Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal Guidelines

Service Animals

American Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. According to the Department of Justice, a service animal is defined as “any 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. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.” If the animals meet this definition, then they are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for oneself. For example, a guide dog is used by some individuals who are blind. The work or task must be directly related to the individual’s disability. A service animal is not a pet.
  • A public entity or private business must allow a person with a disability to bring a miniature horse on the premises as long as it has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability, as long as the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight.  The rules that apply to service dogs, outlined below, also apply to miniature horses.

To determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions:

  • Is this animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?

These questions may not be asked if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair). A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.

Emotional Support Animal

Fair Housing Act

Assistance animals are not pets, they are working animals that provide assistance or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

  • Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — e.g., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
  • Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

An accommodation must be provided if both questions are answered in the affirmative. The housing provider may require supporting documentation and their disability need for an assistance animal.


A student who requires an emotional support animal begins the process by contacting the Academic Resource Center. The student will be required to supply the Academic Resource Center with supporting documentation from a health care provider. The Academic Resource Center will contact the Office of Residential Living regarding the accommodation and will work with the student to find appropriate campus housing. The Office of Residential Living will request the student to submit DC required documentation (vaccinations, licenses, etc.) and sign the emotional support animal agreement guidelines.

Under confidentiality laws, Residential Living cannot identify student space that houses emotional support animals.

If you are a Georgetown student and have questions or concerns related to service animals at Georgetown University, contact the Academic Resource Center.

If you are a Georgetown student seeking information on the emotional support animal policy, please visit Housing Accommodations.

For additional information regarding service animals, review the University’s Guidelines for Services and Assistance Animals.