Accessibility and Disability Resources

Emotional Support Animal Accommodation

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Documentation Guidelines

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives particular status to Service Animals (a dog that performs a task on cue that partially mitigates an impact of a disability). An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is defined as any animal with a primary role of providing emotional comfort to a person with a disability*. ESA’s are not required to undergo specialized training. ESA’s are not the same as Service Animals in that they are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. A request to have an ESA within Xavier University owned and operated housing is considered a request for an accommodation and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by Accessibility and Disability Resources.

Student walking dog

Xavier University does not allow students to have pets in University owned and operated housing. However, Xavier University recognizes that the reasonable accommodation of an Emotional Support Animal is sometimes necessary to afford a student with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the housing service or program. Emotional Support Animals do not qualify as Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA), and as a result, are not entitled to the same protections or right of access as a Service Animal. However, under Fair Housing Act (FHA), ESA’s are considered a reasonable accommodation and students with disabilities can request this accommodation by providing the necessary documentation to the Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources. FHA only applies to the dwelling unit, not the campus at large (Areas include hallways, lounges, lobbies, laundry rooms, refuse rooms, mail rooms, recreation areas and passageways among and between dwellings).

As with any accommodation request, the request for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is determined on a case-by-case basis. To evaluate a student’s request for an ESA as a reasonable accommodation, appropriate documentation is required by a qualified professional. Please present to your clinician for review.

Qualified Professional/Clinician: 

As a clinician within your respective field, you should be diligent in following your professional training, scope of practice and ethics; not to overthink the legal, policy or programmatic issues.  What Accessibility Resources is looking for is your professional judgment.  Specifically, in your judgment does the student making the request have a disability?  Do you believe that the recommended animal serves a role in mitigating the impacts of the disability in ways that go beyond the benefits that a person receives from a pet?  Below is the information which Accessibility and Disability Resources will be using in evaluating a student’s request for an Emotional Support Animal as a reasonable accommodation at Xavier University.

Documentation should:

  1. Confirm that the student has a mental health diagnosis that rises to the level of a disability.
  2. Describe your professional relationship with the student on which you are basing the information: 
    • Is your principle clinical relationship with the student for the condition for which the animal is being prescribed?
    • How many sessions have you had with the student?
    • What is the general nature of your relationship (primary care, single session to review the need for an ESA, limited short term therapy, ongoing/long term treatment etc.)?
    • When was the last time you saw the student for the disability for which the animal is providing emotional support?
  3. Address the “animal” specifically.  Meaning, your letter should specifically talk about the animal and when the animal began functioning as an Emotional Support Animal.
    • Explain how the animal helps alleviate the impact of the disability-related symptoms.
    • How has this animal historically been necessary to manage the student’s symptoms?
    • Is it the long standing relationship that has proven to have a positive impact that reduces the overall level of symptoms?
    • Is it interactions in moments of high stress? If so, please provide examples.
  4. If the use of an ESA is a new approach to treatment, provide a date at which the effectiveness or ongoing need should be confirmed.
  5. If the student does not have the animal with him/her, will specific negative effects be experienced?
  6. How will this animal allow the student to fully participate in our services, programs and activities in housing?
  7. If approved, do the care responsibilities, i.e., feeding, bathing, waste management etc., of the animal represent challenges for the student that need to be considered or addressed in a particular way?

*The legal definition of disability is a mental or physical condition that substantially limits a major life activity compared to most people/students.  Substantial in this context is somewhat subjective but means a notable, significant, meaningful limit/difference to the manner in which the individual engages in the activity, the conditions necessary for them to engage in the activity, the duration for which they can engage in the activity or the frequency which they engage in the activity.  Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, ending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working and the proper functioning of major bodily systems.

Student/Clinician: Please submit all documentation to the address listed below:

Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources
ATTN: Cassandra Jones, Director
Xavier University
3800 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45207-1131

Or fax: (513) 745-3387

If you have any questions, please contact our office by calling: (513) 745-3280

Email questions:

All documentation will be reviewed and the student will be contacted if their ESA request has been approved. If so, the student will receive the following documents:

  • ESA Residential Contract (Provides guidance for waste removal, emergency situations, damages to housing unit, etc.)
  • ESA Veterinarian Verification Form (Verification that the animal is properly vaccinated)

If the ESA request is not approved, a written explanation will be provided via e-mail to the student from Cassandra Jones, Director.