Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Southern is committed to creating and sustaining a successful community of inclusive excellence as we prepare students to live, learn, and work among people who experience the world in fundamentally different ways. Within this framework, the university is committed to providing a supportive environment for students with disabilities as well as to complying with all applicable provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) a person with a disability may keep an emotional support animal in the individual’s dwelling when there is an established need for the therapeutic nature of the animal that is connected to the individual’s disability.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) provides emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. The ESA is indicated as necessary for an individual with a disability by an appropriate and relevant health care professional. Unlike a service animal, an ESA does not need to be trained to provide a service or a task and does not accompany a person with a disability at all times. An ESA may be a reasonable accommodation for a student with disabilities but only within the student’s dwelling.

Students may qualify for this accommodation if:

  • the student has a documented disability; and
  • the animal is necessary to afford the student with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling; and
  • there is an identifiable and documented nexus between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides.

The university will allow only those ESAs that are allowed by local and state laws and conform to standards within this policy.

Students must receive Emotional Support Animal approval from the Disability Support Services (hereto referred to as “DSS”) prior to bringing their animal to campus. ESA applications should be submitted by June 15 for the fall semester, October 15 for the winter semester, and March 15 for the summer session. This time frame provides the university sufficient time to best accommodate and provide a smooth transition for students as well as the animal.

The ESA two-step process consists of DSS reviewing documentation, making determinations, and communicating with the appropriate members of the university community.

Step 1: Determination of whether a student qualifies for an ESA.

Step 2: Approval of the animal student desires to bring as their ESA.

Like all disability accommodations, ESA determination is made on a case-by-case basis through an interactive process between the student and DSS. Once approved, DSS will notify the student as well as Housing if the student is required to live on campus. Students should note that housing options may be limited as the university balances appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities with students who have allergies and/or animal fears.

Requirements and Expectations regarding Emotional Support Animals:

1. The care and supervision of the ESA is solely the responsibility of the student owner.

2. The student must be in full control of the ESA at all times. ESA's may not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of persons on the university campus, cause physical damage to property, or fundamentally alter the nature of the university operations.

3. The ESA must be maintained (kept clean, free from fleas or ticks, etc.) and may not create safety hazards for other people. Local and state ordinances and laws regarding animals apply, including requirements for immunizations, licensing, noise, restraint, at-large animals and dangerous animals. An animal’s behavior, noise, odor, and waste must not exceed reasonable standards for a well-behaved animal. These factors should not create unreasonable disruptions for other residents. If the noise (whining, barking, or meowing) is excessive as judged by residence life staff, it is grounds to remove the ESA from campus. ESA’s may also be excluded from the university campus if the animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the student does not control the ESA. Uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people, or running away from the handler are some examples of unacceptable behavior for an ESA. Any suspected or observed issues related to animal abuse or neglect will be reported to the proper investigatory authorities and may subject the student to disciplinary action as well. The student is responsible for immediately cleaning up and properly disposing of the ESA’s waste and is responsible for having the equipment to do so. People who are physically unable to accomplish this task are responsible for arranging for it to be done and any costs that it incurs. The university retains the right to designate a particular area for the ESA to relieve itself and/or for the disposal of its waste. ESAs are limited to the residential space (room) of the student except when exiting or entering the student’s residential building. It may not be taken into bathrooms, laundry facilities, indoor recreational rooms, lounges, hallways, computer labs, study rooms, or other areas of the residence hall. It also cannot be taken into classrooms or other buildings on campus or allowed to roam freely on campus grounds.

4. The student, not the university, is responsible for the actions of the ESA including, but not limited to, any bodily injury or property damage. Students with ESAs are likely to be charged if additional cleaning or damage occurs as a result of having the animal on campus. The student is expected to pay these costs upon repair or cleaning. In addition, the university retains the right to remove the ESA, at the owner’s expense, should the animal become a direct threat to the health and safety of others or violates these requirements in any way. The owner must provide the name and contact information of a person who is willing and able to take the animal in the event of an emergency.

5. The student must sign an Emotional Support Animal Agreement prior to bringing the ESA to campus. This agreement MUST be renewed every school year with current medical information of the animal and with current medical documentation from a mental health provider. This means resubmitting new paperwork every year.

Click here to print/view the request form. This, along with other forms, can also be viewed by clicking here.