Title
Emotional Support Animals

GUIDELINES FOR REQUESTING TO USE AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA) ON CAMPUS

St. Thomas Aquinas College is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities who seek to bring an emotional support animal (ESA) to campus must adhere to the guidelines described in this policy.  Students are not permitted to keep emotional support animals in residential buildings without prior approval as a reasonable accommodation of a disability through the Office of Accessibility. 

DEFINITION

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with a disability may be entitled to keep an emotional support animal (ESA) as a reasonable accommodation of a disability in a campus housing facility.  An emotional support animal is an animal that is necessary to afford the individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use or enjoy an on-campus residence hall when there is an identifiable relationship between the individual’s disability and the assistance that the animal provides.  An emotional support animal is prescribed to an individual with a disability by a health care or mental health professional and is an integral part of the individual’s treatment plan.  Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA (unless the animal is trained to perform specific tasks related to the disability) and are governed by separate policies on the St. Thomas Aquinas College campus.  Emotional support animals are only permitted within the individual’s assigned residence in on-campus housing.  Emotional support animals are never permitted in other campus buildings such as academic buildings, classrooms, athletic facilities, libraries, dining halls, and other public residence hall spaces, except for the transport in/out of the residence hall.

ACCOMMODATION REQUEST PROCESS

To request approval for an emotional support animal, the student must complete the following steps:

  • Visit the Office of Accessibility in person to initiate the request for an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.  The student must complete a Request for Emotional Support Animal  form in it's entirety. 
  • Professional documentation of a mental health condition must be submitted to the Office of Accessibility. The individual’s treating clinician must complete a Request for Information: Emotional Support Animal Documentation form.  Documentation must establish the therapeutic need for the animal that is directly connected to the individual’s disability. Documentation also must establish that the emotional support animal is necessary to afford the individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use a dwelling or to participate in campus housing.
  • A copy of the animal’s most recent vaccination/rabies record from a veterinarian must be submitted to the Office of Accessibility.
  • If the animal is required to be licensed in New York State (such as a dog), proof of the dog’s license must be submitted to the Office of Accessibility.  If your emotional support animal requires licensing, you may apply for a dog license through the Town of Orangetown Dog License Application.
  • All roommates will be contacted to determine if other students in the assigned on campus residence hall have any concerns about potentially living with an animal (i.e., allergies).
  • In order to be considered for an accommodation of bringing an emotional support animal to campus, the owner must initiate contact with the Office of Accessibility no less than 30 days prior to the animal’s arrival to campus. This allows time to gather all necessary documentation.  Animals may not be brought to campus prior to approval being granted

All requests for the accommodation of an ESA are determined on a case-by-case basis. A request for the accommodation of an ESA living on campus is not a guarantee of approval.

OWNER’S RESPONSIBILITIES FOR AN APPROVED EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA)

If St. Thomas Aquinas College grants an individual’s request to live with an Emotional Support Animal as a reasonable accommodation of a disability, the individual is solely responsible for the custody and care of the animal.  The individual must meet the following requirements:

  • The Owner must follow current city, county, and state laws and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals.  It is the individual’s responsibility to know and understand these laws and/or regulations, which may include a certificate of vaccination.  The College reserves the right to request documentation showing that the animal is vaccinated and licensed. 
  • The Owner is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the emotional support animal’s waste immediately and in a safe and sanitary manner.  Waste must be disposed of in a sealed bag in a designated trash area of the residence life complex.
  • If the ESA voids on the floor anywhere inside the residence hall, or causes any damage to the residence hall, the Owner is responsible to clean it up immediately and submit a work order request with Facilities for the area to be disinfected properly/repaired.  The Owner is responsible for all costs associated with clean up/repairs of damaged areas.
  • The Owner is responsible to be in full control of the emotional support animal at all times. The ESA must have a harness, leash, or be transported in an appropriate animal carrier whenever it is outside of the Owner’s assigned residence hall room.
  • In shared living spaces, the emotional support animal must be in an appropriate enclosure/container if the Owner is not in the room.
  • The Owner is solely responsible for the costs of care necessary for the emotional support animal’s well-being.
  • The Owner is solely responsible for the feeding, watering, toileting, regular bathing and grooming of the emotional support animal.
  • The Owner is responsible for not leaving an emotional support animal unattended for an unreasonable length of time.  If the Owner leaves campus overnight and during College breaks, the emotional support animal must leave, as well.
  • The Owner must follow all applicable campus housing policies, including room inspections. 
  • The Owner is responsible for notifying the Office of Accessibility if the emotional support animal is no longer needed or no longer living on campus. 

If the Owner has concerns about any matter affecting his/her responsibilities concerning an approved emotional support animal, the Owner must contact the Office of Accessibility.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY IN RELATION TO ESAs

  • The College community must allow emotional support animals to reside with their Owners in the Owner’s assigned on campus residence hall once the disability accommodation is approved.
  • The College community must report to Campus Safety any emotional support animal who misbehaves or any Owner (or other individual) who mistreats the emotional support animal. 
  • The College community must refrain from charging fees for the emotional support animal to live in the Owner’s assigned on campus residence hall, but may charge fees for any damages caused by the emotional support animal. 

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

A student with an approved emotional support animal may be asked to remove the animal from the St. Thomas Aquinas College campus for any of the following reasons:

  • The emotional support animal is found to be out of control or disruptive and the Owner does not take immediate and effective action to control it.
  • The emotional support animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others or the College.
  • The Owner does not comply with the Owner’s responsibilities outlined above.
  • The emotional support animal is not house-trained (house broken).
  • The emotional support animal is found to be neglected, unreasonably dirty, or mistreated and immediate corrective action is not taken.
  • The emotional support animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance such as, but not limited to, excessive barking/noise that interferes with the College community.
  • The emotional support animal is physically ill.

Students who have been denied the use of emotional support animal and disagree with the College’s decision have the right to file a grievance.  For more information about how to file a grievance, please see our  Disability Grievance Policy Page.