Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals
Western has a general no pet policy campus wide, including university housing. However, Service Animals are permitted to accompany their handler while on campus where the general public is permitted including classrooms, the University Center, and offices. Students who utilize service animals on campus are not required to register with disability services, but they are encouraged to do so for resources related to accessibility and advocacy.
Western also recognizes the importance of Emotional Support Animals, but they must be requested as an accommodation in university housing through the Academic Resource Center with the Disability Services Coordinator. Additionally, Emotional Support Animals are not permitted to accompany their handler outside of their designated living quarters with the exception of toileting, moving the animal to and from campus, as well as during emergency situations such as fires.
All animals are required to be on a leash as per local law and campus policy, unless it prohibits the animal from performing a task related to a disability.
To request an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) as an accommodation for living in university housing, the student should complete the following steps:
- Read the Service and Emotional Support Animal Policy.
- Complete an online request for housing accommodations.
- Provide supporting documentation from your healthcare provider that states the nature of the disability and demonstrates a clear connection, or nexus, between the disability and the need for an Emotional Support Animal dated within the last six months. Additionally, the student should also request a Healthcare Provider Request for Information questionnaire that their healthcare provider should complete and return to Western. This form is available upon request from the Disability Services Coordinator.
- If the accommodation request is approved, the Disability Services Coordinator shall arrange a meeting with the student to discuss the needs of the student in detail.
- Once the accommodation is approved and finalized, the Disability Services Coordinator will notify the student and the office of Residence Life in writing to then meet with their assigned Resident Director. The proposed ESA is NOT permitted on campus until the student has received their Housing Letter of Accommodation.
Western Colorado University Service and Assistance Animal Policy
Western Colorado University is committed to allowing people with disabilities the use of a Service or Assistance Animal, as necessary, on campus to facilitate their full-participation in University programs and activities. Set forth below are specific requirements and guidelines concerning the appropriate use of and protocols associated with Service Animals and Assistance Animals. Western Colorado University reserves the right to amend this policy as circumstances require.
Section I. Definitions
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. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered a service animal for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the Handler’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, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort, emotional support, well-being, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for purposes of this definition.” Service Animals may travel freely with their Handler throughout University housing (and other areas of the University, see Section VII part G. of this document).
Assistance Animals are a category of animals that may provide assistance or necessary emotional support to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s disability, but which are not considered Service Animals under the ADAAA and Western’s Service Animal Policy. Some Assistance Animals are professionally trained, but in other cases Assistance Animals provide the necessary support to individuals with disabilities without any formal training or certification. Any species of animal may serve a person with a disability as an Assistance Animal. Assistance animals include therapy animals, emotional support animals, or comfort animals. Assistance Animals must be contained within the privately assigned residential area (room, suite, apartment) at all times, except when transported outside the private residential area in an animal carrier or controlled by leash and harness. All areas except for privately assigned living space in housing are off limits to approved Assistance Animals without prior authorization from Disability Services.
A Partner/Handler/Owner is a person with a Service or Assistance Animal. (The term Handler will be used in this document to reflect any of these terms.)
A pet is a domestic animal kept for pleasure or companionship. A pet is not considered a Service Animal or an Assistance Animal. Pets are not permitted on campus.
An approved animal is a Service Animal or Assistance Animal that has been granted as a reasonable accommodation by Western Colorado University under this policy.
Section II. Procedures for Requesting to Have Assistance Animals in University Housing as a Reasonable Accommodation
Assistance Animals may not be brought into University housing without approval of University officials. Western will approve only one Assistance Animal per student due to space limitations of residence halls and to ensure the safety and well-being of animals and students in residence. Failure to comply with this policy may result in a denial for a request for an Assistance Animal.
The procedure for requesting Assistance Animals in University Housing are outlined below:
- A person requesting permission to keep an Assistance Animal in University Housing should make a formal request to the University’s Disability Services offices at least 63 days before housing for the animal is needed (no later than June 1st for the fall term and no later than Nov. 1st for the spring term). To do so, the person should submit the appropriate Request Form for Disability Housing Accommodations, as well as documentation of their disability to be reviewed by the Disability Services office. This form can be located on our website at https://www.western.edu/current-students/academic-affairs/academic-resou.... Additionally, if a request is made with less than 63 days remaining in the term, the ESA may not be approved until the following term.
