Animals on Campus Policy

Policy number18-01
Responsible officeOffice of the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
Office of Business Services
Institutional Equity
Office of Residence Life
ClassificationBoard of Trustees-delegated Policy
Category18. Student Affairs and Residence Life

Statement of policy

Western Michigan University recognizes the importance of Service Animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and the broader category of Assistance Animals under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which provide physical and/or emotional support to individuals with disabilities. WMU is committed to allowing individuals with disabilities the use of Assistance Animals on campus and in Housing to facilitate their full-participation and equal access to the University’s programs and activities. This Policy governs the presence of Emotional Support Animals, Therapy Animals, and pets on University property. It applies to all campuses and all University-leased, licensed, owned, or -operated property.  This Policy does not apply to Service Animals on Campus.

Summary of contents/major changes

Rescind 1972 Policy on Animals in University Buildings; rewrite Policy to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and Michigan law; delegate Policy to appropriate Vice Presidents.             

1. Purpose of policy

This Policy establishes requirements for the location, behavior, and treatment of animals on campus and explains the responsibilities of people who seek to bring animals onto University property.  

2. Stakeholders Most impacted by the policy

This Policy impacts the University community and others visiting University property including employees, students, University affiliates, visitors, contractors, and applicants for admission or employment with the University. This Policy primarily impacts individuals seeking to bring animals on campus, students with disabilities living on campus who have an Assistance Animal as an accommodation, or students who may live with or near an Assistance Animal.

3. Key Definitions 

 3.1. Assistance Animal: any animal that works, provides assistance, performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability; these include Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals.

 3.2. Controlled Space: any indoor area owned or controlled by the University; any outdoor area owned or controlled by the University on which it places limitations for use or access, such as practice fields, stadiums, tennis courts, etc.  For purposes of this Policy, areas open to the public such as streets, lawns, or sidewalks are not Controlled Spaces. 

 3.3. Emotional Support Animal (ESA): an animal specifically designated by a qualified professional that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s diagnosed disability; also referred to as a Comfort Animal.

 3.4. Handler: the owner or person bringing an animal onto University property

3.5. Housing:  any residential housing facility that is located on campus, owned, operated, licensed, leased, or under the control of the University, including apartments and residence halls

 3.6. Major Bodily Functions: include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions

 3.7. Major Life Activities: include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working

 3.8. Person identifying with a disability: a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or bodily functions; who has a record of such impairment; or who is regarded as having such impairment.

 3.9. Pet: companion animal that is not an Assistance Animal

 3.10. Public Spaces: indoor and outdoor areas that are open to the public. Classrooms, residence halls, and most employee workspaces are not public spaces.

 3.11. Qualified Employee:  someone with a disability who, with or without an accommodation can perform the essential functions of the position. 

 3.12. Qualified Student:  a student with a disability who, with or without an accommodation, meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in a University’s program or activity.

 3.13. Reasonable Accommodation: modifications or adjustments to the tasks, environment or to the way things are usually done that enable individuals with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in an academic program or a job

 3.14. Service Animal: a dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not Service Animals

 3.15. Therapy Animal: animals that provide affection and comfort to people with or without a diagnosed disability, typically in group or facility settings such as hospitals, assisted living homes, and educational institutions

 3.16. Therapy Animal Program:  an established animal therapy program organized through an outside entity that specializes in training therapy animals and bringing them to interact with groups of individuals.

4. Full policy details

4.1 Generally, individuals may not bring animals into Controlled Spaces on University property.  However, pursuant to the ADA and the FHA, the University will make reasonable exceptions to that prohibition for Assistance Animals.  Those exceptions are set forth in more detail in this Policy.

4.2 Handlers must be in full control of any animal while it is on University property.  If an animal is found running at large, the animal is subject to capture, confinement, and immediate removal from University property.

4.3 Animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered to the Handler or the Handler’s property unless either the Handler is unable because of disability to use these or their use would interfere with the animal’s safe, effective performance of its work or tasks.  If not harnessed, leashed, or tethered, the animal must be under the control of the Handler in another way such as in a cage, aquarium, or via voice control or signals.

