Service Animal Policy

I. University Policy on Service Animals

Approved by Risk Management Safety Council 8/11/00
Revised 6/22/20

Definition: Service animals are animals trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of normal living. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as ". . . any . . . animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals who are hearing impaired to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items."

This definition means that 1) an individual must have a disability as defined by the ADA, and 2) the accompanying animal must be trained to do specific tasks for the qualified individual.

If an animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government or an animal training program. Messiah University complies with the ADA in allowing the use of service animals for both short-term visitors and longer-term students and employees. Pets or "comfort animals" are not allowed in any campus buildings under this policy.

The Messiah University Animal Assist Policy documents and accompanying forms can be found here. For special housing requests related to animals on campus, please feel free to visit our page on Special Housing for more information.

II. Long-Term versus Short-Term Use

For purposes of this policy, the University differentiates between individuals who are students or employees (long-term use of a service-animal) versus "short-term visitors."  Short-term visitors (1-7 days) are free to use a service animal on campus without formally registering the animal with the Office of Academic Accessibility. Owners/handlers are asked to notify the Conference Services office (4510) of their use of a service animal while visiting. Notification will allow the University to identify suitable exercise areas if needed, as well as to accommodate others whose health may be affected by the presence of an animal.  Handlers/users are expected to comply with standards of cleanliness and control of service animals as specified under Section V. Conditions for Keeping a Service Animal, below.

Students desiring to use a service animal on campus should first contact the Office of Academic Accessibility to register as a student with a disability. The Director of the Office of Academic Success (or designee) will evaluate the documentation of disability and discuss with the individual any accommodations appropriate to the functional limitations of the disability.

Faculty or staff wishing to use a service animal on campus should contact the Office of Human Resources. The Director (or designee) of Human Resources, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Academic Accessibility, will evaluate the disability and make any appropriate recommendations.

III. Prohibited Areas:

Service animals are prohibited from kitchens and food-preparation areas except those in apartments and other residential facilities. Science instructors conducting laboratory research that may be contaminated by animal hair or dander may limit access to service animals if the instructor or lab supervisor has reason to believe an animal's presence would compromise the research environment.

Service animals are prohibited from utility rooms and other hazardous service areas.

IV. Conditions for Keeping a Service Animal

Disruption: The partner of an animal that is unruly or disruptive (e.g., barking, running around unleashed, aggressive toward others, bringing attention to itself, excessive flatulence, etc.) may be asked to remove the animal from university facilities. If the improper behavior happens repeatedly, the partner may be asked not to bring the animal into any university facility until the partner takes significant steps to mitigate the behavior. Mitigation may include muzzling a barking animal or refresher training for both the animal and the partner, as appropriate.

Ill Health: Service animals that are ill should not be taken into public areas. A person with an ill animal may be asked to leave university facilities or remove the animal from campus

Regular bathing or cleaning of the animal is expected to avoid significant odors or shedding

V. Responsibilities of the Long-Term Handler/Partner:

  • Complete and submit DS Form: Registry for Service Animals.  All long-term service animals must be registered with the Office of Academic Accessibility. Failure to register or maintain a service animal as required above may subject the owner/partner to fines or refusal by the University for the animal to remain on campus.
  • Provide sufficient evidence verifying that the animal meets the definition of a service animal.  The animal should have tags or some other method of indicating ownership and rabies clearances. It is suggested that service animals be fitted with some identifying equipment such as a harness, cape or backpack as appropriate.
  • Provide evidence of animal training (if available) and current clean health certificates (required).
  • The care and supervision of a service animal is the sole responsibility of the partner/handler. The animal must be maintained and used at all times in ways that do not create safety hazards for other persons. Minimal equipment is a leash by which the animal is kept under control.
  • State specific plans for maintenance of the animal while on campus. The University will identify suitable areas where service animals can relieve themselves.  Handlers should 1) always carry equipment and bags sufficient to clean up the animal's feces, and 2) properly dispose of the feces.  Persons who are not physically able to pick up and dispose of animal feces are responsible for making all necessary arrangements for assistance. The University is not responsible for these services.
  • Sign an authorization form allowing the Office of Academic Accessibility to notify appropriate campus personnel/offices of the presence of the animal and any special circumstances relevant to service animal usage.

VI. Responsibilities of the Office of Academic Accessibility:

  • For short-term visitors, provide information and resources to partners/handlers of service animals concerning approved animal-relief zones and related campus policies.
  • Maintain a current registry of long-term service animals on campus.
  • Verify eligibility of individuals with disabilities to have a service animal on campus.
  • Collect and keep on file evidence of training and current health certificates.
  • Notify appropriate personnel/campus offices of the animal and handler/partner.
  • Provide guidelines for appropriate interaction with the animal.

VII. Requirements for Faculty, Staff and Students

  • Allow a service animal to accompany the handler/partner at all times and everywhere on campus. Courts have upheld the rights of service animal handlers to take service animals into food-service locations. See Prohibited Areas, III, above).
  • Do not pet a service animal; petting a service animal when the animal is working distracts the animal from required tasks.
  • Do not feed a service animal. The service animal may have specific dietary requirements. Unusual food or food at an unexpected time may cause the animal to become ill.
  • Do not deliberately startle a service animal.
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a partner/handler from his or her service animal.


A variety of animals have been trained to assist persons with disabilities, including dogs, monkeys, birds, and small horses. Animals can be trained to provide widely-ranging services from guidance for a person who is blind to monkeys or birds that pick up small items that may have been dropped and not retrievable by the handler/partner. The most common assist animal is a trained dog:

  • Guide Dog is a carefully trained dog that serves as a travel tool for persons with severe visual impairments or who are blind or have low vision.
  • Hearing Dog is a dog that has been trained to alert a person with significant hearing loss, or who is deaf when a sound such as a knock on the door occurs.
  • Service Dog is a dog that has been trained to assist a person who has a mobility or health impairment. Types of duties the dog may perform include: carrying, fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking, helping a person up after the person falls, etc. Service dogs are sometimes called Assist Dogs.
  • SSigDog is a Social  Signal dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog may alert the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). Recognizing familiar persons in a crowd, steering around a mud puddle, responding to other people or social signals are possible roles for a SSigDog. A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.
  • Seizure Response Dog is a dog trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder. How the dog serves the person depends on the person's needs. The dog may stand guard over the person during a seizure, or the dog may go for help. A few dogs are capable of predicting a seizure and can warn the person in advance.

Policy Approved by Risk Management Safety Council 4/12/2006.

Policy maintained by the Office of Academic Accessibility.