Service & Support Animals

Marymount University understands that there may be students with disabilities who rely upon a trained service animal to perform essential life functions for them. For example, a dog that is trained to alert its hearing impaired owner to the sound of an approaching firetruck would likely be considered to be a service animal.

Additionally, Marymount also understands that in order to fully participate in and enjoy residential life, there may be other students who rely upon an emotional support animal, or ESA, to live with them on campus.

Although they sound similar, service animals are actually different than ESA’s, as they are not covered by the same laws and have a different set of policies and requirements. For instance, a service animal (as explicitly defined by the ADA) does not require permission to accompany the person with a disability anywhere on Marymount’s campus, while an ESA requires special permission from designated Marymount officials (see “Obtaining Approval for an ESA” below) and would only be allowed in the residence of the student with the disability.

Before making any assumptions about your right to bring any animal on campus, please review Marymount’s “Housing Agreement” and if applicable, also review the “Policy on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals” which can be downloaded as a PDF on our website.

Service Animals

The right to be accompanied by a “service animal” is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADA), and it is not considered to be an accommodation that one must furnish documentation for or seek special permission to accompany them in public. By law, people with service animals must be permitted to bring it with them into any public area which includes college classrooms and residential halls–unless of course, the service animal would compromise its own safety or the safety of others (i.e., hazardous chemistry labs).

Although disability disclosure is not required for these ADA-defined service animals, if/when asked, the person with the animal must still reveal whether or not it is an actual “service animal” and must be able to state what service or task the animal is performing for them.  Any student or visitor who will be accompanied by a service animal on campus is strongly encouraged to inform Marymount’s Office of Campus Safety and Emergency Management ahead of time, and to work with SAS. Navigating Marymount’s rolling hills and historic buildings can be a very scenic yet physically challenging experience, so working with these offices in advance will help to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on Marymount’s campuses.

To ask questions or express any concerns relating to this policy, please contact SAS.

Emotional Support Animals

Unlike “service animals”, ESA’s are covered by the Fair Housing Act and not at all by the ADA. The decision as to whether a student can be permitted to have an emotional support animal in their campus residence is at the discretion of the University. The ESA must be medically-necessary, in order for a student with a disability to fully participate in University residential programs and/or residential services. If approved for an ESA, the student is fully responsible for the well-being and safety of the animal and will be held liable for the animal’s behavior.

Obtaining Approval for an ESA

Students who are seeking approval to have an ESA in-residence, due to a disability must first, provide medical documentation to the SAS office that meets Marymount’s stated disability Documentation Guidelines. It is critical that the documentation state that the ESA is medically-necessary, in order for the student to have equal access and participate fully in the residence halls. If the documentation does not clearly state this as a fact, the student will be offered alternate accommodations, such as being released from the first-year student housing requirement.

Once the appropriate documentation has been obtained, the student must meet with SAS and/or a designated representative of Residential Life & Housing Office of Student Living, to submit documentation and discuss the request. Any unapproved animal that is found in the residential facilities will be removed at the owner’s expense and any students involved in housing the unauthorized animal will be in violation of Marymount’s Code of Conduct.

Bottom Line on the Distinction (between Service Animals and ESA’s)

Since Marymount does not allow anyone to bring their pets on campus, any animal that is brought onto Marymount property must fall into one of two categories: (1) a service animal, OR (2) an emotional support animal, also known as ESA’s.

Federal law dictates explicitly that ADA protection only extends to “service animals” which can only be a dog or small horse that has been trained to perform a specific function that cannot be sufficiently performed by the person with a disability, due to their disability. By definition, animals like cats, reptiles, and the like, can never be considered as service animals. If the ESA is a dog or mini-horse, then the permission is granted under Fair Housing and cannot be made on the basis of ADA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

For more distinction between service animals and ESA definitions and policies, please read Marymount’s “Policy on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals”.

Other Important Notes

  • If a request for an “emotional support animal” is denied, students may work with the Office of Student Living and Student Access Services (SAS) to identify reasonable alternatives that would provide a way for the student to participate in the residential service and/or program.
  • Marymount University will consider the needs of all students in meeting legal obligations to reasonably accommodate all disabilities and to resolve the problem as efficiently and expeditiously as possible.

For questions relating to this policy, please contact Student Access Services at (703) 284-1538 or