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Service & Comfort Animal Information

Service Animals

  • As per the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights, “only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.”

  • These are dogs that have been specifically trained to assist persons with disabilities that include, but are not limited to:
    • Guiding an individual who is blind
    • Alerting a person who is deaf
    • Pulling a wheelchair or assisting that individual in daily life activities
    • Alerting or protecting an individual who has seizures
    • Assisting an individual with a mental impairment (e.g. taking medication)
    • Calming a person with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or anxiety

  • Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

  • Service dogs are not required to register with the Disability Services nor are they required to have identifying vests, however they must be harnessed, leashed or tethered unless it impedes the animals work.

  • When it is not obvious what the services the service dog provides, the following questions may be asked:
    (1) Is the dog a service animal and required because of a disability and
    (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless:
    (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or
    (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

  • Service Dogs in Training
    A. Service dogs in training are permitted on campus in all public facilities on the same basis as working service animals, provided that the dog is being led or accompanied by a trainer for the purpose of training the dog and the trainer has documentation confirming the trainer is affiliated with a recognized or certified service dog training organization.

    B. Only adult dogs (twelve months of age or older) are considered service dogs in training under University policy. “Puppies in training” are not permitted in University buildings.

    C. The dog would have to be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless a physical disability prevents it from doing so. The dog would have to be in control of the handler at all times.


Comfort Animal:

An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability (the reason cannot just be a need for companionship). The animal is viewed as a "reasonable accommodation" under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA or FHAct) to those housing communities that have a "no pets" rule. In other words, just as a wheelchair provides a person with a physical limitation the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, an emotional support animal provides a person with a mental or psychiatric disability the same opportunity to live independently. Most times, an emotional support animal will be seen as a reasonable accommodation for a person with such a disability.



Comfort Animal Policy and Form (139kB)


Saginaw Valley State University is committed to fulfilling its obligations under state and federal laws, including providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.  This Policy governs the use of therapy/emotional support animals as accommodations in University housing by persons with disabilities.

Requests for accommodation regarding a therapy/emotional support animal shall be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be supported by sufficient documentation, as more fully described below.


The purpose of this policy is to outline under what conditions, where, and when a therapy/emotional support animal is permitted in University housing.


A therapy/emotional support animal is an animal that is necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling when there is a disability-related need for the assistance provided by the animal and assistance from an animal is an integral part of a person’s treatment process.


Therapy/emotional support animals are only allowed in the person’s University housing residence, except to the extent that a service animal also qualifies as a therapy/emotional support animal, in which case the Service Animal Policy applies. 

The use of a therapy or emotional support animal as an accommodation is determined by the Director of Disability Services (DS) based on documentation completed by a licensed psychiatrist.  A resident desiring to use a therapy/emotional support animal in University housing must be registered with DS in advance; the animal should not be brought into University housing until a meeting with DS has occurred and written approval for the animal granted.  This policy applies to all forms of University housing.  Therapy/emotional support animals are not pets and the University continues to enforce a no-pet’s policy in University housing.



  1. A resident wishing to use a therapy animal in University housing must identify and register with Disability Services (DS) before housing for the animal is needed.  Documentation of disability must be provided on SVSU Comfort Animal Request Form.  In addition to the form, the psychiatrist must attach a letter (on letter head) that state the need for the animal.  The diagnosis and disability and detailed information about the relationship between the student’s disability and the assistance the animal will provide.   You must also state that you see the student on a regular basis, how often you see the student and that the comfort animal is part of ongoing treatment.  The letter must be signed with your credentials and on letterhead.  Your form must be signed by a licensed psychiatrist.  DS reserves the right to request additional documentation or clarification.

  2. Each request will be reviewed individually.  The resident will be notified in writing of the decision by the Director of DS and, if the accommodation is approved, DS will work with Housing and Student Life to process the move in.

  3. Documented effectiveness of animal therapy for a minimum of 6 months is necessary as prescribed by your mental health professional.  In addition, the student should be in ongoing or continuing treatment in addition to using the therapy animal.  Notes from your general MD, are not accepted.

  4. The University reserves the right to request documentation that the therapy/emotional support animal is licensed and vaccinated and to have the animal examined by a licensed Michigan veterinarian of its choosing.

  5. The University will prohibit a specific animal that poses a threat to the health or safety of others if that threat cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation; a resident requesting a therapy/emotional support animal shall provide background to DS regarding any history the animal has of biting or injuring others.  The University will prohibit a specific animal that would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others or the University if said damage cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.  Also, if approval of a therapy/emotional support animal poses an undue financial or administrative burden on the University, or would fundamentally alter the nature of University housing operations, approval shall not be granted.

  6. The resident is responsible for the animal’s behavior and care, maintaining control of the animal at all times and sanitary disposal of animal waste.  The animal is to be crated when the resident is not present.

  7. Therapy/emotional support animals are limited to University housing.  Therapy/emotional support animals are not allowed in food service or food preparation areas on campus, nor are they permitted in classrooms.

  8. The resident receiving approval for a therapy/emotional support animal will be expected to adhere to the same housing and student code policies as all other students.

  9. SVSU may place other reasonable conditions or restrictions on the animals depending on the characteristics and nature of the animal.

  10. A resident wanting to dispute a decision of DS regarding the use of a therapy/support animal, including denial of such use, or other terms of this policy should contact DS at (989) 964-7000.

Saginaw Valley State University reserves the right to make exceptions to, modify or eliminate this policy or its content.  This document supersedes all previous policies, procedures or guidelines relative to this subject.  9/2016

Service animals as defined by the ADA are allowed in University housing as a reasonable accommodation. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Amendments, an individual with a disability may also request to keep a support animal, sometimes called assistance animals, as a reasonable accommodation in housing facilities as a modification to pet policies or other imposed restrictions or prohibitions on animals. In order to qualify for such an accommodation, the support animal must be necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the residential life program. Further, there must be a relationship, or nexus, between the individual’s disability and the assistance the animal provides.

Support Information/Documentation MUST BE ON SVSU "Comfort Animal Policy and Form"

Form provided must state:

 Comfort Animal Psychiatric Form -

  • Your diagnosis and "course of ongoing treatment" that includes the use of a comfort animal
  • The nature and severity of your functional limitations
  • The duration for which they are expected to continue
  • Contain scores and identify tests administered as appropriate
  • Must substantiate the need for specific accommodations requested to include the need for the comfort animal.  The comfort animal must be a demonstrated part of an ongoing treatment plan as prescribed by your psychiatrist.   In addition, you must provide documented therapy for at least 6 months.

Note: The psychiatrist that provides this documentation, must be the mental health professional, who prescribes the "emotional support animal",

Again, please note the documentation listed above that is not accepted.

Please download this form and have your psychiatrist complete.  NOTE:  Form must be legible or it will be returned and may delay process.  

Comfort Animal Policy and Form (139kB)