A service animal is a dog (or in some cases a miniature horse) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. These tasks include but not limited to: guiding individuals with impaired vision; alerting individuals who are hearing impaired to intruders or sound; pulling a wheelchair; or fetching dropped items.
An assistance animal, also known as an emotional support animal, is an animal selected to play an integral part of a person’s treatment process. Such an animal must demonstrate a good temperament and reliable, predictable behavior. An assistance animal is prescribed to an individual with a disability by a healthcare or mental health professional. An assistance animal is not a service animal. Unlike a service animal, an assistance animal does not assist a person with a disability with activities of daily living, nor does it accompany a person with a disability at all the times. However, an assistance animal may be incorporated into a treatment process to assist in alleviating the symptoms of that individual’s disability. This treatment occurs within the person’s residence and therefore may be considered for access to campus housing.
A pet is an animal kept for ordinary use and companionship. A pet is not considered a service animal or an emotional support animal, and therefore, it is not covered by this policy. Non-approved pets are not permitted on college property. For further details about approved and non-approved pets, see the Pet Policy.
Service Animals and Assistance Animals in Campus Housing
Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind. The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.
In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions:
(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And
(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. The handler is responsible for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, grooming and veterinary care. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their handlers anywhere that is open to the general population.
Please Note: Owners of service animals are encouraged to identify emergency contacts for their animal.
Requesting an Assistance Animal
In college, it is up to each student to decide whether to disclose his or her disability. However, if a student would like to receive housing accommodations at Alma he or she must register with the Disability Services Coordinator in the Center for Student Opportunity and provide the appropriate documentation.
1. Request Accommodations
This can be done through the Housing Accommodation Request Form or by emailing email@example.com. Students are encouraged to engage through the accommodation request process at least 30 days prior to housing selection or when the accommodation is needed.
2. Submit Documentation
- A letter from the student that gives a brief summary of why they are making the request
- A care plan for the animal written by the student
- Relevant veterinary records dependent on the animal. Animals must be up-to-date on all vaccinations and spayed/neutered (if appropriate for that animal).
- A letter from the student’s doctor or therapist. The doctor or therapist should have a relationship with the student and be able to recommend an assistance animal as a part of the student’s treatment. See below on documentation requirements from the provider.
The documentation from the doctor/therapist should be a signed letter, on professional letterhead, from the person’s physical or mental healthcare licensed provider or therapist. The provider or therapist should be familiar with the professional literature concerning the assistive and/or therapeutic benefits of emotional support animals for people with disabilities. At a minimum, the letter should include the following items:
- Whether the health care professional has a professional relationship with the patient/client involving the provision of health care or disability related services.
- The provider’s professional opinion that the condition qualifies as a disability under federal law, including the major life activity which is substantially limited by the disability.
- The type of animal for which the accommodation is sought.
- The provider’s opinion that the assistance animal has been prescribed for treatment purposes and is necessary to help alleviate symptoms associated with the person’s condition and/or to help the person use and enjoy housing services.
- Any unique circumstances justifying the patient’s need for the particular animal or type of animal.
- Any additional rationale or statement the College may reasonably need to understand the basis for the professional opinion.
3. Discussion with the Disability Services Coordinator about:
- How your condition impacts a major life function (we will not be asking for your specific condition or diagnosis information).
- Expectations of higher education including assistance animal policies, housing policies etc.
4. Determination of Reasonable Accommodations
A committee made up of Academic Support and Disability Support Services staff, Housing and Residence Life staff, and Counseling and Wellness staff will meet on a weekly basis to determine what accommodations are best. This process can take between 1-2 weeks.
5. Agreement to Assistance Animal Policies
The Disability Services Coordinator will e-mail a copy of the assistance animal agreement and emergency contact form to be completed and returned by the student.
5. Notification of Staff
The Disability Services Coordinator will e-mail PDF copies of accommodation letters to the student’s Alma email account. They will ask permission to send accommodation letters to any necessary staff, such as Housing and Residence Life Staff.
6. Continued Interaction
Students are encouraged to work with the Disability Services Coordinator at any point, but especially if they are experiencing any difficulty with their housing accommodations, have a new diagnosis to share, are experiencing different impacts due to medication changes or ongoing disability-related treatment or progression, or wish to discuss support resources that may be available to aid in their success.
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