Assistance Animals

Assistance Animals on Campus

Mars Hill University recognizes that there are some circumstances where a student with a disability may have a disability related need for either a Trained Service Dog (SD) or an Emotional Assistance Animal (ESA) to achieve access to programs, activities, and services including university housing.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is not limited to a specific type of animal and is not required to have had special training but may provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability.  ESAs authorized as a housing accommodation are only to be in the student’s individual residence hall room and are not approved to be taken into other classrooms, campus buildings or campus venues such as athletic facilities. Students who wish to have an ESA in their residence must contact the Office of Disability Services and follow procedures set forth to request a housing accommodation.   Requests to have an ESA accompany a student in other places on campus will be reviewed under ADA accommodation guidelines through the Office of Disability Services on a case by case basis.

A Service Animal (SA), as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and for practical purposes on a university campus, means a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The job or task must relate directly to the person’s disability.  In most cases, trained Service Dogs are allowed to accompany the student for the purpose of doing work or performing tasks for that individual in public buildings and campus venues. The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for purposes of this definition.

If a disability is obvious and if the Service Dog is under the handler’s control, the dog is allowed under most circumstances to accompany the individual with a disability on campus and no further action is required to seek approval.  In the event that a person’s disability is not obvious and if the employee has a work-related need to know this information, there are two questions that may be asked:

1)  Is the service animal required because of a disability?

2)  What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

Individuals who are not able to answer the questions sufficiently should be referred to the Office of Disability Services for advisement.

 There are few instances where a Service Dog can be denied access to the premises:  1) if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take action to control the animal; 2) if the dog is not housebroken; 3) if the presence of the dog compromises health and safety such as in a clinical setting.   Any specific concerns regarding allowing a service dog in a particular setting due to reasons related to health or safety should be addressed with the Office of Disability Services.  In the rare event that a trained Service Dog cannot be in a particular setting with its handler, accommodations must be made for the individual to still receive similar assistance.