4.4 The University may require any animal to leave University Property if it is out of the Handler’s control and the Handler does not take effective action to control it or if it is not housebroken. 

4.5 Handlers will be financially responsible for the actions of the animal, including bodily injury, property damage, and any expenses incurred above standard cleaning or repairs to University property.

4.6 The Handler must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. It is the individual’s responsibility to know and understand these ordinances, laws, and regulations. The University has the right to require documentation of compliance with such ordinances, laws, and/or regulations, which may include a vaccination certificate and licensure. 

4.7 Handlers must ensure the following:                                                                                                                                                                           

  • 4.7.1. Compliance with laws prohibiting abuse, neglect, and cruelty to animals. Any evidence of mistreatment or abuse may result in immediate removal of the animal and/or discipline for the individual.
  • 4.7.2. Timely cleanup of the animal’s waste in a safe and sanitary manner and, when appropriate, allow the animal to relieve itself in areas designated by the University, if any; 
  • 4.7.3. Good health of the animal. If the animal appears visibly ill, the Handler may be directed to seek veterinarian services for the animal or asked to remove the animal from University property; and
  • 4.7.4. The animal is not tethered to any fixed object on University property.

4.8. Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace

Because ESAs are reasonable accommodations allowed only under the FHA, employees may not bring ESAs to work unless the University has approved it in writing as a Reasonable Accommodation. 

