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Policy No: 2010
Responsible Office: Office of Student Disability Services
Last Review Date: 02/20/2020
Next Required Review: 02/20/2025

Service and Assistance Animal Policy


1. Purpose

The University of South Alabama (USA) is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities, and recognizes that some members of the USA community with disabilities may require the use of service or assistance animals while at USA. This policy serves to set forth guidelines concerning the appropriate use of and protocols associated with service animals and assistance animals. USA reserves the right to amend these guidelines as needed, with or without prior notice.

2. Applicability

This policy applies to faculty, staff, students and visitors on all campuses of the University other than those of USA Health. Students who have questions about the use of a service or assistance animal should contact the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) at (251) 460-7212. Members of the USA community who are faculty and staff and have questions about the use of a service animal should contact USA Human Resources at (251) 460-6133.

3. Definitions

3.1 Service Animal:

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.

3.1.1 Miniature horses may be considered service animals in some cases.

3.1.2 The work or task that a service animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the functional limitations of the person’s disability.

3.1.3 Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals.

3.1.4 An animal whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support does not qualify as a service animal.

3.2 Assistance Animal:

An assistance animal (therapy, comfort, or emotional support animal) is an animal that provides emotional support which alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s disability.

3.3 Pet:

A pet is defined as an animal that is kept for ordinary use and companionship.

4. Policy Guidelines

4.1 Service Animals:

4.1.1 A service animal is allowed on campus in all areas of the University’s facilities where members of the public, participants in services, programs, or activities, or invitees are allowed to go, such as academic buildings, libraries, and on-campus dining establishments.

4.1.1.1 There may be areas of the USA campus where it is considered unsafe for an animal to be present or where the animal may need protective wear to be present, such as laboratories; the Director of Safety and Environmental Compliance may be consulted in making this determination.

4.1.1.2 If an area is determined to be unsafe, reasonable accommodations should be provided to assure the student equal access to the activity taking place there.

4.1.2 While a student who requires the use of a service animal is not required to register the animal with the Office of Student Disability Services, they are encouraged to do so in order for the University to be aware of the authorized presence of the service animal on campus.

4.2 Assistance Animals:

4.2.1 Assistance animals are prescribed to an individual with a disability by a mental health professional.

4.2.2 An assistance animal must be regarded as an integral part of a person’s treatment process to be considered for approval.

4.2.3 Species other than dogs or domestic cats will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

4.2.4 Animals that may pose an animal-to-human infectious disease threat, such as monkeys, reptiles, and hedgehogs, will not be approved.

4.2.5 Assistance animals are not service animals and do not accompany an individual at all times.

4.2.6 Assistance animals are only permitted in the individual’s assigned living space, and designated outdoor spaces, if appropriate, under proper handling of the owner. These animals are not allowed in any other campus buildings.

4.2.7 Students living off campus should note that assistance animals ARE NOT allowed in campus buildings.

4.3 Pets:

A pet is not considered a service or assistance animal. Individuals are not permitted to keep or bring pets into campus residence assignments or any other campus buildings.

5. Procedures

5.1 Procedures for the Approval of Assistance Animals:

5.1.1 A student who will be living in University Housing (residence hall or The Grove) and who is seeking to bring an assistance animal must make a formal request to SDS for an accommodation on the basis of a qualifying disability.

5.1.1.1 To make this formal request, the student must submit a completed application for accommodations which may be found on the SDS website (www.southalabama.edu/sds).

5.1.1.2 The request for an accommodation concerning an assistance animal should be made at least 30 days prior to the date the student would like to bring the animal into campus housing.

5.1.2 Students bringing an assistance animal to live in University Housing or The Grove without prior approval may face disciplinary action and/or eviction.

5.1.3 The request for an assistance animal may be denied if proper documentation is not presented or if such an accommodation is deemed unreasonable. Examples of an unreasonable accommodation include one which:

    • Presents an undue financial or administrative burden on the University;
    • Poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation;
    • The animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation;
    • Constitutes a fundamental alteration of the nature of the service or program.

5.1.4 If a requesting student is denied a request for an assistance animal, the student may appeal the decision, in writing, to the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students (VPSA), within 5 business days. The decision of the VPSA is final.

5.1.5 Requests for an assistance animal require complete documentation to be submitted before review and rendering of a decision and/or recommendation.

5.1.6 Documentation must be dated within the last 12 months. Detailed documentation requirements are available on USA’s SDS website at www.southalabama.edu/sds.

5.1.7 Documentation of the need for an assistance animal should follow the SDS guidelines for documentation of a disability, and should include the following information:

    • The credentials and contact information of the evaluator(s);
    • A diagnostic statement identifying the disability;
    • A description of the diagnostic methodology used;
    • A description of the current functional limitations;
    • A description of the expected progression or stability of the disability;
    • A description of current and past accommodations, services and/or medications;
    • Statement on how the animal serves as an accommodation for the verified disability;
    • Statement on how the need for the animal relates to the ability of the resident/student to use and enjoy the living arrangements provided by the University.

5.1.8 Any student approved for an assistance animal while on campus must:

    • Follow all established University policies as outlined in the Lowdown and Housing Community Standards.
    • Register the animal with SDS prior to moving into campus housing each year (deadlines noted above);
    • Ensure that at the start of each academic year the animal is licensed pursuant to applicable local (i.e. Mobile County) laws and is in good health.
    • Review and sign appropriate forms as requested at the start of each academic year. 

