What is a service animal?
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.
Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals under the ADA because 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.
An individual with a disability who uses a service animal, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, is not required to register the animal with university authorities prior to bringing the animal on campus. However, students are welcome to connect with the Accessible Education Center so that the presence of the animal on campus is documented. Frequently students find it useful to have the presence of the service animal noted in their notification letter to faculty to help facilitate understanding. Only trained service animals, not emotional support animals, are typically allowed in campus buildings.
Students with diagnosed mental health concerns that inhibit full use and enjoyment of their living space sometimes require an emotional support animal. Visit our Housing Accommodations webpage for information on requesting an emotional support animal as a disability-related accommodation in University Housing. Please note that emotional support animals are distinct from service animals and have different requirements. For more information about the distinction between service animals and emotional support animals, check out Northwest ADA Center.
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA
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, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.
The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals. 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. This publication provides guidance on the ADA's service animal provisions and should be read in conjunction with the publication ADA Revised Requirements: Service Animals.