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Can You Bring An Emotional Support Animal To School? Colleges & Universities Allow ESAs 2024
Being away from home and attending school can be a challenging time for students. This may be the first time an individual is living in a new place and being held to higher academic standards. They may feel homesick or stressed to meet academic expectations. Students can also experience social anxiety and loneliness during this time. In such situations, having the option to bring an emotional support animal to school can make a significant difference.
For some students, these feelings subside quickly, but for others, they may experience extreme emotional difficulty and/or might already be diagnosed with a mental or emotional disability, and may have been prescribed an emotional support animal (ESA) to help alleviate symptoms.
This article will explain why ESAs are beneficial for people with emotional or mental disabilities and why, under law, colleges and universities must make reasonable accommodation for them in on-campus housing.
Can You Bring An Emotional Support Animal To School?
Under the federal law of the Fair Housing Act, a college or university cannot deny you the right to keep your ESA with you in your dorm room, even if there is a no pets policy on campus. Additionally, colleges are prohibited from charging pet fees for ESAs.
Colleges may only reject requests for ESAs if the animal would be a nuisance, danger, or pose a direct threat to others, or if the animal violates health codes. Additionally, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
Universities That Are Friendly To Emotional Support Animals
By law, all college and university housing must make reasonable accommodation for ESAs and their owners. This law only applies to housing, which means while ESAs are allowed in dorms, they are not guaranteed access to other places on campus, such as classrooms.
Below are some pet and ESA-friendly colleges and universities:
- University of Idaho
- University of Illinois
- Harvard University
- Johnson and Wales University
- Kansas State University
- Reed College
- Rice University
- Stanford University
- University of Nevada at Reno
- University of Washington
- University of Texas at San Antonio
- University of Wyoming
- Washington and Jefferson College
Documentation That Your Should Prepare For An ESA
The most important document you need for your ESA is an ESA letter, the letter from an LMHP that states that your animal is an ESA and why it’s necessary for the treatment of your condition.
It is also helpful to have proof of your ESA’s vaccinations. Some public places, businesses, and schools may wish to see this proof of vaccination before agreeing to admit your ESA.
Forms For Emotional Support Animals In Universities
Each university will have their own forms you need to fill out in order to bring your ESA on campus. For some schools, an ESA letter will be all that is required. Other schools may ask you to fill out a pet/ESA application, request form, and/or an ESA registration form.
Some schools may even wish to meet the ESA before you move into on-campus housing.
It’s possible that some schools may have forms that ask for personal medical information, such as how long you’ve been seeing your LMHP. It’s important to know that requesting such information could violate HIPAA privacy rules; you are not required by law to answer these types of questions (if these questions appear on forms, you can leave them blank).
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs): General Information
An ESA is any animal that provides emotional support to someone with a mental or emotional disability. An example of an ESA is an emotional support dog. ESAs are granted ESA rights based on an ESA letter, written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). This letter prescribes the animal as a treatment for a person with a disability.
While an ESA is more than a pet, it is not individually trained to perform certain tasks as service animals are, and therefore do not have as many legal rights as service animals do.
If you feel you need an ESA, meet with a LMHP in your state. If they assess your condition and agree that an ESA would benefit your treatment, they will write you an ESA letter, which you can show to landlords, colleges, and public places, to allow admittance of your ESA. Learn more about how to get a valid ESA letter.
There’s no limit to how many ESAs you can have, legally, as long as an LMHP writes an ESA letter for each animal, and as long as each animal serves a different role in your treatment.
How Are You Eligible For An Emotional Support Animal?
Some of the emotional and mental disabilities and conditions that may qualify someone for an ESA include:
- Eating disorders.
- Panic attacks.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
This is not an exhaustive list of all conditions that may qualify someone for an ESA. Additionally, having one or more of these diagnoses does not guarantee that a LMHP will feel that an ESA would benefit your treatment.
Legal Rights That Emotional Support Animals Owners Have
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords and housing providers (including college dorms) from discriminating against individuals based on race, gender, color, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, familial status, and disability. This means that a person with a disability cannot be denied housing or the right to live with their ESA based on their disability.
That being said, a housing application can be rejected for other reasons, such as inadequate finances, poor credit score, or if the ESA would pose a danger or disruption to others in the building.
In some states, ESA owners may also get accommodations to bring their ESA into the workplace. This varies depending on the state.
Tips Help You Prepare For Living With An ESA At University
Universities which offer housing have housing staff that are responsible for placing students in specific campus dwellings. Most universities will inform your roommate about your emotional support animals and ensure that your roommate is okay with this arrangement.
If you know your roommate in advance and have a good relationship with them, you may wish to reach out to them directly.
Ask For An Appropriate Dorm Room
The university should place you in a suitable room that will accommodate you and your ESA. However, let the campus housing staff know if you feel certain dwellings may be more suitable for your ESA. They may be able to accommodate you (though it is not a guarantee).
Remember, the school must make reasonable accommodation, which means allowing your ESA to reside on campus. Schools are not obligated to add special features that might not already exist in on-campus housing, such as large windows, central air conditioning, or carpeting–this could fall outside of “reasonable accommodation”.
Many university dorms have “quiet hours” or “study hours”, times designated for less noise so that residents can sleep and/or study. If your ESA makes noise (e.g., a dog that barks), this may pose a conflict to the comfort of others.
Discuss this with the school before bringing your ESA to campus. The school may determine that this conflict grants them the right to deny access, or they may allow the ESA’s admittance and revoke it only if the animal winds up being disruptive.
ESAs are animals that are prescribed as a treatment for someone with an emotional or mental disability. This includes students, some of whom may have additional emotional or mental health struggles, as they adjust to new academic standards, social pressures, and homesickness. An ESA, such as an emotional support dog, must be prescribed by a mental health professional.
If you’re planning to take your ESA to school with you, rest assured that colleges and universities must abide by the Fair Housing Act and allow for reasonable accommodation for you and the ESA in on-campus housing.
Not all institutions, however, will allow ESAs to accompany students to other areas on campus outside of the dormitories (such as cafeterias and classrooms), because ESAs are not considered service animals.
Additionally, while colleges and universities must make reasonable accommodations, they can deny a request for an ESA if the accommodations needed are unreasonable, or if the animal would pose undue hardship on others sharing the living space.
Frequently Asked Questions
That depends on the college or university. Federal laws protect owners who want to bring their ESAs to school, however, the laws only apply to housing (such as dorms). Many colleges may not permit ESAs to accompany their owners to classrooms and other places outside the dorms. Other assistance animals such as service dogs may have more campus access.
No. The Fair Housing Act is a federal law which all schools in the U.S. must abide by.
Schools have a housing department that should ensure that you are placed with a roommate who would be amenable to living with an animal.
No. Any accessories you need for your ESA are your responsibility. The school only must provide reasonable accommodation, which means allowing the animal to live with you. But they are not obligated to provide beds or other supplies for your animal.
It depends on the school’s policy and regulations. Some schools may allow it with proper documentation and approval, while others may have specific rules against bringing animals on campus.
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- Hud.gov. (2018). HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals.
- Adata.org. (2023). What are a public or private college-university’s responsibilities to students with disabilities? | ADA National Network. [online] Available at: https://adata.org/faq/what-are-public-or-private-college-universitys-responsibilities-students-disabilities.
- ADA.gov. (2023). Service Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/topics/service-animals/.
- Younggren, J.N., Boness, C.L., Bryant, L.M. and Koocher, G.P. (2020). Emotional Support Animal Assessments: Toward a Standard and Comprehensive Model for Mental Health Professionals. [online] 51(2), pp.156–162. doi:https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000260.