5.2 Owner Responsibilities for Service and Assistance Animals:

The owner of the service/assistance animal is expected to accept the following responsibilities:

    • Comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws concerning the ownership of an animal.
    • The owner, not the University or another student/resident, is responsible for the care and conduct of the animal.
    • Animals must be kept clean, healthy and under the control of the owner at all times. While outdoors on campus, the animal must be on a leash.
    • All required immunizations must be up to date.
    • All license(s) required under applicable law or regulations must be current and up-to-date.
    • Dogs or cats must wear a collar with appropriate tags (i.e. vaccinations, contact information) at all times.
    • Animals must be fed on a regular and healthy feeding schedule.
    • Animals and their accoutrements (i.e. Heat Lamp) must not pose a direct threat to the safety of others. All electrical accoutrement must be approved by the University Fire Marshall prior to use.
    • The owner is responsible for prompt clean up and disposal of the animal’s waste.
    • Owners with cats must properly maintain litter boxes. In consideration of the health of the cat and the occupants of the apartment or residence hall room, cat litter box contents must be changed with new litter regularly in accordance with manufacturer recommendations.
    • The animal’s waste must be taken to an appropriate residence hall or apartment dumpster. No waste is to be disposed of in any trash receptacle inside any building, or through any sewer system inside buildings (sinks and toilets).
    • Animals must sleep in the owner’s room or apartment.
    • Animals must not be disruptive to other students including excessive noise.
    • USA is not responsible for an animal during a fire alarm, fire drill, or natural disaster/building emergency.
    • Whenever the owner is away from the room, the animal must be contained in a cage/crate. Should a USA employee (i.e., maintenance worker) enter the room and an uncaged animal escape, USA will not be held responsible. Crated/caged animals should not be left alone for more than 24 hours.
    • Owner is responsible for finding appropriate accommodations for the animal when he/she will be leaving for a period of more than 24 hours.
    • An emergency contact number for an alternate caretaker should be on file with the SDS office and the Housing Office.
    • The owner is responsible for any bodily injury or property damage caused by the animal, as well as any related charges.
    • The owner must notify SDS, in writing, as soon as an assistance animal is no longer present in the residence or no longer needed for the owner’s disability.
    • If a student is seeking to replace an assistance animal with another, the student should notify SDS.
    • For assistance animals, approvals are only good for the academic year in which the approval is made. A new request must be filed prior to occupancy at the beginning of each subsequent academic year.
    • It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the animal is free from fleas or other pests.
    • The owner will be responsible for the cost of eliminating any pest infestation as a result of the animal. In the event of infestation, the University or The Grove will contract an appropriate pest control company and bill the student directly for charge.

5.2.1 At the end of a contract period, the University or The Grove will inspect and clean the residential unit.

5.2.2 The owner will be responsible for the fees associated with cleaning the unit above a standard cleaning and will be billed accordingly.

5.2.3 Failure to comply with any of the above policies may result in the removal of the animal and/ or the owner of the animal from the assignment.

5.3 Housing Requirements:

5.3.1 Students bringing approved assistance animals will be required to complete and sign an Assistance Animal Registration and Agreement with Housing. The form includes provisions related to the above policy to which the student must adhere in order to maintain the animal.

5.3.2 Students bringing service animals are requested to register the animals so that the University will be aware of the authorized presence of the service animals on campus.

5.3.3 Students who are adversely affected by the presence of animals (i.e. respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) are asked to contact SDS.

5.3.3.1 Affected students may be eligible for an accommodation when living in proximity to a service/assistance animal.

5.3.3.2 The Student Disability Services Director and the Housing Director or The Grove General Manager will collaborate, as needed, to help resolve any conflicts related to a service/assistance animal.

5.3.3.3 All staff members will consider the needs and/or the appropriate accommodations of all residents involved.

5.3.4 All roommates and/or suitemates of the accommodated student must sign an agreement acknowledging that the service/assistance animal will be living in the residence with them.

5.3.5 If one or more roommate(s) or suitemate(s) does not approve of the service/assistance animal, then the non-approving student(s) may be moved to another location, as determined by Housing or The Grove.

5.3.6 If an assistance animal owner is found to be in violation of the assistance animal agreement, then the assistance animal and/or the owner may be removed from University Housing or The Grove. Similarly, a service animal and/or the owner may be removed from campus if the service animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it, if the service animal is not housebroken, or if the service animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

5.4 Emergency Responders:

USA Police Department officers will make every reasonable effort to keep the animal with its owner in the event of an emergency evacuation. However, the emergency responder’s first effort will be toward the student and this may necessitate leaving an animal behind in certain emergency evacuation situations.

5.5 Visitors:

5.5.1 While visitors may bring service animals to campus, they may not bring assistance animals.

5.5.2 All visitors with service animals must adhere to the same service animal control, behavior and safety guidelines as students attending the University.

6. Enforcement

6.1 University Sanctions.

6.1.1 Potential violations of this policy by a student will be addressed, pursuant to the Student Code of Conduct, policies and procedures of the Department of Housing, or other applicable policy or procedure.

6.1.2 Potential violations by faculty, staff and administrators will be addressed pursuant to policies applicable to the appropriate classification of employee, including the Faculty Handbook or Staff and Employee Handbook as applicable.

6.2 Alabama Law: Misrepresentations regarding Assistance or Service Animals.

6.2.1 Under Alabama law, misrepresenting that a person has a disability or a disability-related need for the use of an assistance or service animal, making materially false statements for the purpose of obtaining documentation for the use of an assistance or service animal, or misrepresenting an animal as an assistance or service animal shall be subject to a civil penalty of $500 or deemed a Class C misdemeanor.

6.2.2 A second or subsequent offense is deemed a Class B misdemeanor.

7. Related Documents

Not Applicable.