinguishable from service animals in that they are not trained to perform specific tasks that assist an individual with a disability.

While we understand how beneficial pets can be to one's well being, emotional support animals are not considered pets. Additionally, a mental health diagnosis may not rise to the level of a disability. ESAs are only an accommodation for students with disabilities. In general, our residence halls are not an animal-friendly environment. Communal living requires Arcadia to consider the concerns and comfort for all residential students. Therefore, Arcadia offers some important guidance for students considering ESA requests.

NOTE: ESAs are not permitted on campus until the accommodation request has been made and acted upon; students found with unauthorized animals in the residence hall will be subject to sanctions under the Student Code of Conduct and will be fined for having a pet on campus.

  • Documentation guidelines can be found here. Since and ESA is part of a treatment plan for someone with significant mental health diagnosis, documentation must come from your licensed treating mental health provider. ESA requests are approved for the academic year, new accommodation requests will need to be made each year meaning you may need to provide updated documentation supporting the continued need for the ESA.
    • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been asked by HUD to investigate websites that purport to provide documentation from a health care provider in support of requests for an ESA after indivuduals complete a short questionair or brief interview. The websites in question offer for sale documentation that is not reliable for purposes of determining whether an individual has a disability or disability-related need for an ESA because the website operators and health care professionals who consult with them lack the personal knowledge that is necessary to make such determinations.

  • It’s important to note that Arcadia may approve the accommodation need for an ESA, but not the particular ESA you were hoping to bring. For example, many reptiles and rodents may be rejected because of safety and health concerns, as they can carry zoonotic diseases posing a threat to the community. Another example would include if the animal is too large for the assigned housing space. In traditional halls, this typically means the animal's crate or cage must fit in the student’s room. This typically means a tank that would fit on the student’s desk ( 4 ft X 2 ft ) or an animal smaller than 30 pounds. We require that the animal be spayed or neutered to prevent behavioral issues (excessive yowling, spraying, etc).
  • ESAs are restricted to the student’s immediate living space.  They are not allowed in common areas throughout the residence hall. Moreover, the ESA must be contained (caged or crated) any time the student in not in the room.
  • Accommodations requests are only for residential living and do not apply for students seeking break housing. Breaking housing typically only lasts for a week or two and consists of students moving into Oak Summit and living in communal hostel environment that is not conducive for an ESA.
  • Students bringing ESAs to campus are fully responsible for the animal’s care, behavior, and for any damage done. The ESA may not be left in the care of other residents. If the student leaves campus overnight, the ESA must be taken along. If the ESA is disruptive to the living environment for others (for example, barking or other loud noises, or significant odor from litter boxes or cages), or if there is damage done to University facilities, the ESA will need to be removed from the premises. The student will be responsible for paying for property damage.

Checklist for Requesting an ESA

If you would like to request an accommodation for an ESA, please see below checklist for requesting an ESA in residential housing.

  • Discuss the appropriateness of an ESA with your mental health professional. (See tip sheet on topics to discuss and factors to consider unique to campus living)
  • Self identify as a student with a disability with Disability Support Services:
    • Submit documentation from mental health provider. We have created a verification form for you give your mental health professional to help collect all necessary information for us to make a determination
    • Complete the google form stating your request for the ESA.
  • After receiving an accommodation approval from DSS and signing the approval acknowledgement, meet with the Director of Residential Life to review and sign AU’s Guidelines on ESA’s within the Residential Community
  • Be aware of deadlines regarding housing accommodations requests. Since housing accommodations are closely tied to the housing selection process, we can not guarantee all housing accommodations requests made after the deadline will be honored. Requests should be made by March 1 for returning students and by May 30 for new students for the upcoming academic year.