Services for Students with Disabilities

Dog reading

Animals on Campus

Animals are generally not permitted in University buildings with some exceptions, such as service animals, service animals in training, and assistance animals determined to be a reasonable accommodation by the Services for Students with Disabilities office. Service animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in order to participate in or gain access to programs, benefits, or services at the University.

The information below is intended to help students, employees, and visitors understand the difference between various kinds of animals, where they are permitted, and when they may be removed.

 

What is a Service Animal?

Service animals are specifically defined as a dog or a miniature horse that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals can be trained to perform a variety of different tasks or work to assist an individual with a disability. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • A dog that is trained to alert an individual when blood sugar reaches high or low levels.

  • A dog that is trained to remind an individual to take medication.

  • A dog that is trained to pick up items.

  • A dog that is trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action, such as leading a person away.

A service animal does NOT need to have any specific identification, such as a vest or collar. Moreover, there are no restrictions on the breed of dog or miniature horse that can qualify as a service animal. 

 

Access Granted to Service Animals

Under the  ADA, an individual who is accompanied by a service animal may not be excluded from an area where the public is generally allowed to go. While in these areas, the individual is solely responsible for taking care of the animal, including toileting, and must maintain control of the animal at all times. The animal should be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times unless such a device would impact the animal’s ability to perform its task or work. In this case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice commands.

To ensure equal access and nondiscrimination of individuals with disabilities, members of the University community must abide by the following practices:

  • Allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities on campus;

  • Do not ask for details about a person's disabilities;

  • Do not pet, interact, or feed a service animal, as it distracts the animal from its work;

  • Do not deliberately startle, tease, or taunt a service animal; and

  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a person from his/her service animal.

  • Provide individuals with service animals with the right of way with respect to cyclists and skateboarders. 

If the disability is not apparent or is it is not obvious what task or work the animal performs, then facility staff may ask two questions to determine whether the animal is a service animal:

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

If the individual answers “no” to the first question or provides an answer that indicates that the animal does not perform a specific task or work in response to the second question, then the individual may be asked to return without the animal. If the individual answers “yes” to the first question and describes a specific task or work (that goes beyond providing support, comfort, distraction, etc.) which the animal is trained to perform, then the individual and animal should be granted access.

Staff may NOT ask to see special identification or documentation, that the animal demonstrate the task or work, or about the individual’s disability or require medical documentation.

 

Grounds to Exclude a Service Animal

While an individual may not be excluded from a space because they are accompanied by a service animal, there are some exceptions when an individual may be asked to remove the animal:

  • If the animal is out of control and the individual does not take immediate steps to control it.

  • If the animal is not housebroken.

  • If the presence of the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. This assessment cannot be based on stereotypes or assumptions about the breed of the animal or individual but must be based on observable facts and circumstances. For example, an animal that presents with Rabies symptoms or displays aggressive behavior may be excluded as a direct threat to health or safety.

It is important to note that fear of dogs or allergies are NOT enough to exclude a service animal from a facility. If there are concerns about fear or allergies, departments should try to accommodate both parties as much as possible, with the understanding that the animal should not be removed unless one of the other exceptions applies.

 

Other Types of Support Animals

Service animals are distinct from support animals (also known as “comfort animals” or “emotional support animals”). Support animals can be any type of animal, such as a dog, cat, or rabbit. Support animals may be requested as an accommodation in housing units (e.g., residence halls) where the individual is a resident; however, public spaces such as dining halls, classrooms, museums, athletic facilities, etc., may ask that support animals not be brought into the facility.

For questions about requesting a support animal within University housing facilities, please contact Housing’s Health and Disability Coordinator by emailing hsg-health-disability@umich.edu or calling (734) 764-7400. Housing’s Accommodation process must be completed prior to bringing an emotional support animal into any University Housing facility. 

For more information on service animals or support animals, please email the ADA Coordinator at institutional.equity@umich.edu or call the Office for Institutional Equity at (734) 763-0235. Or visit the Department of Justice’s FAQ about Service Animals and the ADA