Emotional Support Animal

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Documentation that a person has a disability requires more than a diagnosis of a medical or mental disorder. Disability documentation involves a professional’s determination that a person’s illness, injury, and/or condition substantially limits one or more major life activities for the individual. Once that determination is made, it must also be determined whether the Emotional Support Animal is necessary to provide you with equal opportunity to use and enjoy your residence, and if there is an identifiable nexus between your disability and the assistance the animal provides in alleviating the effects of the disability.

 An Emotional Support Animal is not a pet. An Emotional Support Animal lives at home and does NOT accompany a student from place to place.  Caring for this animal often enables the student to feel motivated, less depressed or anxious, and more able to connect with others. While dogs and cats are the most common type of Emotional Support Animals, other animals can provide emotional support if they can be appropriately cared for within the context of the dwelling. (Please note that an emotional support animal is rarely a puppy or kitten. Puppies and kittens require constant care and training. Owning and training a very young animal can be stressful and is contraindicated in the treatment of many mental health conditions.)

Service Dogs

Trained dogs are the primary species of animal that may qualify as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA regulations define “service animal” narrowly as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with an ADA recognized disabilty. Unlike Emotional Support Animals, a Service Dog accompanies the individual from place to place.

In order to be considered for an ESA/Psychiatric Service Dog through CSUHN, you MUST:
  • Be seen in counseling for one full semester before a referral is considered.
  • Be determined to have a psychiatric disability. A disability is different from simply having a psychiatric diagnosis. In order for a diagnosis to rise to the level of a disability, it must present significant impairment in day to day functioning. The way the law interprets significant impairment may be different from the way that you interpret it.
  • Be able to demonstrate that there is a direct connection between your disability and the use of an ESA.
  • Show that you can properly care for an ESA or a Psychiatric Service Dog.
Important Information regarding Requests to CSU Health Network Re: Emotional Support Animal or Service Dog:
  • You should discuss your need for an assistance animal BEFORE purchasing or relocating an animal.
  • Your provider must determine that you are impaired with an ADA qualifying mental disability. Your provider will outline the steps involved in making this determination. Receving services through CSU’s office of Student Disability Services does NOT automatically qualify you as having a psychiatric disability.
  • Appropriate staff of CSU’s Student Disability Services must approve all requests for Emotional Support Animals residing on campus. RDS also reviews requests for Service Dogs on campus and advise students as to the rules governing their use.
  • Documentation of your need for an Emotional Support Animal, when approved by CSU Health Network, will be sent either to RDS (for on-campus housing) or directly to the student’s off campus landlord (or the local Housing Authority, if relevant). You must first give written consent for such disclosure.
  • These same rules apply to any student requesting to take an Emotional Support Animal or Service Dog on board an airplane.
  • As of the 2016-2017 Academic year, CSU has a University wide policy governing the use of Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs on Campus. This policy (University Policy ID # 8-8032-004) clearly specifies that the use of such animals is limited only to disabled students.
  • Colorado House Bill 16-1426 (signed into lawy on June 10, 2016) criminalizes the intentional misrepresentation by individuals of Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs.
  • Online companies mislead individuals into believing that they will be entitled to the rights or privileges for individuals with disabilities with service animals if only they buy the company’s vests or obtain some type of certificate. These misrepresentations, in some cases, are unlawful deceptive trade practices.

Students interested in acquiring an ESA or Service Dog should review the ADA guidelines and how they pertain to living on or off  the CSU Campus. Kathleen Ivy at Student Disability Services (491-6385) can provide more information.

*Updated April 2018