Protocol for Emotional Assistance Animals in University Housing


It is recognized that emotional assistance animals (also called emotional support animals) can provide valuable emotional support to qualified students with properly diagnosed and documented disabilities. The following information is provided to help students and administrators at Washington and Lee University (W&L) address student requests to have an emotional assistance animal live with them in W&L housing.

Because the animal is not a service animal as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a request for an emotional assistance animal applies only to the student's campus residence, not to academic or administrative buildings or elsewhere on campus (except public spaces where pets are allowed). Also, because the animal is not a service animal as defined under the ADA, W&L needs to review documentation that specifically addresses three criteria listed below to determine if the request for this accommodation is a reasonable and appropriate accommodation under the Fair Housing Act (and the Virginia Fair Housing Law, to the extent not substantially unequivalent or inconsistent with the Fair Housing Act) to W&L's "no pet policy" in campus residence halls, apartments and houses.

A student should make a request for an emotional assistance animal as a disability accommodation and provide the required documentation outlined below in advance of moving into University housing: by March 1 for rising sophomore, junior, and senior students and by May 31 for incoming first-year students. If the need for the accommodation arises when a student already resides in University housing, the student should make the request and submit the required documentation as soon as possible; however, W&L cannot guarantee that it will be able to process the request and make arrangements to meet the student's accommodation needs, if approved, during that term in which the request is received. In no case may a student bring the animal to campus pending the final decision on a request for accommodation, only after a request is approved and all paperwork requirements are met (see below).

Required Documentation to Support Emotional Assistance Animal as Accommodation

In order for W&L to evaluate the request for accommodation, the student will need to provide documentation on letterhead from an appropriate licensed professional that thoroughly addresses:

  1. Clear documentation of the student's diagnosed disability (this documentation must satisfy the requisites of W&L's General Guidelines for Documentation of Physical and Non-Neurodevelopmental Mental Disabilities); and
  2. Evidence of a direct relationship between the disability and the assistance the animal provides (i.e., the animal's support directly alleviates at least one of the identified symptoms or effects of the existing disability); and
  3. Evidence that the animal is necessary to afford the student an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University Housing.

Note: In the case of emotional/psychological disorders, conditions, or syndromes, the professional must have comprehensive training in the differential diagnosis of mental disorders and direct experience in diagnosis and treatment of adults. Qualified diagnosing professionals would include licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists, or other professionals with such training and expertise in the diagnosis of mental disorders. W&L will work interactively with the student to evaluate the request for accommodation. The student may also wish to provide consent for W&L's Director of Student Health and Counseling or other administrators to speak with the student's medical provider in follow up, as needed, for clarification of documentation provided or discussion of whether there is an alternative accommodation that would be appropriate.

Student Responsibilities for Approved Emotional Assistance Animals on Campus

If a student request to have an Emotional Assistance Animal in campus housing is approved as a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability, the student will need to sign an official disability accommodation letter with the Title IX Coordinator and Director of Disability Resources, Baker Hall 221, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia 24450, (540) 458-4055 and an Emotional Assistance Animal Agreement, specifying details required by W&L regarding the student's responsibilities for control of the animal, conditions of care and supervision, housing areas in which the animal will be allowed, responsibility for property damage caused by the animal, circumstances justifying removal of the animal, and other W&L conditions and student responsibilities associated with the presence of the animal in campus housing. Note: All dogs must be completely housebroken. The use of "puppy pads" will not be permitted. For dogs under 12 months old that are not already living with the student at the time the request for an Emotional Assistance Animal is submitted, the University will require a statement from the breeder, adoption agency, or other person or entity providing the animal to the student that the dog is completely housebroken, not requiring the use of "puppy pads." For animals already living with the student, the student can self-attest that the dog is completely housebroken.

The student will also need to provide a letter on official letterhead from the treating veterinarian in advance of the animal being brought to campus, confirming that the animal is up to date on all required and recommended vaccinations, is in good health, and is free from diseases or conditions communicable to humans.

Should the student decide at any time to remove the animal from campus, s/he will promptly notify the designated liaison in Residential Life, so that the liaison may notify the appropriate University administrators, including but not limited to the administrator handling the student's disability accommodation process. If, thereafter, the student wishes to bring the same animal back to campus housing, the student will need to provide the administrator handling his/her disability accommodation process with an updated letter from the animal's treating veterinarian in advance of bringing the animal back to campus, confirming that the animal is up to date on all required and recommended vaccines, is in good health, and is free from any diseases that could be communicable to humans. If the student decides to replace the animal previously approved with a new animal, the new animal must be necessary because of the student's disability and the student must follow this protocol with all required documentation outlined above related to the new animal.

An emotional assistance animal is only allowed in campus housing as long as it is necessary because of the student's documented disability. If the animal is no longer needed because of a change in the student's circumstances or condition (for instance, if the student's condition has improved such that it no longer constitutes a disability), the student must notify the administrator handling his/her disability accommodation process.

Revision History

Revised August 2018.