Service & Emotional Support Animal Policy & Agreement

Alma College is committed to reasonably accommodate persons with disabilities who require the assistance of service or emotional support animals.  However, the College is also mindful of the health and safety concerns of the campus community.  Thus, the College must balance the need of the individual with the disability with the potential impact of animals on other campus patrons.  The successful implementation of the policy requires the cooperation of all students, faculty, and staff.


Disability: Disability is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, a record of such impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.
Service Animal: 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.
Emotional Support Animal: 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 emotional support animal is prescribed to an individual with a disability by a healthcare or mental health professional.  An emotional support animal is not a service animal.  Unlike a service animal, an emotional support 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 emotional support 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.
Pet: 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 and Emotional Support Animals in Campus Housing:

Service Animals:
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.

General Rules:
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.

Emotional Support Animals:
An emotional support animal may not reside in Campus housing without expressed approval of College officials. Such requests should be processed as follows:

  1. A person requesting an emotional support animal must provide the appropriate documentation to the Emotional Support Animal committee for review. Documentation includes a letter from the student that gives a brief summary of why they are making the request, a care plan for the animal, any relevant veterinary records, and a letter from the student’s doctor or therapist.
  2. 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 (template letter is provided at the end of this document):
    1. The provider’s diagnosis of the person’s condition.
    2. 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.
    3. The provider’s opinion that the emotional support 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.
    4. Any additional rationale or statement the College may reasonably need to understand the basis for the professional opinion.
  3. A committee consisting of representatives from Disability Services, Student Life and Counseling and Wellness will meet to review the documentation and make a determination.  The committee may decide to approve the request, deny the request, or request more information from the student.
  4. The Disability Services Coordinator will inform the student of the committee’s decision and discuss the next steps.  If the request is approved, this policy will be reviewed with the student and they will be asked to sign an Emotional Support Animal agreement.  In addition the Disability Services Coordinator will write an accommodation letter for the student stating that they qualify for an emotional support animal in campus housing. The student should present a copy of this letter to their Hall Director and retain a copy for themselves. If a college official other than the Hall Director requests proof of approval, the accommodation letter will serve as such. If the request is denied, an interactive dialogue will take place to determine whether or not there are alternative accommodations that could be put into place.

Conflicting Disabilities:
Students with medical condition(s) that are affected by animals (respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) should contact the Student Life office or the Disability Services Coordinator if they have a health or safety related concern about exposure to a service or emotional support animal.  The Disability Service Coordinator will have an interactive dialogue with the student to determine whether there is a need for accommodation and what accommodations would be appropriate.  The College may use the Student Health Center as a resource for information on health issues.  In the event that a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, the student may file a grievance per the College’s Grievance Policy.

Responsibility of Persons with Service or Emotional Support Animals:

Care and Supervision: Care and supervision of the animal is the sole responsibility of the individual who benefits from the animal’s use.  The person is required to maintain control of the animal at all times.  The person is also responsible for ensuring the clean-up of the animal’s waste and, when appropriate, must toilet the animal in areas designated by the College.
Vaccination: The animal must be immunized against disease common to that type of animal.  Dogs must have current vaccination against rabies and wear a rabies vaccination tag.
Health: The animal must be in good health.  Animals to be housed in campus housing must have an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian.  The College has authority to direct that the animal receive veterinary attention.
Licensing: The animal must be appropriately licensed in accordance with the city of Alma ordinances.
Leash: The animal must be on a leash, if appropriate for the animal, at all times.
Other Behavioral Guidelines: Service or emotional support animals may not be used to entice visitors to a student’s room or as a mascot for an event or student organization. For example – an invitation to visit a student’s room solely to spend time with/interact with a service/emotional support animal is not appropriate.
Other Conditions: Alma College may place other reasonable conditions or restrictions on the animals depending on the nature and characteristics of the animal.

Requirements for Faculty, Staff, Students, and Other Members of the Campus Community:
Members of the campus community are required to abide by the following practices:

  1. Allow a service animal to accompany its owner at all times and in all places on campus that are open to the general population
  2. Do not touch or pet a service or emotional support animal unless invited to do so.
  3. Do not feed a service or emotional support animal.
  4. Do not deliberately startle a service or emotional support animal.
  5. Do not separate or attempt to separate an owner from his or her service or emotional support animal.
  6. Do not inquire for details about a person’s disabilities.  The nature of a person’s disability is a private matter.

Removal of Service or Emotional Support Animal:
The owner of a service or emotional support animal may be asked to remove the animal from College facilities if the owner fails to comply with this policy.  The following describes behaviors which may result in the removal of the animal:
Disruptive Behavior: An animal may be removed if its behavior is unruly or disruptive (e.g., barking, growling, running around, or displaying aggressive behavior).  If such behavior persists, the owner may be prohibited from bringing the animal on campus until the owner takes significant and effective steps to correct the animal’s behavioral problems.
Poor Health: Animals that are ill or in poor health must not be taken into public areas.  An owner with an ill animal may be required to remove the animal from College property.
Uncleanliness: Owners who fail to properly clean up and dispose of the animal’s waste may be required to remove the animal from College property.  Owners of animals that are otherwise unclean or unkempt may be required to remove the animal from Campus property.  An animal that becomes wet from walking in the rain or mud, but is otherwise clean, is considered a clean animal.
Neglect or Abuse: Evidence of mistreatment, abuse, or neglect may result in immediate removal of the animal and/or disciplinary action.

Owners of service or emotional support animals are solely responsible for any damage to persons or property caused by their animals.

Areas Off-Limits to Service Animals:
The College may prohibit the use of service animals in certain locations due to health and safety restrictions (e.g. where the animals may be in danger, or where their use may compromise the integrity of research).  Restricted areas may include, but are no limited to, the following areas: custodial closets, boiler rooms, facility equipment rooms, research laboratories, classrooms with research/demonstration animals, areas where protective clothing is necessary.

Areas Off Limits to Emotional Support Animals:
The emotional support animal is to stay confined to the room assigned to the student for whom the request was approved, with the exception of transporting the animal to or from his/her permanent residence, for medical or health care outside the College, or for occasional outdoor exercise.  The animal will be considered outside of the student’s room when it crosses through the doorway of the student’s assigned room.  This policy also applies to common areas in small housing and apartment units.  All animals, except dogs, must be transported in an appropriate carrier or containment device when being transported through the building.  While in the room, the animal will be kept in a suitable cage or containment device.

Last Revised: 8/9/2017