Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals

Policies and Procedures

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. While ESAs are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, they are viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in those housing communities that have a “no pets” rule. An ESA is not a pet. 

The University of Texas at Tyler (University) is committed to compliance with state and federal laws regarding individuals with disabilities. No disability documentation will be required to bring fully trained service animals into academic buildings on campus. However, for emotional support animals residing in University housing, the University requires that supporting documentation be provided by the student’s treating health care provider, which permits the Student Accessibility and Resources (SAR) office to determine all of the following:


  1. The individual has a disability for which the animal is needed;
  2. The animal is necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a University residence dwelling;
  3. The animal is an active part of a treatment plan for the individual; and
  4. There is an identifiable relationship between the disability and the assistance or support the animal provides.

Health care providers completing supporting documentation must be thoroughly familiar with the student’s condition and current functional limitations and must make a direct connection to the requested accommodation based on the student’s current functional limitations. The health care provider may not be a relative of the student.

ESAs, Service Animals, and Services Animals in Training are all subject to state laws and local ordinances regarding vaccination, licensure, animal health and leash laws, as well as the University’s rules regarding leash provisions, animal waste cleanup, and community relationships unless a legal exception exists.


Emotional Support Animals in University Housing

Before an emotional support animal can move into University housing with a student with a disability, a request must be submitted to and approved by the SAR office. Failure to obtain approval before bringing an ESA to campus may result in fines and/or the animal being removed from University housing.


Requirements for approval for an ESA in University housing include:

  • Completion of SAR online registration
  • Submission of supporting documentation from treating health care provider that meets SAR documentation guidelines. (Note: students are encouraged to submit the SAR office’s Emotional Support Animal Documentation Form)
  • Submission of current vaccination records (for animals that can be vaccinated) or clean bill of health (for animals that cannot be vaccinated)
  • Review and approval of ESA request by SAR Accommodation Review Committee
  • Once ESA is approved, student’s written agreement to SAR and Office of Residence Life Animal Policies and Procedures
  • Notice to Office of Residence Life through StarRez of signed policy agreement and animal vaccination/health records

Note: The ESA approval process may take up to 10 business days from the date a full request (application + supporting documentation) is submitted. Requests submitted within the two weeks prior to or after the first day of classes for a semester may have longer processing times.

Emotional Support Animal Documentation Guidelines

Disability documentation should include:

  • Student/Patient name
  • Signature and licensure information of provider
  • Whether the health care professional has a professional relationship with the student involving the provision of health care or disability-related services
  • The type of animal for which the reasonable accommodation is sought (i.e., dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, other specified type of domesticated animal, or other specified unique animal)
  • Whether the student has a physical or mental impairment
  • Whether the student’s impairment(s) substantially limit at least one major life activity or major bodily function
  • Whether the student needs the animal (because it does work, provides assistance, or performs at least one task that benefits the student because of his or her disability, or because it provides therapeutic emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of the disability of the student, and not merely as a pet).

Additionally, if the animal is not a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, the provider should include the following additional information:

  • The date of the last consultation with the student
  • Any unique circumstances justifying the student’s need for the particular animal (if already owned or identified by the individual) 
  • Whether the health care professional has reliable information about this specific animal or whether they specifically recommended this type of animal

Animal vaccination documentation requirements:

  • Vaccination records for dogs should include:
    • Veterinarian name, contact, and license information
    • Date
    • Student indicated as the owner
    • Animal’s name, age, breed
    • Date of last Rabies vaccination 
    • Date of last core vaccinations
  • Vaccination records for cats should include:
    • Veterinarian name, contact, and license information
    • Date
    • Student indicated as the owner
    • Animal’s name, age, breed
    • Date of last Rabies vaccination 
    • Date of last core vaccinations 
  • Vaccination records for all other animals should include:
    • On letterhead
    • Veterinarian name, contact and license information
    • Letter from qualified veterinarian that indicates the student is the owner and that the animal has a clean bill of health/does not have any communicable diseases.
    • Letter should be signed and dated within one year of the application for services.
  • Depending on the species of animal, vaccination records must fulfill the following conditions:

    • Current vaccination/health information indicates the student is the owner of the support/assistance animal is required before the animal may be brought on campus.
    • For dogs, the animal must have been fully vaccinated against rabies and other communicable diseases, including canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis, and have completed the typical 28-day waiting period after the final rabies vaccination dose. This typically means the animal should be at least 4 months old before being brought into housing.
    • For cats, the animal must have been fully vaccinated against rabies and other communicable diseases, including feline distemper, feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, and have completed the typical 28-day waiting period after the final rabies vaccination dose. This typically means the animal should be at least 4 months old before being brought into housing.

Please Note: Dogs and cats are considered fully immunized against rabies 28 days after initial vaccination. Vaccination of dogs and cats for rabies does not typically occur until three months of age. This means that dogs and cats must typically be at least four months old before they can be brought into University housing (See https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/veterinarians/vaccination.html).


Permitted Access

Under the FHA, Emotional Support Animals are allowed only in an individual’s residence. They are not allowed to accompany an individual to class, to University residences other than that of the individual using the animal, or to any other places on campus where a pet is not allowed. 


Excluding an Emotional Support Animal

The University may exclude an Emotional Support Animal from campus if:

  • Its presence fundamentally alters the nature of a program or activity;
  • The animal engages in inappropriate behavior and the student does not take effective action to control the behavior;
  • The animal presents as a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
  • Its presence imposes an undue burden on the University;
  • The animal is not housebroken; for example, it is not trained to control waste elimination (excepting illness or rare accidents), or its cage or crate is not cleaned regularly.
  • The animal is left unattended anywhere on campus, including University housing, in contravention of the University’s or the Office of Residence Life’s Animal Policies.
  • The animal’s vaccinations are not kept updated.

Should it be deemed necessary to either suspend or remove the ESA from campus, the individual, in accordance with University policy, will be afforded the opportunity to remain in University housing without the use of the ESA.  Alternative reasonable accommodations will be considered by SAR for the individual, as appropriate.

Should a situation arise in which an individual with an ESA is in proximity to a person with an allergy or phobia of the animal, the person with the allergy or phobia should contact the SAR office to determine whether the condition meets the definition of a disability.  If so, and if the person requests, the SAR office and the Office of Residence Life will work to accommodate both individuals.

All questions regarding ESAs, service animals, or service animals in training matters involving students may be directed to the SAR office in UC 3150, via phone at 903-566-7079 or via email at saroffice@uttyler.edu

Employees, including student employees, applicants, and campus visitors should direct ESA, service animal, or service animal in training questions to the University ADA Coordinator at 903-566-7234 or humanresources@uttyler.edu.

For more information about the Office of Residence Life’s animal policies, please contact housing@uttyler.edu or review Residence Life’s animal policies here.