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Service Animals

(available in PDF format: Service Animals on Campus)

Cornell University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in allowing use of service animals for students, staff and visitors. Service animals are animals specifically trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of normal living. The ADA, as amended in 2008, defines a service animal 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. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to: assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, . . . retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

For an individual to qualify for having a service animal on campus:

  1. He or she 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.

Students who require the use of a service animal on campus are encouraged to contact Student Disability Services (SDS) to register as a student with a disability. SDS will provide assistance in navigating the campus, including the selection of housing if the student plans to live on campus and arranging for mobility training. Information provided to SDS is confidential. Disability information will not be released without the signed consent of the student.

If the definition of a service animal is not met, then the use of the animal (i.e., as a comfort or therapy animal) may be allowed as a reasonable accommodation through established Student Disability Services procedures. This animal would be subject to the restrictions described in University Policy 2.8, Pets on Campus.

DEFINITIONS

  • Service Animal: A guide dog or signal dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, as defined earlier in this document. A service animal meeting this definition is not required to be licensed or certified by a state or local government or animal training program.
  • Partner/Handler/Owner: A person with a service or therapy animal. (The term Handler will be used in this document to reflect any of these terms.)
  • Pet: A domestic animal kept for pleasure or companionship. Pets are generally not permitted in any university-controlled buildings. While on university-controlled property, pets must be attended and restrained at all times. See University Policy 2.8, Pets on Campus.
  • Comfort Animal: An animal that provides comfort, reassurance, social interaction and other emotional benefits. The animal does not have to be trained to provide comforting. A comfort animal is not considered a service animal. The use of an animal (i.e., as a comfort or therapy animal) may be allowed as a reasonable accommodation through established Student Disability Services procedures. This animal would be subject to the restrictions described in University Policy 2.8, Pets on Campus.
  • Therapy Animal: An animal that provides affection and comfort and is specifically trained to be gentle and stable in stressful situations. Therapy animals are most often used in hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities and children’s settings. The use of a therapy animal may be incorporated into the treatment process as prescribed by an appropriate health care professional. A therapy animal is not considered a service animal.
  • Trainee: A service animal in training, including puppies in training once they are old enough to remain under the control of the handler. The animal must be accompanied by a person who is training the service animal and the animal must wear a leash, harness or cape that identifies the animal as a service animal in training. Trainees are not permitted to reside in campus housing. All trainees being trained by Cornell students must register with Student Disability Services. Trainees registered with SDS are exempt from the University Policy 2.8, Pets on Campus policy unless they have been removed from campus for inappropriate behavior. See information at the end of this document regarding the registration of trainees.

RESPONSIBILITIES/REQUIREMENTS
Handler:

  • Is responsible to attend and be in full control of the service animal at all times. A service animal shall have a harness, lease, or other tether unless a) the handler is unable to use a harness, leash or tether, or b) using a harness, leash, or tether will interfere with the animal’s ability to safely and effectively perform its duties.
  • Is responsible for ensuring that the service animal is wearing a leash, harness or cape that identifies the animal is a service animal when on duty anywhere on campus.
  • Is responsible for the costs of care necessary for a service animal’s well-being. The arrangements and responsibilities with the care of a service animal is the sole responsibility of the owner at all times, including regular bathing and grooming, as needed.
  • Is responsible for independently removing or arranging for the removal of the service animal’s waste.
  • Is responsible for complying with the Tompkins County/City of Ithaca dog control and licensing laws for animal rights and owner responsibilities. Service animals must be current with immunizations and wear a rabies vaccination tag. Documentation may be required.

University Community:

  • Must allow service animals to accompany their handlers at all times and everywhere on campus where the general public (if accompanying a visitor) or other students (if accompanying a student) are allowed, except for places where there is a health, environmental, or safety hazard. The appropriate way to ascertain that an animal is a service animal is to ask (only if it is not apparent) if the animal is required because of a disability and what tasks it has been trained to perform. Specific questions about the individual’s disability may not be asked.
  • Contact Student Disability Services if any questions or concerns arise relating to service animals.
  • Contact SDS if faculty/staff have any additional questions regarding visitors to campus who have service animals.
  • Report any service animals who misbehave or any handlers (or other individuals) who mistreat their service animals to the Cornell Police at 607-255-1111, or 911 from campus phones.

Student Disability Services:

  • Is responsible to develop the necessary procedures for the university and facilitate the use of service animals by students on campus.
  • Assists the university community when questions or concerns arise relating to service animals on campus and seek legal advice when necessary.

HELPFUL INFORMATION
What are some basic etiquette rules when around service animals and their handlers?

  • Do NOT pet, touch or otherwise distract a service animal when it is working. Doing so may interfere with its ability to perform its duties.
  • Do NOT feed a service animal. Their work depends on a regular and consistent feeding regimen that the handler is responsible to maintain.
  • Do NOT attempt to separate the handler from the service animal.
  • Do NOT harass or deliberately startle a service animal.
  • Avoid initiating conversations about the student’s disability. Some people do not wish to discuss their disability.

Under what circumstances can a service animal be asked to leave or not allowed participation on campus?

  • If a service animal is found by the university to be out of control and the animal’s handler does not take immediate and effective action to control it.
  • If the animal is not housebroken.
  • If a service animal is physically ill.
  • If the service animal is unreasonably dirty.
  • If a service animal attempts to enter a place on campus where the presence of a service animal causes danger to the safety of the handler or other students/member of campus.
  • If a service animal attempts to enter any place on campus where a service animal’s safety is compromised.

What needs to happen if a service animal is behaving aggressively towards their handler or others, or if a handler or other students is behaving aggressively towards a service animal?

  • Report any service animals who misbehave or any handlers (or others) who mistreat their service animals to the Cornell Police at 607-255-1111 or 911 from campus phones.

What if another student or a faculty or staff member has severe allergies around animal dander?

  • The final determination of how circumstances will rule out will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Please notify SDS at 607-254-4545 for further information if a situation of this nature occurs.

What should a handler do if he/she has concerns about his or her ability to use a service animal to access campus facilities and programs?

INFORMATION FOR SERVICE ANIMAL TRAINERS
Service animal trainees and their trainers are expected to adhere to the responsibilities and requirements of trained service animals and their handlers (see above). If the trainer is a student, he or she must register the animal with Student Disability Services, providing information about the qualifications of the trainer and the overseeing training agency. Trainees whose trainers are Cornell students are not permitted to reside in campus housing. The registration form is in the document: Service Animals on Campus.

There is no comprehensive list of approved service animal training agencies. Therefore, Student Disability Services will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a specific program provides the proper training, supervision and oversight of trainees and their trainers.


1 Department of Justice Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III, Federal Register, September 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 178).