Service Animals on Campus
Service and Emotional Support Animals on Campus
The presence of service and emotional support animals has become apparent on college campuses. It is more important than ever to understand the difference between the two, along with proper protocols and etiquette.
Service Animals vs. Emotional Support Animals
A service animal is defined as an animal that provides assistance related to a person’s disability, and enjoys broad access to public locations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Schoenfeld-Tacher et al, 2017). Dogs are the most common form of service animals, but miniature horses may also serve in this capacity in specific cases. Service animals receive a thorough and advanced level of training compared to typical animals. These service animals are equipped with skills to carry out specific tasks to help an individual cope with his or her disability and lead a more independent lifestyle (Schoenfeld-Tacher et al, 2017). While not all service animals are required to carry special identification, some service animals wear a vest and have identification cards.
An emotional support animal is defined as an animal that provides emotional support and/or therapeutic benefit to an individual with a verifiable mental or psychiatric disability (Schoenfeld-Tacher et al, 2017). While a service animal is currently limited to a dog or in specific cases a miniature horse, any type of animal may act as an emotional support animal. Currently there is not a standard for certification or registration of emotional support animals.
Aside from type of animal, the biggest distinction between service and emotional support animals is their access to public areas. As previously stated, service animals have broad access rights while emotional support animals are limited to residential dwellings (Schoenfeld-Tacher et al, 2017).
Georgia State students with service animals are encouraged, but not required, to register with Disability Services if they are bringing their animal on campus. However, if said students would like to receive other accommodations, they will need to register with Disability Services.
Georgia State students who wish to bring an emotional support animal on campus are required to be registered with Disability Services. Emotional support animals must not be taken into common areas of campus. If a student would like their emotional support animal with them at their on-campus residence, they must complete a housing accommodations request form and provide documentation to support their request to Disability Services.
Students on campus are often curious about how to interact with service or emotional support animals so it is very important to understand general etiquette.
Just as individuals have their own job or tasks to complete, these animals are working to assist their handler or owner. If someone or something distracts them, this prevents the animal from assisting the human who is dependent on them. Distractions include but are not limited to talking to the animal, trying to pet the animal, crowding the animal or otherwise doing anything except politely ignoring the animal. Additionally, it is inappropriate to ask the owner or handler about their animal’s name, breed, etc. and the owner can choose not to answer those questions.
Owners of service animals are not required to carry certification documentation for the animal while taking them in a public area on campus and it is illegal to ask for such documentation. The only individuals authorized to ask questions about service animals are campus security personnel. There authorization is limited to asking two specific questions:
- Is the animal a service animal?
- What work is the service animal doing?
Georgia State students, faculty and staff are advised to be respectful of both emotional support or service animals, as well as the individual they are assisting when they see such an animal on campus. These animals are working to help make their owner’s experience on campus as smooth as possible. Individuals who have any questions regarding service or emotional support animals are encouraged to reach out to Disability Services.