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FAQ - Service & Emotional Support Animals


Service Animal: under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog (or in some instances a miniature horse) that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the service animal must be directly related to the person's disability. The Department of Justice (DOJ) provides additional information about the definition of a service animal.

A service animal 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, retrieving dropped items, reminding a person to take medication, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching them from behind. In general, a service animal initiates a task through recognition of the need for the task, or on prompt by the handler, which provides support related to a disability. Providing comfort is not a task under this definition. 

Comfort animals and emotional support animals:  comfort and emotional support animals are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. The primary function of a comfort/emotional support animal is to provide comfort through its presence. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. A comfort/emotional support animal may be of any species allowed in Salt Lake County.

It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

University policy, consistent with Utah law, considers service-animals-in-training to be service animals.

No. Covered entities may not require documentation as a condition for entry; such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Service animals are required to be vaccinated, and licensed by the appropriate city or county. 

University Rules

University Policy 3-231, governs animals on campus and restricts animals, except for service animals from University buildings and facilities. In specific instances, exceptions can also be made in University-provided housing or to assist an employee in performing the essential functions of their position. Certain areas of campus may adopt more stringent policies.

No, you do not need to get approval to bring your service animal to campus. There is no requirement that your service animal must wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. Nor is there a requirement that you need to provide documentation, such as proof the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Service animals are required to be vaccinated as well as registered and licensed. If you plan to bring a service animal to your University housing, we ask that you notify the housing office of the presence of a service animal for maintenance-related reasons. You and your service animal need to follow additional relevant policies related to service animals (see Care and Supervision section below). Staff and faculty need approval to bring their service animal into their workplace as an ADA accommodation (see next question).

Yes, there are some differences if you are seeking an employment accommodation.  For employees, the University may approve a reasonable accommodation allowing a qualified individual with a disability to have a service animal or a comfort/emotional support animal accompany them to work.  If the disability is not obvious and/or the reason the animal is needed is not clear, the University may request documentation to establish the existence of a disability and how the animal helps the individual perform the essential functions of their job.

Documentation might include a detailed description of how the animal would help the employee in performing job tasks and how the animal is trained to behave in the workplace.  A person seeking such an accommodation may suggest that the employer permit the animal to accompany them to work on a trial basis.

Both service animals and comfort/emotional support animals may be excluded from the workplace if they pose either an undue hardship or a direct threat in the workplace.

To request a reasonable accommodation:

  • Campus and Health Science employees may request an accommodation through an online form or contacting Human Resources directly.   
    • Online Form:  Request for Disability Accommodation Form for Campus and Health Science Employees.
    • University of Utah Human Resource Management 
  • UUHC Employees may request an accommodation by contacting UUHC HR directly.

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

The University allows service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is normally allowed to go. There may be some limited circumstances where a service animal may be precluded from entering a certain space or building (e.g. where the presence of an animal may compromise a sterile environment.) Comfort/emotional support animals are not allowed into buildings or other areas of campus where pets are prohibited which includes classrooms. However, comfort/emotional support animals may be approved for University-provided housing and in some employment situations (see question below).

In University-provided housing (Housing & Residential Education or USA Housing), the University may allow an individual with a disability to have a comfort/emotional support animal in their residence as a reasonable accommodation.  The University follows the guidelines and regulations set forth by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) as it relates to reasonable modification of a ‘no pets’ policy at a place of residence due to a disability.
An individual with a disability who requests a reasonable accommodation of a comfort/emotional support animal in their University-provided housing can make the request to the Center for Disability & Access (CDA). The resident may be asked to provide documentation from a medical provider supporting the request. If approved, the approval is solely for the place of residence and does not imply the animal can be brought to other areas of campus that normally prohibits pet. More information about the process and policies can be directed to CDA.

Center for Disability & Access (CDA)
Phone: 801-581-5020
Fax: 801-581-5487

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions listed below:

         (1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 
         (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? 

Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person's disability.

Care and Supervision

The handler is responsible for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, and grooming and veterinary care. The University is not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

  • All animals on campus must be on a leash and/or under the control of their handler at all times
  • All animals must be under the constant supervision of their handler at all times
  • No animal may be left unattended at any time on campus. No animals may be tied or tethered to any University property including to buildings, railings, bike racks, fire hydrants, fences, sign posts, benches and/or trees
  • Animals are not permitted in flower gardens/beds or fountains
  • Animals may not disrupt or interfere with University activities, including but not limited to teaching, research, service or administrative activities
  • Handlers are responsible for cleaning up after their animals and may be strictly liable for any damage to property or injury to persons caused by their animals.
  • Handlers must comply with all state, county and city laws pertaining to animal control while on campus.
  • Service animals' primary function while inside buildings should be to provide a necessary service. They should not be allowed on furniture, such as tables and chairs.  Feeding and providing water for animals should be done in appropriate locations, such as outside of buildings.

Failure of a handler to abide by the general responsibilities may result in the removal of the animal from campus.  Individual offices/departments, including University housing entities, may have more specific procedures and responsibilities governing the responsibilities of handlers of service animals or comfort/emotional support animals.

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the person's disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow their service animal to pick up or retrieve items. The handler may not allow the dog to wander away from them and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that there are no threats inside of the space, and come back and signal to the handler that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to perform its task, but may be required to be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

Exclusion of Service and Emotional Support Animals

The University is not required to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does the University have to overrule legitimate safety requirements. If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be excluded for entrance. In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises. The staff member should notify the OEO/AA whenever a service animal is removed or denied access.

Last Updated: 4/18/23