Resources for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Guidelines for Service and Emotional Support Animals on Campus

Service Animal

A service animal is defined as any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Examples might include pulling a wheelchair, assisting during a seizure, alerting to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability, and preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities may use service animals in any public area unless doing so would pose a danger to the health or safety of others or cause undue burden.  Individuals with disabilities who use a service animal on campus are not required to register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), but individuals who wish to have a service animal in student housing must make a formal request for this accommodation.

Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal is defined as any animal with a primary role of providing a person with a disability emotional comfort. These animals are not required to undergo specialized training. Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals in that they are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. A request to have an emotional support animal in campus housing is considered a request for accommodation and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Emotional support animals are not allowed in other university buildings unless a separate accommodation request has been granted through Student Accessibility Services.  These requests are also reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

Expectations, Rights, and Responsibilities Related to the Use of Animals on Campus:
Care and Supervision:

1. The animal will be the full responsibility of the individual with a disability, and the owner must be consistently in control of the animal. If the animal is not under control or poses a risk to the health or safety of others, then the individual may be asked to remove the animal.

2. Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Exceptions may be granted in an emergency situation when the animal is in the owner’s private residence, when the animal needs to perform a task requiring it to travel beyond the length of the restraint, or when the owner is unable to retain an animal on a leash due to a disability.

3. The owner is responsible for removing or arranging for the removal of the animal’s waste. This will result in placing the waste in a closed container and then removing the container to an outdoor trash bin. Owners who live in university housing may need to designate an individual to help with clean up.

4. Individuals may be responsible for any damage that is caused by their animals.


According to Virginia law, any animal that has reached a proper level of maturity must be licensed and must display a license on its collar at all times.


Animals on campus must have an annual clean bill of health (including vaccinations and immunity shots against rabies and/or other diseases common to the type of animal) that is signed by a licensed veterinarian. A valid vaccination tag must be worn by the animal at all times.  Owners need to make sure that the animal is kept as clean as possible. Regular bathing/grooming and pest control measures also need to be performed by the owner.

Emotional Support Animals in W&M Housing

A request to have an emotional support animal in campus housing is considered a request for accommodation.

All such requests should be made with at least 30 days’ notice and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Individuals making such requests must establish that they experience a documented disability and that the animal is indeed providing essential therapeutic benefit related to the documented disability. Please contact Student Accessibility Services at [[sas]] if you have questions about the request process or required documentation. 

Appeal Process

Any student who disagrees with an accommodation decision made by SAS may appeal under the Student ADA/Rehabilitation Act Grievance and Appeal Procedure. If the Compliance and Policy Office denies your appeal, then you may not use the animal for the requested service.

If you have already signed a contract for university housing when a request for use of an animal is denied or, if you are a first-year student and you wish to be released from the requirement of living on campus during the first year, you may request to be released from contract.