POLICY

Delaware Valley University is committed to providing access to education and to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities who have a medically documented need. A reasonable accommodation is an exception to the usual rules, policies, practices or services a student with a disability may need to have equal opportunity to benefit from educational programs and services.

The University will evaluate requests for an exception to the current pet policy for students seeking to be accompanied in their residential setting by an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) as a reasonable and appropriate accommodation for a documented mental health disability. The ESA will be considered when the student has provided appropriate medical documentation accompanying a request for an ESA as an accommodation and when there is an identifiable relationship or nexus between the student’s disability and the assistance that the animal provides.

This policy is an agreement between the University and the student that places significant responsibility on the animal owner to humanely care for their ESA while causing no disturbance, harm or damage to the community or facility.

The University reserves the right to restrict certain animals by type in accordance with public health alerts that may be issued.

REASON FOR POLICY

The University regulates the presence of animals in residence halls as a matter of established policy which limits acceptable animals in residence to fish/aquatic animals in tanks up to 10 gallons, and small caged animals approved through participation in a special interest program. However, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development obligates housing providers to provide reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including emotional support animals, under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While this obligation also includes regulation by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESA’s are explicitly not covered under the ADA.

SCOPE

This policy applies to students that reside in University Housing and who make a request for an emotional support animal in residence.

DEFINITIONS

Disability: The Fair Housing Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Under this definition, an impairment is a disability if it substantially limits the ability of the person to perform a major life activity as compared to the average person in the general population without a disability.

Emotional Support Animal: An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that provides emotional support for the benefit of an individual with a documented disability and which alleviates the functional effects of that disability. To qualify, the animal must be necessary as a component of a treatment plan to afford a student with a mental health disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a residence hall room or campus dwelling.

Procedures for Requesting an Emotional Support Animal in Housing

To request an ESA in student housing, students must submit the following materials:

  • A completed Request for Disability Accommodation Form, including:
    • All student-completed sections pertaining to requests for ESA’s
    • A signed consent for release of information which allows a University representative to correspond with the treating medical professional about the documentation accompanying the request. This is optional; however not providing it may result in the request being denied if the documentation provided by the clinician is not sufficient for review and evaluation
    • A personal statement which describes how the animal mitigates a limitation of a major life function resulting from the disability
    • Details on the specific animal being requested
    • Details on the student’s plan for care of the animal
  • Documentation of the disability-related need for the support animal, submitted by a qualified treating medical professional. Such documentation will follow the requirements outlined in the Request for Disability Accommodation form Appendix C.

Submit the request and accompanying materials in person, by fax, email, or by mail to:

Learning Support Services
Delaware Valley University
700 E. Butler Avenue
Doylestown, PA. 18901
Fax: 215.489.4804
Email: sharon.malka@delval.edu

Materials for submission of disability documentation are available at http://www.delval.edu/disabilities.

Upon submission of request materials and verification of a disability, a student making a request will be invited into an individualized and interactive conversation about the request and the student’s circumstances to determine if the request for an ESA constitutes a reasonable accommodation.

Determination of Reasonable Accommodation for Emotional Support Animals

Living in campus housing offers a unique experience as part of life on a university campus. Due to the nature of housing in campus residence halls and apartments, students share rooms and living spaces of various types and sizes. Delaware Valley University, through the housing office does not limit residents to specific room or building assignments due to a disability-related need for an ESA.

All requests are given consideration on an interactive case-by-case basis to afford individualized attention. Disability documentation is confidentially evaluated by Learning Support Services staff. Subsequent to evaluation establishing a disability, staff from Residence Life may be involved with Learning Support Services to determine if the ESA is a reasonable accommodation.

The University reserves the right to assess living situations as a part of the determination of reasonable accommodation. To ensure that the presence of an animal will not place undue burden on other residents or fundamentally alter the housing program, Delaware Valley University, in consultation with the resident and other parties as necessary, may consider criteria below in determining whether the request is reasonable:

  1. Whether the presence of the animal would infringe upon another resident’s ability to use and enjoy their housing space (e.g., allergies, fear or anxiety around animals, etc.)
  2. Whether the available and/or assigned housing space is appropriate for the animal given type, size, breed, and requirements for exercise and space.

Expectations associated with approved Emotional Support Animals

ESAs are considered as an accommodation to permit students with disabilities the full enjoyment of the residential and housing experience. As such, ESA’s are not afforded the same access to campus and public facilities as service animals under the ADA.

ESA’s, as housing accommodations, occupy a residential space with their student except for the animal’s bodily needs such as for elimination.