4.9. Emotional Support Animals in Housing

  • 4.9.1. Although it is the policy of WMU that individuals are generally prohibited from having any animal other than aquarium fish in Housing, a Qualified Student may have ESAs in Housing only after the Student has requested an RA through DSS and have received approval from the Office of Residence Life.  Students must obtain approval prior to having the animal in Housing.
  • 4.9.2. Housing is unique in several aspects, including mandatory assignment of roommates for many individuals and mandating that individuals must share a room or suite in certain residence halls.  Therefore, every request for an ESA will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the ESA will not: (1) impose an undue financial and/or administrative burden; (2) fundamentally alter Housing policies; (3) pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others; and/or (4) cause substantial property damage to University property beyond reasonable wear and tear or the property of others.
  • 4.9.3. ESAs are not allowed in any University facilities other than Housing to which the Qualified Student is assigned.
  • 4.9.4. Qualified Students with ESAs must abide by all other Housing policies. An accommodation for an ESA, which is an exception to the prohibition of animals in Housing, does not constitute an exception to other housing policies.
  • 4.9.5. DSS Accommodation Approval
    • DSS will establish procedures and guidelines for reviewing Reasonable Accommodation requests for ESAs.
    • Qualified Students must provide written consent for DSS to disclose information regarding the request for and presence of the ESA to those individuals who may be impacted by the presence of the animal including, but not limited to, Residence Life personnel and potential or actual roommate(s)/neighbor(s). Such information shall be limited to information related to the animal and shall not include information related to the Qualified Student’s disability.
    • With each new residence contract, the Qualified Student must file a new ESA application with DSS or renew an existing approval.
    • The ESA is allowed in Housing only as long as it is necessary because of the Qualified Student’s disability. The Qualified Student must notify DSS in writing if the ESA is no longer needed or is no longer in residence. To replace an ESA, the new animal must be necessary because of the Qualified Student’s disability. The Qualified Student must follow University procedures when requesting a different animal.
  • 4.9.6. Residence Life Approval
    • In addition to the general requirements for all animals on University property, see Sections 4.1-4.7 above, WMU may consider the following additional factors as evidence in determining whether the presence of the ESA is reasonable or when making housing assignments for the Qualified Student:
    • Whether the size of the animal is too large for available assigned housing space;
    • Whether the animal’s presence would force another individual to leave their assigned or chosen housing;
    • Whether the animal's presence otherwise violates other individuals' rights to peace and quiet enjoyment; or
    • Whether the animal is able to live with others in a reasonable manner.
    • Emotional Support dogs and cats must be at least twelve months old and spayed/neutered.
    • WMU will not limit room assignments for individuals with ESAs to any particular building.
    • Qualified Students who have been granted the RA will not be required to pay a fee or surcharge for an approved ESA.
    • The University reserves the right to assign a Qualified Student to a single room or a room without a roommate.  If the University chooses to assign a Qualified Student to a single room as part of the interactive RA process, it will not require the student to pay additional housing costs associated with having a single room.
    • An ESA must be contained within the Qualified Student’s living area (e.g., room, suite, apartment) except if the Qualified Student is taking the animal out for natural relief.  ESAs are not permitted in common areas within the living area.  When an ESA is outside the Qualified Student’s living area, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness.
    • A Qualified Student may be charged for any damage caused by their ESA beyond reasonable wear and tear to the same extent that WMU charges other individuals for damages beyond reasonable wear and tear.
    • The Qualified Student's living accommodations may be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests as part of the University’s standard or routine inspections. If fleas, ticks or other pests are detected through inspection, the residence will be treated by a university-approved pest control service. The Qualified Student will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment beyond the cost of standard pest management in the residence halls. The University may bill the Qualified Student’s account for unmet obligations under this provision.
  • 4.9.7. Care for ESAs in Housing
    • The Qualified Student is solely responsible for the custody and care of the ESA.
    • The Qualified Student must ensure that an ESA is contained at any time when the Qualified Student is not present.  ESAs may not be left for any prolonged period in Housing or be cared for by any individual other than the Qualified Student. If the Qualified Student will be absent from their residence overnight or longer, the animal must accompany the Qualified Student.  
    • If the ESA is left overnight in Housing without the Qualified Student present, WMU may contact animal control and request that they remove the animal.
    • WMU personnel shall not be required to provide care or food for any ESA including, but not limited to, removing the animal during emergency evacuation events such as a fire alarm. Emergency personnel will determine whether to remove the animal and shall not be held responsible for the care of, damage to, or loss of the animal.
  • 4.9.8. Removal of an ESA
    • The University may require the Qualified Student to remove the animal from Housing if: 1) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others; 2) the animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of a University program; 3) the Qualified Student does not comply with the terms of this Policy; or 4) the animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the university community.
    • The University will base its determination to remove an ESA upon consideration of the behavior of the particular animal at issue and not on speculation or fear about the harm or damages an animal may cause.
    • Residence Life may make an interim decision to remove an ESA after an allegation of violation.  Residence Life may consult Disability Services for Students, Office of Student Conduct, and/or other offices in making this determination.   
    • A student whose ESA has been removed for allegations of failure to follow appropriate guidelines will be subject to the Student Conduct process under the Student Code.  This may result in permanent removal of the animal, and/or any other combination of sanctions outlined in the Student Code. Appeals of the sanctioning determination, including the animal’s removal, will be processed according to the Appeal Procedures outlined in the Student Code.
    • If an ESA is removed from the premises for any reason, the Qualified Student is expected to fulfill their housing obligations for the remainder of their housing contract.

4.10. Non-retaliation Provision

WMU will not retaliate against any person because that individual has requested or received a reasonable accommodation in Housing, including a request for an ESA.

4.11. Roommate conflicts

In the event that a roommate or suitemate of a Qualified Student does not agree to have an ESA in their residence, either the Qualified Student and the ESA or the roommate or suitemate may be relocated as part of the reasonable accommodation interactive process.

4.12. Pets
      Pets are not permitted in any Controlled Space unless explicitly stated otherwise.

4.13. Therapy Animals

  • 4.13.1. Trained therapy animals are allowed on campus only as part of an approved Therapy Animal Program.
  • 4.13.2. Requests for the presence of a Therapy Animal Program must be fully reviewed and approved by the Vice President with authority over the host building, or their designee. Such requests may be approved only upon a showing that the invited group is a well-developed Therapy Animal Program with defined parameters and which their trained staff will administer.  
  • 4.13.3. University employees should not administer or oversee a Therapy Animal Program during their regular duty hours.
  • 4.13.4. Therapy animals must be licensed, and the Program must provide proof of proper insurance.

