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Accessibility/Disability Services

Emotional Support Animal Policy

Housing assignments and the residential learning environment are integral parts of Wheeling University programs and students with disabilities may seek reasonable accommodations that support their access to this aspect of their Wheeling experience.

General Definitions

Emotional Support Animal: An Emotional Support Animal (“ESA”) is not a pet. An ESA is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The person seeking to bring an ESA onto campus must have a verifiable disability, not simply a desire for companionship. An ESA can serve as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA or FHAct) in those housing communities that have a “no pets” rule. The ESA is not required to have any specialized training or certifications.

Service Animal: A service animal is a 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. Service Animals are completely different from an Emotional Support Animal. Requests for Service Animals are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

Dwelling: A dwelling is considered to be all units of student housing owned and/or operated by the University. A place of residence that a student is assigned to occupy during a period of time as specified in their housing contract. This may come in the form of a single, multiple occupancy room, suite or apartment.

ESA Request Process Summary

The student seeking to bring an ESA on campus should submit documentation to the Disability Services and Testing Center indicating that the student suffers from a specific disability and that it substantially limits one or more major life activities (e.g. walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, etc.).  A diagnosis of a condition does not automatically qualify a student for an emotional support animal. ESA requests will only be granted for genuine disabilities. Therefore, the documentation for the condition need not describe it in detail, but must demonstrate that it rises to the level of a disability. The information submitted will be shared with a committee of professionals working within key offices of Student Services (the Student Success Center, University Health Center, and Residence Life). This will be known as the ESA Committee.

All requests for ESAs in University Residence Life are subject to annual review by the ESA Committee.


A student must complete the following tasks for the ESA Committee to consider a request to bring an ESA on campus:

  • Register with the Student Success Center by providing documentation from the student’s health provider. The student may use the attached form or submit other documentation from the student’s health provider containing the same information.
  • Provide a personal statement to the Student Success Center explaining the student’s rationale for the request, including a brief history of the types of support(s)/resources(s)/treatment(s) the student has used to address the presenting issue and/ or the major life activities it impacts. The statement should also provide an explanation of the logistics the student has considered for attending to the care of the ESA and highlight any conversations the student has had about such a request with roommate(s) and the implications of sharing residential space with an ESA.
  • Provide information about the ESA and completed Animal Guardian Form. The student must provide evidence that the ESA is in good health and has been vaccinated against diseases common to that breed/species of animal, as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinary records must be provided attesting to the fact that the ESA is not aggressive or dangerous.
  • Meet with a member of the ESA Committee.  If all criteria are met to establish the need for the accommodation, as set forth by this policy, a meeting will be arranged between the student and a member of the ESA Committee to discuss how best to accommodate the student, the ESA, and the campus community. The Committee will then meet, discuss the information provided by the student, and inform the student of its decision.
  • Review and sign the ESA Agreement during meeting with the Residence Life staff just prior to the ESA moving into a Dwelling to discuss any possible issues or concerns.

Denials and Exclusions

The ESA Committee will refuse a request to bring an ESA on campus when the presence of the ESA:

  • Fundamentally alters the nature of a program or activity
  • Would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others
  • Would substantially interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the area by others, or is disruptive
  • Suited spaces in Residential Housing may not have ESAs
  • Given the nature of our fully residential campus only one ESA will be approved per residential Dwelling unit.

Similarly, past permission to keep the ESA on campus may be revoked at any time if the ESA Committee receives evidence of any of the above reasons for denial or exclusion or evidence that the student has failed to abide by the ESA Agreement. The University may exclude an approved ESA from any and all campus areas for the same reasons. An appeal of such a decision follows the appeals process for ESA requests as set forth below.


Students seeking to bring an ESA on campus should submit all materials (documentation and personal statement) by the following dates:

  • For the next Fall Semester – August 1 (prior to housing selection process)
  • For the next Spring Semester – December 1 (prior to housing selection process)

The ESA Committee will consider requests from newly enrolled students and requests made by current students relating to a newly discovered need on a case by case basis throughout the semester. ESA found to be living in Dwelling units without approval will be removed immediately at the owner’s expense and the student will subject to the Student Code of Conduct.