Residents with approved ESAs must accept an Agreement of Expectations for maintaining an approved support animal within the residential community prior to having their animal on campus. The Agreement covers minimum standards and expectations for conduct and cleanliness and is intended to be consistent with the University’s Policy on Animals on Campus. The University does not allow a grace period for the training of an ESA in residence to meet minimum conduct standards.

The University may require, and reserves the right, to remove a support animal at any point in time if the Agreement has been breached.

Student Housing will not require a resident to pay an extra fee for an approved support animal other than in cases in which the animal creates harm to the physical facilities beyond normal wear and tear.

ESA approvals are made for a specified term or academic year and must be annually updated.

Appeal and Grievance Procedure

A student who feels they have been unreasonably denied a request for an ESA must pursue their grievance through the established University grievance process. The process outlines a pathway for informal and formal resolution procedures.

A student with a concern about discrimination surrounding their request for an ESA may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This complaint must be filed with HUD within one year of the alleged denial. To file a complaint: 

  • Call 1.800.669.9777 or TTY 1.800.927.9275; or
  • Complete the online complaint form on the HUD internet site: http://www.hud.gov; or
  • Mail a completed complaint form or letter to:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S.W. Room 5204
Washington, D.C. 20410-2000

Concerns or incidents involving the behavior, safety, welfare or unauthorized presence of Emotional Support Animals should be reported to the Department of Public Safety. These concerns may be brought to an appropriate review committee, based on the concern, for consideration and response. This committee has the authority to require mediation or referrals to student conduct.

Agreement of Expectations for Animal Owners/Handlers

Delaware Valley University recognizes that ESA’s can play a substantial role in therapy and treatment of students with documented mental health disabilities. The University is also a leader in the offering of academic programs in the animal sciences and as such, has heightened sensitivity to and expectations for the humane treatment of animals. The agreement below outlines what is expected of ESA owners on campus.

Any student who is approved for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) will be required to meet with a designated Housing/Residence Life staff member to review and agree to the following requirements. Inability to follow these expectations may result in the University’s request for removal of the animal from housing.

  1. Student agrees to abide by local and state ordinances pertaining to licensing and rabies vaccination of animals and must be prepared to demonstrate this knowledge and provide evidence of compliance. Cats and dogs must be spayed or neutered and current on vaccinations appropriate for the species and in documented good health. Student agrees to adhere to care plan as submitted in accordance with the application for an ESA.
  2. Unlike a service animal, ESA’s are not granted access to places of public accommodation; the animal’s presence is restricted to the student’s room except for the animal’s need for exercise and natural relief. When outside of the room for such reasons, the animal must be under the control of the owner using a carrier or physical leash.
  3. Student is required to clean up after and properly dispose of animal waste in a safe and sanitary manner including appropriate disinfection.
  4. Animal bedding cannot be laundered in common residence hall laundry units.
  5. If the ESA is a dog, it must be housebroken, and cats must be litter box trained. All animals must be crated during times the student is absent from the room.
  6. Student is financially responsible for all actions of the animal including but not limited to physical damage beyond normal wear, bodily injury or infestation. A student’s living accommodation must be kept clean with no odors from the animal disruptive to others. The student’s living accommodation may be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests associated with the animal and if detected, the student is responsible for the remediation.
  7. Student is responsible for appropriate management of the animal. Disruptive (excessive noise) and aggressive behavior from the animal cannot be permitted and cannot disrupt normal residence hall operations. The University reserves the right to require the animal to be removed from housing.
  8. An ESA may not be left alone overnight in University housing to be cared for by another student. The ESA may not be housed in another student’s living accommodation. If the student/owner is gone overnight or for an extended period, the ESA must accompany the student.
  9. If it becomes necessary to remove the animal from housing for failure to meet terms of this agreement, the student is obligated to fulfill the terms of the housing contract for the remainder of the contract term.
  10. The ESA is permitted in University housing for the duration necessary as indicated by the treating clinician. The student will submit an annual renewal form and clinician updates for permission to have an ESA that is connected to the annual room selection process.
  11. Residence life, facilities and public safety personnel may enter student rooms, without prior notice, as needed for maintenance, repairs, in the case of emergencies or policy violations, and for fire drill and health and safety inspections during hall closings. Animals are expected to be secured when the resident is not in the room for the animal’s safety and the safety of staff or emergency personnel.
  12. In the case of an emergency, the University is not responsible for evacuating the animal nor for permitting an owner access to their residence to retrieve an animal in an emergency, such as a building fire.

Agreement between the ESA owner and Delaware Valley University

I have read and understand my responsibilities as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) owner as outlined above. Should I fail in my responsibilities, I understand that my approved accommodation may be suspended, and/or I may be charged with a violation of student conduct policies.