4.14. Competing Disabilities

  • 4.14.1. An allergy to or fear of an Assistance Animal is not a sufficient reason to deny access to the Assistance Animal or the Qualified Individual.  
  • 4.14.2. If a student has a phobia or medical condition that prohibits them from contact with an Assistance Animal, that student should contact DSS for accommodation consideration.

4.15. Exceptions

  • 4.15.1. As part of the interactive process for requesting and granting accommodations, the University may make case-by-case exceptions to these rules based on well-documented need or other factors. 
  • 4.15.2. Except as otherwise stated, this Policy does not apply to Service Animals.  See Service Animal Policy linked below.
  • 4.15.3. This Policy does not apply to animals being used in clinical research settings.  For animals in research settings, see Animal Use in Research, Teaching, and Testing, OVPR Policy 17-5.1.
  • 4.15.4. This Policy does not apply to certified animals accompanying WMU’s Department of Public Safety personnel or other law enforcement personnel.
  • 4.15.5. This Policy does not apply to animals that are brought onto campus or into campus buildings on a one-time basis for educational purposes.  These requests should be registered with the relevant building manager and the requestor’s unit as appropriate.  Requestors must ensure that they or the presenter(s) have appropriate insurance coverage.

4.16. Implementation/Communication

This policy will be communicated to the University community through the Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications, by incorporating it into the Policies website, and through other avenues the Responsible Enforcement Official deems appropriate.

5.1 Accountability 

Potential consequences of non-compliance include:

5.1. Immediate removal of the animal from the University.  If the animal is an ESA, the Qualified Student is responsible for fulfilling the remaining terms of the housing contract;

5.2. Conduct review through the Office of Student Conduct;

5.3. Termination of Housing contract/lease; or

5.4. Possible individual disciplinary procedures, up to and including expulsion or termination, for failure to follow applicable University policies and requirements.

6. Related Procedures and guidelines 

Disability Services for Students, Eligibility Process, available at

Disability Services for Students, Assistance Animal Procedures, available at

Residence Life Policy Book, available at

Office of Institutional Equity, available at

Human Resources, Policies and Procedures Manual, Section 2, Equal Employment Opportunity, available at 

7. Additional information

7.1. Individuals with ESAs that have been previously approved through DSS and Residence Life for the 2018-2019 school year need not take any action as a result of this Policy until the contract year ends or the individual changes residences.

7.2. Existing Therapy Animal Programs must contact the appropriate Vice President to receive approval to continue.

8. Faqs

8.1 How do I request that my ESA reside on campus with me?

8.2. How do I get approval to have a Therapy Animal Program on campus?

  • Answer:  Contact the office of the Vice President in charge of the building in which the program will be located.

8.3. If I have allergies, may I object to someone else’s animal? 

  • Answer:  It depends.  See Section 4.16.

8.4. May I bring my Service Animal to class, dining halls, and other campus activities?

  • Answer:  Yes

8.5. May I bring my ESA to class, dining halls, and other campus activities?

  • Answer:  No

8.6. Is it acceptable to leave my ESA on campus while I leave campus over night to visit friends?

  • Answer:  No.  See Section 4.11.7.

8.7. May an Assistance Animal handler be asked to remove the animal from the premises if the animal is disruptive?

  • Answer:  Yes.  See Section 4.4. 

 8.8. Do Assistance Animals have documentation certifying that they are Assistance Animals?

  • Answer:  No.  Documentation, such as proof that an Assistance Animal is certified, trained or licensed as an Assistance Animal is not required.

8.9. What should I do if I think I have been incorrectly denied access for my Assistance Animal?


Effective date of current versionMay 20, 2019
Date first adoptedDecember 15, 1972
Proposed date of next reviewJune 1, 2022


Certified by

Diane Anderson

Jennifer P. Bott

Janice Van Der Kley 

Candy S. McCorkle 

At the direction of

Edward B. Montgomery