Assistance Animals

An assistance animal, also known as a companion, therapy, comfort or emotional support animal (ESA)is an animal that provides emotional support which alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. ESAs are not service animals, which are defined in and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An assistance animal is prescribed to an individual with a disability by a healthcare or mental health professional. An assistance animals is typically considered in conjunction with access to university housing.

For more information regarding compliance, roles, and responsibilities visit the Student Assistance Animal Policy.

Requesting an Assistance Animal

Assistance animals are approved through the Housing Accommodation Process in Student Disability Services. 

Service Animals

Service Animal Policy

Service animals are animals trained to assist individuals with disabilities in the activities of independent living.  Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal means any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  No other species of animal may serve as a service animal. Service animals are not pets. Service animals are not assistance animals: emotional support, therapy, or comfort animal. 

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.  Examples of work or tasks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks;
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds;
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work;
  • Pulling a wheelchair;
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure;
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens;
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone;
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities;
  • Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
  • Providing deep pressure therapy to individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities are permitted to be accompanied by their service animals on all St. Edward’s campuses where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go, unless the university determines that permitting the service animal poses a health or safety concern, the service animal is not housebroken or cannot be effectively controlled by the owner.  The accompaniment of an individual with a disability by a service animal in locations with health and safety restrictions, such as food preparation areas and laboratories, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the appropriate department representative(s) in collaboration with Students Disability Services.

An individual with a disability may be asked to remove a service animal from the university if the animal cannot be effectively controlled by its owner, or the animal is not housebroken.  If the university determines that a service animal must be excluded, the individual with a disability will be provided the opportunity to participate in the service, program or activity without having the service animal on the premises.

The university is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.  A service animal shall be under the control of its owner.  A service animal shall have a harness, leash or other tether, unless either the individual is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the owner’s control (e.g., voice control, signals or other effective means). The service animal is considered an extension of the person and therefore must be compliant with the same public rules and regulations that a person must comply with. Service animals are under the same Student Code of Conduct as the students.

Federal law does not require the individual to provide documentation that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal. In making a decision whether to permit accompaniment of a service animal, the University shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability.  University officials may, however, ask these two questions: 

  • "Is this animal required because of a disability?" 
  • "What work or task the animal has been trained to perform?" 

The university shall not charge a surcharge for the service animal, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees.  If the university normally charges individuals for damages caused by a pet, an individual with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by the service animal. 

Animal FAQs

Where are animals permitted to go on campus?
Service animals are generally permitted to accompany their handler/owner on all St. Edward's properties where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees are allowed to go. This includes classrooms, dining halls, residence halls, etc. 
Assistance animals are typically only allowed in the student’s assigned housing unit and common use areas in and adjacent to the student’s assigned room, if they have gone through the Housing Accommodation Process.  

Are faculty/staff allowed to ask an individual about their service animal’s purpose if one enters their office or classroom?
If there is a reason to question whether an animal accompanying a student to classrooms or offices is a service animal, faculty/staff may ask two questions: 

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of disability?  
  • What work or task as the dog been trained to perform?  

Staff cannot ask about a person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. 

What are some basic etiquette rules for approaching  service animals and their handlers?

  • Do not feed or pet service animals when you see them on campus
  • Do not try to separate handler from service animal 
  • Do not harass or startle a service animal

Under what circumstances can a service animal be asked to leave or not allowed to participate on campus?

  • If a service animal is found to be disruptive in the classroom
  • If a service animals shows aggression towards their handler or other members of campus or the community
  • If a service animal is physically ill

What if a service animal, assistance animal or pet is behaving aggressively towards their handler or others?
Call the University Police Department at 512-448-8444.

What if another student (in housing or in class) or a faculty member has severe allergies to animal dander? 
The final determination regarding how to manage the situation will be made on a case-by-case basis. Please contact candicef [at] stedwards.edu (subject: Question%20About%20Animals%20and%20Housing) (SDS) for further information if a situation of this nature occurs.

Are assistance animals (i.e. emotional support, therapy, or comfort animals) considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  Purchasing a certificate, vest or tag from an outside entity does not qualify your animal as a service animal or an approved assistance animal at St. Edward's University.