Service and Comfort Animals
This page describes the procedures for the use of service and comfort animals by students at the University of West Florida.
In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the University of West Florida permits the use of service animals for students with disabilities. Service animals are specifically trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of daily living. The ADA, as amended in 2008, defines a service animal as:
"any dog or miniature horse 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."
Students May Be Asked
- Is the dog (or miniature horse) a service animal that is required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog (or miniature horse) been trained to perform?
Students who require the use of a service animal and meet the above two criteria are not required to register with the SDRC to bring the animal on campus. The service animal may accompany the student at all times.
Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals under the ADA. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. A comfort animal may be incorporated as an integral part of a treatment process prescribed by a medical or mental health provider. The use of a support/therapy/comfort animal may be allowed as a reasonable accommodation through established SDRC procedures. Comfort animals may be restricted from specific areas.
Registering with SDRC
When it is not readily apparent that an animal is a service animal based on the information provided in the response to the two questions that students may be asked, and the student is requesting to have the animal accompany or reside with him/her on campus, the student must register with the SDRC.
The registration process with SDRC includes
- The student must submit an enrollment application to SDRC.
- The student must submit proper documentation from a licensed healthcare or mental health provider that must be no more than 3 years old (Under certain conditions, this requirement may be waived). The documentation should establish the connection between the student's disability and assistance the animal provides. Documentation of the need for a comfort animal should follow the SDRC Documentation Guidelines.
- The student must meet with an SDRC staff member to complete registration and discuss the accommodation procedures.
- SDRC will review accommodation requests with the Department of Housing and Residence Life for students requesting to live on campus.
- SDRC will make the final determination of reasonable accommodations.
If a student is approved to have a comfort animal as an accommodation, the animal will be limited to staying in the student's residence and certain designated areas of campus (such as designated relief areas).
Guidelines for Maintaining an Approved Animal at UWF
Care and Supervision
Care and supervision of the animal is the responsibility of the student to whom the animal belongs. The student is required to maintain control of the animal at all times.
- The student is responsible for ensuring the cleanup of the animal's waste.
- The animal must be on a leash, unless the leash would inhibit the animal's ability to be of service.
- Other reasonable conditions or restrictions will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Removal of Approved Animal
The University may exclude/remove an Approved Animal when:
- the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or
- the animal's presence results in a fundamental alteration of the University's program, or
- the owner does not comply with Owner's Responsibilities, or
- the animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the UWF community.
Follow this link to be taken to the UWF Confluence page describing the SDRC Service Animal Guidelines.