Widener University is committed to providing members of the Widener University community who have disabilities with equal access to programs, services, and physical facilities. It is acknowledged that some members of the Widener University community who have disabilities may require the use of service and assistance animals while on campus.
Below are guidelines for the appropriate use of and protocols associated with service and assistance animals.
Students who have disabilities and require the use of service or assistance animals should contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services at 520 E. 14th Street, Chester, PA; phone: 610-499- 1266; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Faculty and staff who have disabilities and require the use of service animals or assistance animals should contact the Office of Human Resources.
A “pet” is any animal kept for ordinary use and companionship. Service animals and assistance animals, as defined below, are not considered pets.
A “service animal” is defined under the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” There is also a provision permitting miniature horses to qualify as service animals in some cases. No animals other than dogs or miniature horses may qualify as service animals.
The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks for the purpose of this definition.
Service animals are permitted to accompany people with disabilities in all of Widener University’s facilities where students, members of the public, and other participants in services, programs, or activities are allowed to go. Widener University does not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.
In addition, Widener University cannot ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability to determine whether a person’s animal qualifies as a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., where a dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision or pulling a person’s wheelchair).
If it is not readily apparent that the animal is a service animal, Widener University staff may make two inquiries to determine whether the animal qualifies as a service animal, which are:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
The university will not require documentation that a service animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. A service animal must be housebroken (i.e.., trained so that it controls its waste elimination, absent illness or accident) and must be kept under control by a harness, leash, or other tether, unless the person is unable to hold those, or such use would interfere with the service animal’s performance of work or tasks. In such instances, the service animal must be kept under control by voice, signals, or other effective means. In addition, the university need not accommodate a service animal if it poses a threat to the health or safety of others.
An “assistance animal,” pursuant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is described as “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person who has a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” An assistance animal is not a pet. Unlike service animals, assistance animals are not trained to perform work or tasks, and they include species other than dogs and miniature horses. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act, students who have disabilities may be eligible to have an assistance animal in campus housing.
Assistance animals are not allowed to accompany persons with disabilities in all areas of Widener University, but they may reside in university housing with people who have disabilities. Before an assistance animal can move into university housing with a person who has a disability, a request must be submitted to the Student Accessibility Services Office, and approval must be granted, preferably at least 30 days prior to move in.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a person may be eligible to have an assistance animal in campus housing as a reasonable accommodation if:
- The individual has a disability.
- The animal is necessary to afford the individual who has a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy campus housing.
- There is an identifiable relationship or nexus between the disability and the assistance the animal provides. (In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person who has a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?)
Accommodation for assistance animals must be reasonable. The university is not required to permit animals that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, would pose an undue financial and administrative burden, or would fundamentally alter the nature of the university’s operations.
Steps to Request Permission to Have an Assistance Animal in Campus Housing
- Submit a “Request to Have Assistance Animal in Housing” form to the Office of Student Accessibility Services. Provide supporting documents listed on request form
- Vaccination records
- Animal license, if applicable
- Photo of animal
- Sign and agree to the “Policy and Care Agreement.”
- Documentation of the need for an assistance animal must be submitted from a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional who is not a family member, and be on official letterhead. Documentation of the need for an assistance animal must include the following:
- Verification of a disability that substantially limits a major life activity and a description of the impact of the condition on a major life activity.
- A description of why the animal is necessary for the student to use or enjoy university housing.
- A description of an identifiable relationship or nexus between the disability and the assistance the animal provides.
Approval of an assistance animal is determined on a case-by-case basis. Students must reapply each academic year to have an assistance animal in campus housing.
Documentation on the “Assistance Animal Policy and Guidelines” can be found on MyWidener Public Office Page in the section titled “Residence Life and Student Conduct.” Please refer to that section for more details.