Resources for Disabled Students


Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals at Colorado State University

Colorado State University recognizes that some types of disabilities may require animal assistance as an accommodation.  There are two categories of animals that may be allowed on campus to provide assistance to students with disabilities – service dogs (or horse) and emotional support animals.  A service dog (or horse) is considered necessary for access, much like a wheelchair.  An emotional support animal is considered an accommodation to allow someone the ability to benefit from a particular activity.  Below is an overview of what animals qualify and things to consider if you are requesting to have an animal on the CSU campus as a disability accommodation.   To explore this issue further or for more specific information, feel free to contact Kathleen Ivy, RDS accommodations/advocacy specialist, at 491-6385 or

Service Dogs (or Horse)

Service dog (or horse) is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as:

Any dog or miniature horse 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 work or task that the service dog/horse performs must be directly related to the individual’s disability, such as:

  • assisting those with low vision
  • alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • pulling a wheelchair or stablizing a person's gait
  • retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
  • recognizing and assisting during seizures
  • alerting individuals who may be experiencing flashbacks of emotional trauma
  • providing stability for mobility purposes

A dog or miniature horse are the two types of animals that are designated as trained to provide a service.  Animals providing emotional, support or companionship do not qualify as providing a service.

Subject to some limitations, a service dog may generally accompany students throughout campus, such as classrooms, recreational facilities and campus residences. It is expected that a service dog be identifiable to others through a visible signifier (e.g., vest or harness) although it is not required.

  • In some instances, miniature horses may also be considered for use by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.  To determine whether a miniature horse may be an appropriate accommodation, the following will be considered:
    • (i) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether applicable University facilities accommodate these features;
    • (ii) Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;
    • (iii) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and
    • (iv) Whether the miniature horse's presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

Beyond this, other considerations as may be required or allowed under federal or state disability laws may apply.  Requests for use of a miniature horse for accommodation of a disability will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Students with non-apparent disabilities who use a service dog are strongly encouraged to use RDS as a means of verifying the need as an accommodation while on campus.  Only two questions may be asked concerning service dogs:  Is the presence of the dog due to a disability? and What has it been trained to do?.  If no is answered to either question, the dog is not allowed.  Misrepresenting a dog as a service dog is a violation of Intentional Misrepresentation of Entitlement to an Assistance Animal, Colo. HB16-1426.

Emotional Support Animals

In some instances, disabled students may be allowed to have an emotional support animal within campus housing facilities.  These animals may alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of a disability and are referred to as “emotional support” based on the function they perform for the student.  All requests for emotional support animals as an accommodation in campus housing facilities must be approved by Resources for Disabled Students.  Note:  there is no entity certifying the status of an animal as a emotional support animal that is recognized by Colorado State University.

A student may be able to have an emotional support animal in a campus housing unit as a reasonable accommodation if:

  • the student has a verifiable disability; and
  • the animal is necessary to afford the student with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and
  • there is an identifiable relationship or nexus between the disability and the support the animal provides.

If a student is allowed to have an emotional support animal, it may be restricted to only housing areas.  It may not be allowed to enter classrooms, recreational facilities or other campus buildings.  Requests for accommodations beyond the residential scope will be assessed on a case by case basis by RDS.

Limitations and Things to Consider for Service Dogs (or Horse) and Emotional Support Animals
  • The student owner is responsible for controlling the animal and its behavior
  • The student owner is responsible for the care and well being of the animal, including appropriate inoculations
  • The student owner is responsible for all clean up and/or damages associated with the animal
  • The student owner is responsible for educating others in the campus community on how to appropriately interact with the anim
  • Animals need to be well cared for, clean and hygienic
  • Animals must be in good health with regular checkups and must comply with all state and local licensure and vaccination requirements
  • Documentation of vaccinations and licensure are required if the student and animal reside in campus housing facilities
  • Animals that may fundamentally alter CSU’s operations (including housing operations) may not be allowed
  • Animals that may cause substantial physical damage may not be allowed
  • Animals cannot be a threat to the health or safety of others
  • Animals will not be allowed if they pose an undue financial or administrative burden to the university
  • Service dogs are generally allowed in any location on campus and are expected to behave as inconspicuously as possible in classrooms and not display aggressive behavior towards others unless its handler is in danger
  • A handler with a service dog who is displaying disrupting behavior in a location may be asked to leave
  • ESA are NOT expected to roam freely within a residence hall or apartment complex; animal control may be called if an ESA is found outside a person's room or apartment without it's handler
  • Disrupting behavior by an ESA in a residence hall or apartment complex may be considered grounds for removal of the ESA

For additional information on disability documentation guidelines and/or the accommodation process, go to Accommodation Process or call Resources for Disabled Students at (970) 491-6385.


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