Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) an individual with a disability may request to keep an emotional support animal in their residential dwelling when there is an established need for the therapeutic nature of the animal connected to the individual’s disability. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA, “comfort animal” or “therapy animal”) provides emotional support and companionship to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. The ESA must be documented as necessary for an individual with a disability by an appropriately qualified and relevant mental health professional. ESAs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA.
Unlike a service animal, an ESA does not need to be trained to provide a specific work task and does not accompany a person with a disability at all times. Students living on campus in a residence hall may qualify for an ESA as an approved accommodation if:
1) The student has a documented disability indicating the need for an emotional support animal;
2) The animal is necessary to afford the student with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their residential dwelling (an additional animal to support the companionship of the ESA will not be approved);
3) There is an identifiable and documented nexus between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides indicated by the student’s treating mental health professional, and
4) The student has registered with the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS). When requesting an ESA, an accommodation verification form will need to be completed by the treating professional if the documentation submitted does not contain all information necessary for determination. Download the form here ESA Housing Accommodation Request Form.
Note: Students must receive approval for an Emotional Support Animal as an accommodation for a disability prior to bringing their animal on campus. Unauthorized animals found in Residential Life will be asked to leave immediately. UMBC requests that the student provide as much advance notice as possible prior to the desired move-in date so that the University can best accommodate the student and animal. The disability specialist will review documentation, make determinations and communicate with the appropriate members of Residential Life and the student in writing. Like all disability accommodations, the determination of whether or not an ESA will be permitted in on campus housing is made on a case-by-case basis through an interactive process between the student and the disability specialist. Once approved and the disability specialist has notified the Residential Life office, a residential life staff member will contact the student to discuss their housing options and to complete an Emotional Support Animal Agreement Contract.
Requirements for Emotional Support Animals
The care and supervision of the ESA is solely the responsibility of the student owner. The student must be in full control of the ESA at all times. ESAs may not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of persons on the college campus, cause physical damage to property, have the potential to transmit zoonotic diseases, breed with other animals, or fundamentally alter the nature of the University’s operations. The ESA must be maintained (kept clean, vaccinated, 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 behaviors, 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) or the animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the student does not control the ESA, it is grounds to remove the ESA from the residence hall. Uncontrolled barking, running away from the handler, and aggression are examples of unacceptable behavior for an ESA. Any suspected or observed issues related to animal abuse or neglect will be reported to the proper authorities and may be subject to University disciplinary action.
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 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.
An ESA is 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, computer labs, study rooms, or other common areas of the residence hall. It also cannot be taken into classrooms, other buildings on campus such as dining halls or the library, nor can it be allowed to roam freely on campus grounds (such as off-leash). 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 emergency. If an emergency/back-up contact for the animal cannot be reached, local animal control or a shelter will be contacted to take the animal.