A service animal is 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. In other words, not only must the service animal be a dog, but the dog must be trained to perform specific tasks – “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”
The United States Department of Justice, which is the agency with primary authority for enforcement and interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [see DOJ ADA guidance(link is external) on service animals], prohibits the University from asking about the nature or extent of a person's disability or requiring proof that an animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.
Verifying the Need for Service Animals
Unless it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person's wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability), the University may ask only two questions to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. The University may ask [24 C.F.R. 136(link is external)]:
- Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task is this animal trained to perform?
The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. [24 C.F.R. 104(link is external)]
Service Animals on Campus
While on University property a service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether. Exception: if the handler is unable to use a harness, leash, or tether because of a disability, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks, the service animal must at least be under the handler's control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).
The University is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal. The University may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if the animal is out of control (and the animal's handler does not take effective action to control it) or if the animal is not housebroken. When the University’s usual practice is to charge persons for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal. [24 C.F.R. 136(link is external)]
The request to have a dog treated as a service animal may be denied if the specific animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation or if the specific animal would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation.
Accommodation Animals Living in University Housing
When the disability and/or disability-related need for the animal are not readily apparent, the student may be required to document the disability and/or disability-related need for the animal.
Because UC is a public university, UC housing is covered by both Title II of the ADA and the Federal Housing Act (FHAct). The U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) memo(link is external) (April 25, 2013) describes a two-step approach for responding to an accommodation request from a student w/disability seeking an exception to a no-pet policy in university housing. If the animal meets the ADA definition of a service animal (i.e. dog trained to perform service tasks), then the student may be asked two questions: (1) Is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and (2) What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?
However, if the animal is not a dog, or the animal (even if a dog) is not trained to perform a service but is an emotional support animal, then the student may request a reasonable accommodation in the form of an assistive animal pursuant to FHAct. In this case, the student may be asked two different questions: (1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities? (2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?
Requests for an assistive animal may be denied if granting the request would constitute an undue financial or administrative burden, or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider's services. In addition, the request may also be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Breed, size, and weight limitations are not applicable to an assistance animal.
When a student with a disability is seeking permission to keep an animal (other than a trained service dog) in University housing, the University Residential and Student Services Program animal accommodation process is the correct way for students with disabilities to request permission to keep a live-in animal as an accommodation in University residences. This process includes four components:
- The Request
- The Guidelines for Maintaining a Service Animal within the Residential Community
- Roommate/Suitemate Agreement
- Service Animal Registration Form
Accommodation Animals for University employees
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) regulations indicate that a reasonable accommodation includes allowing an employee or applicant for employment to bring an assistive animal into the worksite. An assistive animal includes a trained animal, such as a guide, signal, or service dog, as well as an animal that provides emotional support. However, the minimum standard for assistive animals is [CCR 7293.6(a)]:
- Being free from offensive odors and display habits appropriate to the work environment, for example, the elimination of urine and feces,
- Not engaging in behavior that endangers the health or safety of those in the workplace, and
- Being trained to provide assistance for the employee or applicant’s disability.
Prior to allowing an employee to have an assistive animal in the workplace*, the University may require a letter from the employee’s health care provider stating that the employee has a disability and explaining why the animal is necessary as an accommodation to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job, and the University may require confirmation that the assistive animal meets the above minimum standards. The employee maybe required to re-certify annually that s/he continues to need the assistive animal [CCR 7294.0(e)].
*Note: the need to and process of verifying disability status to approve an assistive animal in the workplace does not supersede the description of a service animal as defined by applicable law. Please see "Service Animals" at the top of this page for additional information.