- Documentation of the need for an Assistance Animal should come from a physician, psychiatrist, or mental health professional (generally, a health professional who is licensed Colorado or the student's home state) thus suggesting an ongoing relationship with the student and knowledge of the functional limitations imposed by that student's mental health disability. Such documentation should include the following information
- Signed verification of the individual’s disability from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional, on professional letterhead, stating the nature of the disabling condition or impairment and the provider’s professional opinion regarding the relationship between the disability and the assistance that will be performed by the animal.
- Statement on how the animal serves as an accommodation for the verified disability. There must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the disability and the assistance the animal provides.
- Statement on how the need for the animal is necessary to afford the student resident with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and
- Current documentation of items requested in 1, 2, and 3. (dated within the last six months).
- A completed ESA Healthcare Provider Request for Information form completed by a healthcare provider.
- The Disability Services office will review documentation, and if it approves the request, it shall arrange a meeting with the person requesting assistance that an Assistance Animal be housed in University Housing. The student requesting an Assistance Animal will be required to sign a contract and acknowledge that they understand and agree to comply with University policy regarding Assistance Animals.
- The University may reject an animal that:
- Poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others;
- Would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others;
- Would pose an undue financial or administrative burden on the University;
- Would fundamentally alter the nature of University housing operations; or
- Does not comply with the requirements set forth in Section VII below.
- The University may require removal of an animal that:
- Poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others
- Causes substantial physical damage to the property of others;
- Poses an undue financial or administrative burden on the University;
- Would fundamentally alter the nature of University housing operations; or
- Does not comply with the requirements set forth in Section VII below.
- Upon approval of an Assistance Animal, the Director of Residence Life, Resident Director, and residential building staff will be notified as appropriate. The student must meet with their Resident Director to review the Assistance Animal policy in regards to University Housing.
- The student’s roommate(s) or suitemate(s) will be notified (if applicable) to solicit their acknowledgment of the assistance animal in writing and to meet with the Disability Services Coordinator to share any concerns they may have, and notify them that the animal may be residing in shared assigned living space.
- Once the animal has been formally approved, the student will receive notification from Disability Services that their animal has been approved and is allowed to reside on campus in University Housing.
- After approval, the submitted documentation should be updated on an annual basis and provided to the ADA Coordinator at least 63 days before the start of each academic year.
- Students are granted permission to move off-campus early for disability related reasons only in the extreme rare occurrence that Western cannot accommodate the student on campus.
Section III. Service Animal Use on Campus
Visitors to campus with Service Animals may access all public facilities, with the exception of areas where service animals are specifically prohibited due to safety or health restrictions, where the Service Animal may be in danger, or where the Service Animal’s use may compromise the integrity of research.
Employees with a disability who wish to utilize a Service Animal as a reasonable accommodation in a University office or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public should contact Human Resources.
Students with a disability who wish to utilize a Service Animal in a classroom are encouraged, but not required to register with the Disability Services office. Students are encouraged to register with the Disability Services office for access to resources, information, and advocacy around a range of disability-related dynamics, including Service Animals. Service Animals must follow the “Guidelines for Maintaining an Approved Animal at Western Colorado University” found in Section VII.
Section IV. Procedures to have Service Animals in University Housing
Students desiring to bring their Service Animals to reside within University Housing are required to follow the steps outlined below:
- Students who wish to keep a Service Animal in University Housing must make a formal request to the University’s Disability Services Office. To do so, students should complete the electronic “Request for Disability Housing Accommodations” located at https://www.western.edu/current-students/academic-affairs/academic-resource-center/disability-services/disability-housing so that the appropriate housing assignments can be made in regards to the students’ needs and preferences. This should be done at least 63 days before housing is needed (no later than June 1st for the fall term and Nov. 1st for the spring term).
- Requests for Service Animals in housing do NOT require documentation of disability. However, students should answer relevant questions on the Request Form regarding requests for Service Animals.
- The Disability Services Office will review the request and arrange a meeting with the student requesting a Service Animal to live within University Housing.
- Upon approval of a Service Animal, residential building staff will be notified as appropriate.
- Upon approval of a Service Animal, the student’s roommate(s) or suitemate(s) will be notified (if applicable) to solicit their acknowledgement of the approval, and notify them that the approved service animal will be residing in shared assigned living space.
Section V. Conflicting Health Conditions
Residence Life personnel will make a reasonable effort to notify tenants in the residence buildings where the Approved Animal will be located.
