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. ESAs differ from service animals in that they 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 must register with the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS).
There are two steps to registering with the OAS
- Complete an Application for Support Services located on the OAS website (https://dsst.fsu.edu/oas/students/applying-for-services)
- Submit appropriate documentation of your disability with the application
- Be in the form of a letter or report from a psychologist, psychiatrist or other qualified, licensed clinician who is qualified to make the diagnosis and is currently treating you for 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 a specific diagnosis, a statement of 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.
- Explain how the condition relates to your request for an ESA. There must be a direct link established between the condition and your requested ESA. It should include which symptoms are alleviated by the ESA.
- Clearly state a specific recommendation for an ESA as a result of the condition.
- Include evidence the provider is currently treating you for the condition for which the ESA is requested.
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.
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.
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.
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 has been vaccinated against diseases common to that breed of animal as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinary records attesting to the fact 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.
Your Responsibilities for your ESA
- Provide your ESA’s health care and daily needs.
- Your ESA must be under your control at all times.
- You are the sole care provider for your ESA. No one else should care for your ESA.
- Your ESA should not be left alone except for classes and academic-related activities. They should not be left alone overnight, weekends or holidays.
- Clean up after your ESA’s nature breaks.
- Any damages caused by your ESA is your financial responsibility.
Please also note that ESAs that pose health, safety, or welfare threats to the campus community may be disallowed.