Emotional Support Animals

Requesting to Use an Emotional Support Animal on Campus 

The information below describes the process for requesting the use of an emotional support animal (ESA) on the Cornell campus. You are not permitted to keep an emotional support animal in a residential building without prior approval as a reasonable accommodation through Student Disability Services (SDS). 

Definition of Emotional Support Animal 

An ESA is an animal that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. ESAs are distinct from service animals. Cornell University has a separate policy regarding the presence of service animals on campus.

For more information about pets on campus, please see Cornell's Pets on Campus Policy

Request Process and Required Documentation

Please note that requests for ESAs in campus residential housing made within 4 weeks of the start of the semester will not be reviewed for 6-8 weeks.

To request an ESA, you must complete the following steps: 

  1. Complete the Disability Self-Disclosure Form
  2. Meet with an SDS counselor (in person or virtually). The counselor will provide guidance about this accommodation request and necessary forms to complete.
  3. Provide the necessary supporting documentation from a qualified medical or mental health provider. The SDS counselor will discuss what documentation is required when you meet with them.

The SDS counselor (in consultation with consulting experts) will make a decision about the eligibility for the accommodation of having an ESA. Requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Prior approval of an animal at a previous institution does not guarantee you will be approved at Cornell. An ESA request will be approved with clear evidence that the ESA will ameliorate the symptoms of a disability. Please note that certain types of animals may not be permitted on campus as an approved ESA due to the risk they may pose to other members of the campus community.

A review committee comprised of staff from SDS, Residential Programs, and Housing will consider the impact of the presence of the animal in residential community (if necessary).

Process When Cornell Has Approved the Use of an ESA

The SDS counselor will communicate with you regarding the request. Additional time may be needed to inform roommate(s), floormates, or suitemates of the presence of an ESA and to make necessary housing changes that may be required based on the presence of the ESA. 

Animals are approved on a yearly basis; you may be asked to submit updated documentation.

If you wish to change to a different ESA than the one approved, you must submit a new request for review with additional information from your care provider that verifies the disability-related need for a different animal.

Concerns and Questions

Student who have questions or concerns about any matter or policy affecting their use of an emotional support animal should contact SDS at 607-254-4545 or sds_cu@cornell.edu