• Photo of the Office of Accessibility Services' lobby and common area

Emotional Support Animals

Florida State University (FSU) welcomes Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) based on the Fair Housing Act (FHA). ESAs provide a measure of support and comfort to individuals with qualifying disabilities. ESAs are a prescribed part of therapy for emotional and psychological disabilities and serve to alleviate symptoms of the disability.

There is much confusion about the role of ESAs, and they are often mistaken for Service Animals. ESAs are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. ESAs provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and can help to reduce symptoms of psychiatric disabilities and mental impairments, such as depression, anxiety, and certain phobias; however, unlike service animals, ESAs  do not have special training to perform specific tasks that assist people with disabilities.

Unlike a service animal that has access to public places where pets are not typically allowed, an ESA has limited access to places of public accommodation. Under the federal FHA, an ESA is viewed as a reasonable accommodation in a housing unit that has a no pet policy for its residents. Therefore, ESAs are allowed in residence halls but are restricted to a student’s room and can only leave for nature breaks. ESAs are not allowed in classrooms, campus buildings, common rooms or areas in the residence halls, or campus events. ESAs must be under the control of their owner at all times, cannot be left alone overnight, and cannot be cared for by another student. Below is a chart highlighting the differences between ESAs and Service Animals.

SERVICE ANIMALS VERSUS EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS

Service Animals Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
Dogs Species not specified, typically a dog or cat
Assists a person with a disability by performing a specific task Alleviates symptoms of a psychiatric or emotional disability
Trained to perform a specific task  Not trained for a specific task 
Does not need to register with Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) Does need to register with OAS by submitting an Application for Support Services, documentation (clearly linking the ESA to the disability), and completing an intake appointment.
May be eligible for academic accommodations. If so, must register with OAS. May be eligible for academic accommodations.  Academic accommodation requests are considered separately from ESA requests.
Unlimited campus access. Restricted campus access. Limited to residence hall room. May leave room only for nature breaks.
Must be under the owner’s control at all times and must be with the owner at all times. Must be under the owner’s control at all times. ESA care must be provided solely by the owner. ESA cannot be left alone or with anyone else overnight.

If you would like to request an Emotional Support Animal accommodation, you should register with the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) and follow the application procedure explained below..


Procedure for registering with the OAS

Students requesting an emotional support animal should register with the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) by:

  1. Completing an Application for Support Services located on the OAS website (https://dsst.fsu.edu/oas/students/applying-for-services)
  2. Submitting appropriate documentation of your disability with the application
  3. Completing an initial appointment with an assigned disability specialist to discuss the request for an ESA and other possible academic, housing, or dining accommodations. 

It may take one to two weeks for your application and documentation to be processed, even with adequate documentation. If the documentation submitted is inadequate, the processing time will increase. 


Documentation Requirements

Documentation should:

  • Be in the form of a letter or report from a health care practitioner, a telehealth provider or any other similarly licensed or certified practitioner who is qualified to make a diagnosis, has provided in-person care or services to you on at least one occasion, and has personal knowledge of the disability for which you are requesting the ESA. 
    • The documentation must be on official letterhead and should be signed and dated within the last two years.
  • Include information regarding your current condition, the date and a summary of your most recent evaluation, and the expected duration of your condition. 
  • State the current impact of (or functional limitations) imposed by the condition on your living situation. 
  • Include information identifying the particular assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the ESA, including any direct link between the condition and your requested ESA and any specific recommendation for an ESA as a result of the condition. 

The University does not request information that discloses the diagnosis or severity of your disability or any medical records relating to the disability.  However, you may disclose such information or medical records at your discretion, if you believe such information or records will be helpful in OAS’s determination.

It may take one to two weeks for your Application for Support Services to be processed, even with adequate documentation. If the documentation submitted is inadequate, the processing time will increase.


Application Review

Once you submit your application and documentation, they will be reviewed by OAS. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Documentation requirements are firm and are not flexible, so you will be notified if any documentation is missing. If the documentation meets the requirements, you will be contacted for an intake appointment to discuss your request for an ESA and possible academic accommodations.


Student Responsibilities

After the OAS has approved the accommodation of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), the student is responsible for:

  • Completing University Housing’s Emotional Support Animal Agreement.
  • Providing evidence to University Housing that the animal is in good health, and is in compliance with state and local requirements for licensing and vaccinating the ESA.  Veterinary records attesting to these facts must be submitted and approved prior to the animal taking residence.
  • The student will meet with a Residential Life liaison prior to the animal taking occupancy in order to review the agreement and expectations.  

The student is still responsible and liable for the emotional support animal under the Student Code of Conduct and any applicable housing contractual obligations, including but not limited to:

  • Providing for the ESA’s health care and daily needs.
  • Maintaining control of the ESA at all times.
  • Being the sole provider and caretaker for the ESA.
  • Refraining from leaving the ESA alone except for classes and academic-related activities. ESAs should not be left alone overnight, or during weekends or holidays. 
  • Cleaning up after an ESA’s nature breaks.
  • Accepting financial responsibility for any damage done to the premises or to another person on the premises by the ESA.

ESAs that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of the campus community or of physical damage to the property of others may be disallowed.


Housing Assignment

OAS has no influence on a specific room or residence hall assignment. University Housing should be contacted with questions or concerns about your room assignment and/or your housing contract. OAS cannot assist you with these matters.