Emotional Support Animal Policy

Contact Us

Access and Disability Resources
Wheelock Library Building, Suite 205A
132 Riverway
Boston, MA 02215

Director: Jennifer Pike
Confidential Fax: 617-879-2163
Email: adr@wheelock.edu

Wheelock College is committed to providing a welcoming campus for all students, including students with disabilities. The College must also provide a safe and healthy campus, while maintaining the facilities of the college. It is with this in mind that the office of Access and Disability Resources, in accordance with applicable federal and state laws and regulations has put forth the following Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Policy.

1. Definitions of Terms

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Comfort Animal: An ESA is an animal that provides emotional or other support, that mitigates or ameliorates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Unlike service animals, ESAs are not trained to perform work or tasks. An ESA's sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support and does not qualify as a Service Animal. Behaviors that a dog usually does naturally, like being a companion, snuggling, or alarm barking don't qualify as ESA behaviors.

♦ ESAs may live with or fly with their person, with legitimate health care provider verification.

Service Animal: According to the ADA Amendments Act, a "service animal" is 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. The work or task that the dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. The service dog is specifically NOT a pet or an ESA.

♦ Only the handler (the person with the disability) has public access rights, but because the handler uses the service dog, the service dog may accompany the handler wherever the public is allowed (there are only a few exceptions to this).

Therapy Animal: A working dog trained to provide therapeutic service during a planned session. A therapy animal does not assist an individual with a disability in activities of daily living.

♦ Therapy dogs can only go where they're invited and have no public access rights or housing rights.

Pets: A pet is any animal kept for ordinary pleasure and companionship. Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals are not considered pets. Students are not permitted to bring pets on campus property, including campus housing. (Please see Residence Life Policy in the Student Handbook for exceptions)

2. Wheelock College Eligibility Criteria for ESAs

Wheelock as a general rule has a No Pets policy, however, in appropriate cases a student may be allowed (as a reasonable accommodation) an Emotional Support Animal (indoor-appropriate). The student with a documented disability will be required to provide supporting documentation. The documentation will need to demonstrate that the ESA accommodation is necessary for the student to have equal access to and use of Wheelock housing. In order for a student to be eligible for an ESA, the student must demonstrate:

  • A disability as defined by the ADA
  • The ESA accommodation is necessary to afford equal access and use of Wheelock housing
  • There is an identifiable relationship between the ESA and the student's disability
  • The ESA is not an excluded animal (inherently dangerous or predatory)

The Office of Access and Disability Resources (ADR) will guided by the following:

  • The student will have the burden of demonstrating (via documentation, or other evidence) that "but for" the requested ESA, the use and enjoyment of Wheelock housing would not be possible. In other words, the ESA is essential to the student's ability to use and participate in Wheelock housing.
  • The student will also have the burden of demonstrating that no other means, treatments or intervention methods or combination of means, treatments or intervention methods (including counseling, medication, other housing accommodations or other treatment approaches) are available or effective in adequately mitigating or ameliorating the symptoms of the disability within the context of living in a college residence hall. If such means, treatments, or interventions are available to the student and reasonably work to mitigate or ameliorate the symptoms of the student's diagnosis(es), then an ESA as an accommodation shall not be approved.
  • The documentation must come from a licensed or otherwise qualified provider (qualified to speak directly to and specifically regarding the relationship between the ESA and the student's disability).

3. Licensing/Vaccination

Licensing: The ESA must adhere to the City of Boston and State of Massachusetts registration requirements.

Vaccinations: The ESA should have evidence of all up-to-date vaccinations that are common for the animal, including rabies (with tag). The ESA should be examined yearly by a veterinarian and given a clean bill of health.

ADR will require copies of the health records and proof of current vaccinations.

4. Owner Responsibilities

The owner of the ESA is responsible for the care and well-being of the animal at all times.

  • The ESA must be well behaved and cannot pose a health or safety risk to others (when there are opposing conditions, such as the need for an ESA and a student with allergies to dog dander, both students should be reasonably accommodated).
  • The animal should be housebroken as well as spayed/neutered.
  • The ESA must be kept on a leash and/or harness or proper container while outside of the owner's residence and kept under control while in a public environment.
  • Appropriate action should be taken by the owner to ensure that the ESA is in good health, and free of pests such as fleas and ticks. The ESA should be regularly groomed and/or cared for as is customary of the animal species.
  • The owner is responsible for the removal and disposal of the animal's waste.

5. Financial Responsibility

The owner is financially responsible for property damage that their ESA causes on the Wheelock campus, this includes, but is not limited to the cost of repairs to walls or floors, replacement or cleaning of facilities or rooms, as well as any bodily or personal injury that the animal caused.

6. Relief Areas

ESAs are only permitted to relieve themselves in designated areas and should do under the supervision of the owner. These plans will be created on an individual basis with collaboration between Access and Disability Resources, Wheelock Facilities, and the student.

7. Removal of the ESA from College Residences

An ESA may be determined to be out of control if it displays vicious behavior toward other students/faculty; is disruptive whether by barking, running about unrestrained, or nipping; is not housebroken, or is insufficiently groomed. The infraction will be handled on a case-by-case basis by Access and Disability Resources, as well as Residence Life, Public Safety and other offices as pertains to the specific case.

8. Restricted Areas

The approved ESA is allowed to reside with the student with the disability in their room, and the common living space (lounges, laundry) within the residence hall and is allowed outdoors anywhere on campus that students are allowed to go.

The ESA IS NOT ALLOWED in any academic buildings, administrative buildings, dining hall, athletic facilities, or the library.

9. Conflicting Disabilities

Students who have allergies, respiratory issues, or other conditions that would be exacerbated by the ESA, should contact Access and Disability Resources about their concerns regarding exposure. The student with the conflicting diagnoses will need to provide documentation to support their diagnoses and the need for their own accommodation. Access and Disability Resources will determine whether accommodation should be made for the student with the conflicting disability. Early notification of accommodation needs can help minimize any potential conflicts.

10. Accommodation Request Deadlines

All requests for an ESA as an accommodation must come through Access and Disability Resources as part of the Housing Accommodation request process (for returning students completed paperwork is due no later than March 31st each year). For new students starting in the fall, the deadline for documentation and all housing accommodation requests is June 15th each year. Transfer students should provide documentation and required paperwork as soon as possible after a deposit is made. Please note that the ESA accommodation request needs to be reviewed before being approved or denied. An ESA should not be on campus until, and only when, it is approved.

11. Emergency Evacuation

Wheelock Public Safety will be made aware of any ESAs living on campus.

In the event of an emergency on campus, Emergency Responders will be informed of ESAs in the residence halls, however, their first priority is the safe evacuation of students and residential staff. First responders may not be able to keep the ESA and student together and in an emergency may need to leave the ESA while responding to the emergency event.

12. Complaints, Appeals, Grievances, and Exceptions

Individuals who wish to request modifications or exceptions to the policy should do so by contacting the Director of Access and Disability Resources. Resolutions will be determined on a case by case basis.

A student who is dissatisfied with the resolution should file an ADR grievance as described in the Wheelock Student Handbook.

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