Service Animals

Registering a Service Animal

  • Students with service animals are not required to register with Student Disability Services (SDS). The service animal, and their student handler, are expected to adhere to the rights and responsibilities outlined below. 
  • Faculty and staff with service animals who wish to bring their animal to work need to engage in the reasonable accommodation request process with their supervisor/HR.  
  • Service animals accompanying visitors to campus are permitted access, under the ADA, and do not have to formally notify the campus of the animal’s presence.  Visitors and their service animals are expected to adhere to the rights and responsibilities outlined below. 

Rights and Responsibilities of the Service Animal Owner/Handler

To qualify for the use of a service animal on campus, an individual must: 

  • Have a disability as defined by the ADA, and the accompanying animal must be trained to do specific tasks for the qualified individual. 
  • A service animal must be trained, however, it is not required to be licensed or certified by a state or local government or particular training program.  
  • A service animal is not legally required to have a special harness/collar, documentation of training, or identifying tags. It is expected to be under the student handler’s control at all times via a leash or tether, or verbal/signal commands if such devices interfere with its work or are not possible due to the student’s disability. 
  • The handler must ensure the dog is behaving, under control, and not interfering with day-to-day operations and business of the campus community (i.e. not barking regularly) nor posing a threat to others (i.e. not growling or biting others). Handlers whose animal does not behave appropriately are expected to cooperate if asked by University staff or faculty to remove the animal from that immediate environment. Instances of inappropriate behavior may result in a determination that the animal is no longer allowed on campus.  
  • There may situations in which the animal’s presence would fundamentally alter the nature of a particular service, program, or business of the University.  When these situations are identified, the handler and the University must work together to determine how best to maintain the learning environment while still appropriately accommodating the handler. 
  • When not walking, the dog should be at the handler’s side or feet, or in their lap or a dog carrier. Service animals are not allowed to be on furniture.  
  • The handler is responsible for complying with the Tompkins County/City of Ithaca dog control and licensing laws for animal rights and owner obligations, including ensuring the dog is current with immunizations and has a rabies vaccination tag. Documentation of vaccinations may be required by the University. 
  • The handler is solely responsible for the care of the dog, including regular bathing and grooming, providing the dog food and water as needed, and removing or arranging for the prompt removal of the dog’s waste into appropriate waste receptacles. 
  • If the presence of the service animal is creating an access issue for another resident or student with a disability (e.g., life limiting animal allergies), the handler is expected to work with SDS, and any other appropriate University offices as needed, to address the access concerns in a manner that allows both students to be appropriately accommodated. 
  • Service animals are permitted access to all University buildings, 
  • Service animals are permitted to reside within residential communities with their student owner/handler and are expected to adhere to both the responsibilities outlined above and residential community standards and expectations. 

Service Animals in Training

NYS Human Rights Law defines a service animal as “any animal that has been trained or is being trained, by a qualified person, to aid or guide a person with a disability” and that “persons qualified to train dogs to aid and guide persons with a disability, while engaged in such training activities, shall have the same rights and privileges set forth for persons with a disability.”  

Dogs that are being raised for possible future use as service animals must adhere to the University's Pets on Campus Policy.

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 person’s disability. Some people do not wish to discuss their disability.

Under what circumstances can a handler be asked to remove their service animal from the public space? 

  • 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 service animal is not housebroken. 
  • If a service animal is physically ill.
  • If the service animal is unreasonably dirty.
  • If the handler and service animal attempt to enter a place on campus where the presence of the animal causes danger to the safety of the handler or other members of campus.
  • If the handler and service animal attempt to enter any place on campus where the 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 another person(s) is behaving aggressively towards a service animal?

  • Report any service animals who misbehave or any handlers (or others) who mistreat the 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 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? 

  • Handlers/students with disabilities who have concerns about any matter affecting their use of a service animal should contact SDS at 607-254-4545 and review the disability accommodation process described on our website and our complaint resolution procedure.  Faculty and staff handlers should contact the Cornell's Medical Leaves Administration office for guidance. 

Concerns and Questions

Student handlers, whether registered with SDS or not, who have questions or concerns about any matter or policy affecting their use of a service animal, are invited to contact SDS at 607-254-4545 or

The information above is based guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ).  For more information, please visit the DOJ’s Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA