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Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that work, provide assistance or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. While ESAs are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, they are viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in those housing communities that have a “no pets” rule. In other words, just as a wheelchair provides a person with a physical limitation the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, an ESA provides a person with a mental or physical health condition the same opportunity to live independently and would be seen as a reasonable accommodation for a person with such a disability in university housing.

To qualify for an ESA in UTSA housing, a student must meet the federal definition of having a disability. Individuals with disabilities who are requesting an ESA in UTSA housing must provide appropriate documentation to the Documentation Review Committee in Student Disability Services that meets the following guidelines:

  1. Documentation must be from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional.
  2. Documentation must articulate the need for the ESA based upon the student’s medical and/or mental health condition.
  3. Documentation must indicate how the ESA alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.

**NOTE** Providing the aforementioned documentation for an ESA in UTSA housing does not automatically qualify students for any other type of accommodations at UTSA in the academic setting. Students must follow the registration procedures and documentation guidelines in order to qualify for academic accommodations or other types of services provided by Student Disability Services.

What is the difference between a Service Animal and an Emotional Support Animal?

Service animals are defined as dogs (or miniature horses) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person's disability. Service dogs (or miniature horses) may accompany persons with disabilities into places that the public normally goes.

An ESA generally provides assistance and/or emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. While dogs are the most common type of ESA, other animals can also be ESAs. The animal need not be specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who suffers from a mental health or medical disability. Unlike a service animal, an ESA is not granted access to all places of public accommodation. As noted above, under the FHA, an ESA is viewed as a "reasonable accommodation" in a housing unit.