Students with medical condition(s) that are affected by animals (e.g., respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) are asked to contact the Disability Services office if they have a health or safety related concern about exposure to a Service or Assistance Animal. The University is prepared to also reasonably accommodate individuals with such medical conditions that require accommodation when living in proximity to Service or Assistance Animals.
Section VI. Handler’s Responsibilities in University Housing
Service and Assistance Animals – Additional Items
In addition to the requirements set forth in Section VI 1-18, the following guidelines apply to All Service and Assistance Animals:
- The Handler is also responsible for complying with Gunnison County/City of Gunnison animal control and licensing laws for animal rights and Handler responsibility. All approved animals must be current with immunizations and wear a rabies vaccination tag.
- The Assistance Animal must be spayed or neutered and cannot pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, must not cause substantial physical damage to the property of others, cannot pose an undue financial or administrative burden, or fundamentally alter the nature of the University’s operations.
- An Approved service animal outside of the Handler’s own residence hall room (if applicable) must have a harness, leash, or other tether unless a) the Handler is unable to use a harness, leash, or tether, or b) using a harness, leash, or tether will interfere with the animal’s ability to safely and effectively perform its duties. In that case, the Handler must maintain control of the approved service animal through voice, signal or other effective controls. Approved assistance animals are allowed outside of their Handler’s assigned residence hall room only for toileting, transport to and from campus, and must be on a leash or crated, and under the direct control of the Handler. No off leash animals are permitted on campus.
- The Handler is responsible for the costs of care necessary for an Approved Animal’s well-being, including bathing and grooming as needed.
- The Handler is responsible for independently removing an Approved Animal’s waste. Waste must never be placed in a building’s garbage cans or other small trash cans available on University property. See Section VII B for more information (care and supervision).
- The Handler is responsible for ensuring that the Approved Animal does not interfere with the routine activities of the residence hall or cause difficulties for other students who reside there.
- The Handler is financially responsible for the actions of the Approved Animal including bodily injury or property damage. The Handler’s responsibility covers, but it not limited to, replacement of furniture, carpet, windows, wall covering, or other items damaged. The Handler is expected to cover these costs at the time of repair and/or move-out.
- The Handler is responsible for any expenses incurred for cleaning above and beyond a standard cleaning or repairs to University premises that are assessed after the student and animal vacate the residence. The University shall have the right to bill the student account of the Handler for unmet obligations.
- The Handler must notify Disability Services in writing if the Approved Animal is no longer needed as an Approved Animal or is no longer in residence. To replace an Approved Animal the Handler must file a new Request for Disability Housing Accommodations.
- The Handler’s residence may be inspected for fleas, ticks, or other pests once a semester or as needed. The Office of Residence Life will schedule the inspection. If fleas, ticks, or other pests are detected through inspection, the residence will be treated using approved fumigation methods by a University-approved pest control service. The Handler will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in the residence halls.
- If the Handler lives on campus, he or she must feed and provide water for the Approved Animal inside his or her room. Food and water for the approved animal are not to be left outside the residence hall room.
- All roommate(s) or suitemate(s) of the Handler must sign an agreement allowing the Approved Animal to be in the residence room with them. In the event one or more roommates or suitemates do not approve, the non-approving suitemate or roommate will be moved to a different room or suite.
- Service Animals may travel freely with their Handler throughout University housing (and other areas of the University, see Section VII part G. of this document). Assistance Animals must be contained within the privately assigned residential area (room, suite, apartment) at all times, except when transported outside the private residential area in an animal carrier or controlled by leash and harness.
- Approved Animals cannot be left overnight in University Housing to be cared for by another person. Animals must be taken with the student if they leave campus for a prolonged period of time or placed with an identified person who resides off-campus while the student is traveling.
- Handlers are not permitted to allow other students or other persons to access their room for the purpose of caring for an approved animals. The Handler is solely responsible for the care and maintenance of their animal. Students, or other persons, other than the handler who enter residence halls, apartments, suites, or dorm rooms for the purpose of caring for an approved animal who have not been approved by University officials, may be subject to a conduct meeting and possible disciplinary action from the University.
- Handlers with ESAs are expected to provide an adequate size crate for their animal while living on campus. They will be expected to crate their animal during periods of inspection by Residence Life staff and when maintenance is performing work duties in the room. Students with ESAs will be provided with a 24-hour notice so that they have adequate time to crate their animal.
- Housing has the ability to relocate a Handler and their Approved Animal as necessary according to current contractual agreements.
