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MSU Home :: Service Animals

Service Animals


Regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act define a Service Animal as any DOG 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.  Other species of animals, whether trained or untrained, are not considered Service Animals, with the singular exception of trained miniature horses in certain situations.  Note: residence halls are further regulated by the Fair Housing Act, which unlike the ADA addresses untrained Emotional Support/Assistance Animals within an individual’s personal living space and adjacent common use areas. Students wishing to qualify should read the Emotional Support Animals section from the menu on this site.

Service animals do not require pre-approval by the Disability Services office in order to be brought on campus.  Housing's permission is also not needed for a service dog to reside in a dorm or apartment with its student-handler.  However, advance notice must be given to Housing prior to the animal's arrival since an accurate roster must be maintained of all residents. There are other considerations to be discussed with Housing as well, such as scheduling of room pesticide spraying, roommate compatibility, emergency evacuations, location of nearest dog-walk areas, etc.  A fee or deposit will not be required, although the student will be responsible for the costs of any damages to the room.  Service Animals must be housebroken prior to bringing to campus.

The service animal's handler is responsible for keeping the dog on a leash or under voice or signal control at all times.  Additional responsibilities of the handler include all care and costs related to the dog, including cleaning and grooming, feeding, exercise, medical treatment and transportation, and proper disposal of waste.

University personnel MAY do the following:

Ask the following two questions if someone enters a campus building or attends a sponsored outdoor event accompanied by a dog and the need for it is not apparent:

  • Is this a trained service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or tasks is the animal trained to perform?

If the answers indicate that the dog is a pet or an Emotional Support/Assistance Animal, then the University’s ordinary policies would apply. Otherwise, the dog is allowed to go wherever the person with a disability is entitled to go (including classrooms, offices, dorms, cafeterias, with the rare exception of hazardous or sterile environments such as campus surgical labs). 

 

What University personnel should NOT do:

  • Ask for a demonstration of what the animal is trained to do
  • Ask about the nature or limits of the person’s disability or for related documentation
  • Ask for a license or documentation to prove the dog’s training
  • Segregate the person using a service animal from others.  Special arrangements may be appropriate under limited circumstances (e.g., in same classroom with someone with a documented disability involving severe allergy or phobia).
  • Require that the dog be on a leash if performance of its duties would be reduced or if tethering is prevented by the handler’s disability, so long as the dog remains under verbal or signal control.
  • Require that the dog wear special identifying tags, harnesses, or capes
  • Pet or feed the dog or allow others under their supervision to do so
  • Tolerate disruption of a class or event by the dog’s behavior (e.g., barking, not housebroken, acts aggressively, noxious odor due to poor care, etc.).  If the handler cannot bring it under control, personnel will be justified in requiring the dog’s removal, although its handler must be permitted to return without it or with a replacement service animal.

Complying with applicable laws is very important, but not to be overlooked is the valuable, even ingenious, assistance that these animals provide to persons with disabilities.  To facilitate, or at least not to interfere or offend, it is also important to gain some knowledge of the etiquette covering this situation.

What University personnel and other students SHOULD do

  • Resist the (sometimes powerful) urge to interact with a service animal.  The intensive training that resulted in a dog remarkably attentive to the needs of its handler could be compromised by distractions and efforts of others to bond with it.  Privately, the dog receives much affection from its handler and may be petted by anyone he/she permits, but in public, it is “on-duty”.
  • Regard the care and supervision of the dog as the sole responsibility of its handler.  Training in practical matters (waste elimination, provision of food and water, healthcare, grooming, etc.) occurred prior to the two being paired.  
  • Remember that a person with a disability, though accompanied by a service dog, would appreciate being approached as… a person.  When the presence of the dog is repeatedly seen as the only “draw” for a conversation, it can become tiresome or even offensive.  Speak to the person, not to the dog.

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