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Emotional Support Animals

Definition: Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that provides therapeutic emotional support for an individual with a diagnosed mental health disability.  Unlike service animals that are trained to perform specific tasks that are important to the independence or safety of their disabled handler, ESAs are generally not trained to perform disability-specific tasks.  Their therapeutic support is a function of their presence and interaction with the person with a disability.  ESAs are not pets, but they typically are animals commonly kept in households as pets. An ESA may be a dog (most common), cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure.  Under guidelines from HUD, reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals. Exceptions to these guidelines regarding animals serving as ESAs will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The University recognizes the importance of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), as supported by the Fair Housing Act. MSU is committed to allowing ESAs, necessary to provide individuals with mental health disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing. This information on this page and in the ESA Request Form for Students explains the specific requirements applicable to an individual’s use of an ESA in University housing. This information applies solely to ESAs that may be necessary in University housing. It does not apply to “Service Animals” as defined by the ADAAA, and whose presence on campus is explained in the MSU Service Animal Policy. Any requests for animals in residence for individuals with disabilities that are neither service animals nor ESAs should be directed to the Disability Services Office.

The Office of Student Housing has a no-pets policy in its campus residences. Emotional support animals (ESAs) for students with emotional/mental disabilities are an exception to this policy under the Fair Housing Act when a request is made using the University's procedure and determined to be a reasonable accommodation. The Office of Disability Services is responsible for facilitating the process to ensure that legitimate needs are documented and addressed in a timely manner to afford an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing.

We respect the importance that an Emotional Support Animal may hold for you, so we advise early contact to allow adequate time to meet the requirements and make the arrangements involved. Keep in mind that this is neither an automatic nor immediate process; it will depend upon the demand from all students being served by the Disability Services office at the point when your completed materials are received. Some periods are busier than others, which is why we permit students to submit an ESA request up to 90 days in advance of the desired start date. Typically the review process can be completed within two weeks, so if you haven't been notified by then, feel free to make an emailed inquiry about the status of your request.  

Reading this entire web page will inform you of your role as well as of what to expect from the University. It also contains some guidance that could spare you expense and time.


Request Accommodation

  • First, carefully read and complete the attached  ESA Request Form for Students; it explains the nature and intent of this accommodation as well as the qualification process.  It is especially important that you fully consider the responsibilities associated with having an ESA on campus that are not ordinarily part of a student’s lifestyle. 
  • If you believe that an ESA as described in the Request Form is applicable to your disability-related needs, you should discuss it with a mental health treatment professional with whom you have a therapeutic relationship. Generally this will be a local practitioner within the state of KY or your hometown area. If your treatment professional is supportive, you should ask them to complete the ESA Form for Providers.  
  • NOTE: Beware of advertising by websites selling paperwork that recommends ESAs based on the results of questionnaires and/or a short interaction with a health care professional. Lacking the personal knowledge to make reliable determinations for this purpose, the documentation obtained through such sites will not be accepted by the University.
  • After completing the above steps, submit your request and your healthcare provider’s recommendation to the Disability Services Coordinator for consideration. They may be sent as an email attachment to Evangeline Day or faxed to 606-783-9190. Requests will not be processed in person unless assistance is needed in completing the form or if the DS Coordinator asks to schedule a meeting to better determine your eligibility.
NOTE: No ESA may be kept in University housing at any time prior to the individual receiving approval through the posted process. Even if the individual with a disability establishes necessity for an ESA and it is allowed in University housing, an ESA is not permitted in other areas of the University (e.g. dining facilities, libraries, academic buildings, athletic buildings and facilities, classrooms, labs, etc.). Violations will be treated as a disciplinary issue under University policy.

Questions about the ESA accommodation request process or eligibility criteria should be sent to the Disability Services Coordinator, Evangeline Day,