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Emotional Support and Assistance Animals

Students seeking the use of an Emotional Support (ESA) or Assistance Animal should read the following information prior to submitting a request. For more information, please contact the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) at aeo@vassar.edu or 845-437-7584.

Definition:

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Regulations defines emotional support animals as "animals that alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. They provide comfort to a person with a psychiatric disability, but are not trained to perform specific tasks to assist them."

ESAs and Assistance Animals can be any type of animal as long as the animal:

  • does not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others;
  • would not cause substantial physical damage to the property of others; and
  • would not fundamentally alter the nature of the provider's operations.

Application for Approval:

Students requesting to live with and use an emotional support or assistance animal must follow procedure.  Students must disclose their disability and submit appropriate disability documentation to the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) for review. Once documentation is reviewed, the student must meet with the AEO director.

If approved, the student will be required to sign the Emotional Support Animal Agreement.

Please note the following regarding ESAs or Assistance Animals on campus:

  • The animal must be contained within the individual’s room assignment except to the extent the animal needs to go outdoors for natural relief;
  • The College can capture and immediately remove an animal that is running at-large on campus;
  • The College can immediately remove an animal based on evidence of mistreatment or abuse; and
  • Animals cannot be left alone overnight without the caregiver. Roommates, suitemates, or housemates are not the caregivers. 

Documentation Required:

Documentation is required from a treating mental health provider, setting forth the following:

1.  The nature of the student's disability;

2. That the animal is necessary to afford the student an equal opportunity to participate in campus housing; and

3. That there is a relationship between the student's disability and the support the animal provides.

Consideration of Requests:

The College considers the following factors when determining an ESA or Assistance Animal request:

1.  Size of the animal must be appropriate for available housing;

2.  Animal’s presence cannot force another individual from housing;

3.  Animal cannot violate an individual’s right to peace and quiet enjoyment;

4.  Animal must be house broken and able to reasonably live with and among others;

5.  Vaccinations must be up-to-date during the animal’s entire stay on campus;

6.  Animal poses, or has posed, a direct threat to others (e.g. aggressive behavior or injury); or

7.  Animal causes, or has caused, excessive damage beyond reasonable wear and tear.

Removal of ESA or Assistance Animal:

Removal of an animal is allowable if one of the following conditions applies:

1.  The college can demonstrate that allowing the assistance animal would impose an undue financial or administrative burden;

2.  Allowing the assistance animal would fundamentally alter the nature of the service or program being offered;

3.  The specific animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others;

4.  When the specific animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable adjustment and/or modification.

ESA Agreement Form

Request for External Documentation Form - ESA