- Students with service or assistance animals that reside within University Housing are expected to abide by all University Residence Life policies and student conduct codes.
- Any violation of the above rules may result in an immediate removal of the Approved Animal from the University and may be reviewed through the Student Code of Conduct.
- Should the Approved Animal be removed from the premises for any reason, the Handler is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.
Section VII. Policy for Maintaining an Approved Animal at Western Colorado University
The following policies apply to all Approved Animals and their Handlers, unless in extenuating circumstances the nature of the documented disability of the Handler precludes adherence to these policies, and permission for a variance from the guidelines has been granted.
Care and Supervision
Care and supervision of the Approved Animal are the responsibility of the individual who benefits from the Approved Animal’s use. The Handler is required to maintain control of the Approved Animal at all times.
The Handler is also responsible for ensuring the cleanup of the Approved Animal’s waste and, when appropriate, must toilet the animal in areas designated by the University consistent with the reasonable capacity of the Handler. Indoor animal waste, such as cat litter, must be placed in a sturdy plastic bag and securely tied up before being disposed of in an outside trash dumpster. Litter boxes should be placed on mats so that waste is not tracked onto carpeted surfaces.
Animal Health and Well-Being
- Vaccination: In accordance with local ordinances and regulations, the Approved Animal must be immunized against diseases common to that type of animal. Dogs must have current vaccination against rabies and kennel cough and wear a rabies vaccination tag. Cats should have normal shots required for a healthy animal. Local licensing requirements are followed.
- Health: Animals to be housed in University housing must have an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian. Documentation can be a vaccination certificate for the animal or a veterinarian’s statement regarding the animal’s health. The University has the authority to direct that the animal receive veterinary attention. (Local licensing law is followed.)
- Leash: If appropriate, the Approved Animal must be on a leash, unless the leash would inhibit the Approved Animal’s ability to be of service.
- Other Conditions: Disability Services may place other reasonable conditions or restrictions on the Approved Animal depending on the nature and characteristics of the Approved Animal.
Requirements for Faculty, Staff, Students, and Other Members of the University Community
Members of the University Community are required to abide by the following expectations:
- They are not to inquire for details about the Handler’s disabilities. The nature of a person’s disability is a private matter.
- They are to allow a Service Animal to accompany its Handler at all times and in all places on campus, except where animals are specifically prohibited.
- They are not to touch or pet a Service or Assistance Animal unless invited to do so.
- They are not to feed a Service or Assistance Animal.
- They are not to deliberately startle a Service or Assistance Animal.
- They are not to separate or attempt to separate a Handler from his or her Service or Assistance Animal.
Removal of an Approved Animal
The University may exclude/remove an Approved Animal when:
- The animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
- The animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of the University’s program.
- The Handler does not comply with the Handler’s Responsibilities in University Housing.
- The animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference, (e.g. barking, wandering, displaying aggressive behavior) and the behavior is outside the duties of the Approved Animal on the Western Colorado University campus.
- The animal is not house broken.
- The animal is physically ill.
- The animal is unreasonably dirty, (e.g. matted fur, covered in fleas and/or ticks, noticeable dirt on the fur or skin of the animal).
- The animal is found by the university to be out of control and the animal’s Handler does not take immediate and effective action to control it.
Handlers of Approved Animals are solely responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear to persons or University property caused by their animals.
Areas Off Limits to Service Animals
The University may prohibit the use of Service Animals in certain locations because of health and safety restrictions, (e.g. where the animal may be in danger, or where their use may compromise the integrity of research). Restricted areas may include, but are not limited to, the following: custodial closets, boiler rooms, facility equipment rooms, research laboratories, classrooms with research/demonstration animals, rooms with heavy restricted areas may be granted on a case-by-case basis by contacting Disability Services and the appropriate department representative; the person directing the restricted area has the final decision.
Areas Off Limits to Assistance Animals
All areas except for privately assigned living space in housing are off limits to approved Assistance Animals without prior authorization from Disability Services.
Section VII. Advisory Notice of Colorado’s New Law Regarding Service & Assistance Animals
Under Colorado Law it is a crime to knowingly take a non-service animal into a public business under the guise that it is actually a service animal. It is also a crime to intentionally misrepresent that your animal is an assistance, companion, or emotional support animal in order to avoid pet fees or to have an animal in housing that otherwise does not permit pets.
- On the first offense, the person will receive a written and/or verbal warning.
- From the second offense onward, the person can be charged fines ranging from $50-$500.