Emotional Support Animal Accommodations

The Office of Student Disability Services is required to offer accommodations to students based on their disability. Please see our full list of Accommodations for more information. Most reasonable accommodations will need to be requested by the student each semester. Requests can be made through an interactive process between the student and an SDS staff member.

The Office of Student Disability Services also has Enhanced Services, called Project Pass, which students can choose to participate. By signing up for Project Pass (enhanced services), students are required to use all the services. Learn more about Project Pass..

Accommodations for Emotional Support Animals

The residential facilities on the campus of Murray State are not pet friendly. Fish in an enclosed aquarium (10-gallon size maximum per resident) are the only pets allowed in the residence halls and College Courts.

Residents MUST register with the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS), and provide documentation from a qualified medical provider to support the need for having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in their on-campus residence PRIOR to bringing their ESA to campus.  A student/resident who is caught having an ESA in their on-campus residence without having the approval of SDS:

  • will be given 3-business days to register with SDS, and provide appropriate documentation for the ADA Subcommittee of the Affirmative Action Committee to review to determine if the animal is to be recognized as an ESA, or

  • the student/resident will be expected to remove the animal from campus within 3-business days.

  • Failure to comply will result in the student/resident being subject to disciplinary action, which may include loss of visitation privileges, or a hold being placed on the student’s account.

In addition, misrepresentation of a Service Animal is a criminal offense punishable by a monetary penalty.

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal?

Service animals are animals that are trained to perform a specific work or task and emotional support animals are not.

Service animals - The specific work or task that these animals are trained to perform must be directly related to the individuals disability. A common type that most people are familiar with is a seeing-eye dog; a dog that is specially trained to serve as navigation or ‘sight’ for an individual with a visual impairment. There are only two types of animals that the Americans with Disabilities Act has approved for use as a service animal (dogs or miniature horses). Service animals are not considered an accommodation; rather, they are required for accessibility purposes. Service animals are generally allowed to go wherever their owner goes (i.e. the animal may be taken to class, to an on-campus job, to the cafeteria, to the library, etc.).

Emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform a work or task; therefore, there are some limitations associated with having an emotional support animal on campus. The Fair Housing Amendments Act influences how emotional support animals are governed, which includes on campus housing options at colleges and universities. Emotional support animals are not trained to perform a specific work or task. Although, comfort, support, companionship and being in the presence of an animal does have therapeutic benefits, it does not equate to performing a specific work or task. Since emotional support animals are not trained to perform a specific work or task and are considered an accommodation and not for accessibility purposes, the animal(s) is limited to the owner’s living space. Therefore, it is not permissible for an emotional support animal to accompany their owner to class, to an on-campus job, to the cafeteria, to the library, into a residence hall (other than the one building they have been assigned to live in while staying on campus), into another resident’s room within their assigned residence hall, etc.

Emotional support animals are to be considered domesticated animals that are traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, and that provide therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or emotional disability. A partial list of disabilities covered includes: anxiety, depression, bipolar/mood disorders, panic attacks, and other emotional/psychological conditions. Individuals are encouraged to converse with their counselor or therapist to determine which type of animal would be most appropriate.

Apply for an emotional support animal

Step 1 - Forms

Forms: Students must FIRST complete a Student Disability Services Registration Form in order to be registered with our office.  If you previously registered with the Office of Student Disability Services for other types of accommodations (Testing, Parking, etc.), it is NOT necessary to register again.

The next form to be completed is the Reasonable Housing Accommodation Form.

Students will also be expected to complete an  Emotional Support Animal Policy Form. This form, like the Application for Emotional Support Animal below, must be completed at the beginning of each academic year.

These three forms are online forms and do not need to be printed to complete.  A paper form can be obtained, however, from our office.

Step 2 - Documentation

Complete and submit the Application for an Emotional Support Animal to the Office of Student Disability Services: 

    • Via fax: 270.809.4339

    • Via email: msu.studentdisabilities@murraystate.edu

    • In person: 423 Wells Hall

    • Students returning to live on campus must renew their Application for ESA annually (at the beginning of each academic year) and provide UPDATED documentation every year (both Section I and II), as well. 

Section I of the form referenced above is to be completed by the student.

Section II is to be completed by the student's licensed counselor or therapist, physician, or from a qualified provider who is familiar with therapeutic benefits of emotional support animals.

Step 3 - In-Take Appointment

After the Forms/Documentation have been received, the student requesting to bring an emotional support animal to campus is required to meet with the Director of the Office of Student Disability Services. This appointment can either be in-person or on Zoom, depending on the student's preference.  The student can contact our Main office line at 270-809-2018 or our Accommodations Specialist, Zebreina Patterson, at 270-809-6942.  

Step 4 - Email from Roommate(s) and/or Suite-mate(s)

Students will also be expected to communicate with their roommate and/or suite-mates that they have requested to bring an emotional support animal to campus. The roommate and/or suite-mates will need to send an email to Ken Ashlock, Director, to kashlock@murraystate.edu indicating that they consent to sharing space with the student and their emotional support animal. If you have multiple roommates and/or suite-mates we will need to receive an email from each one individually.

Step 5 - Picture of Your Emotional Support Animal

Residents must also email a picture of their emotional support animal to the Office of Student Disability Services at msu.studentdisabilities@murraystate.edu

Step 6 - ADA Subcommittee of the Affirmative Action Committee

After completion of the steps above, your request for an emotional support animal will be reviewed by the ADA Subcommittee of the Affirmative Action Committee. You will be notified via email (sent to your Murray State University email account) with a decision as soon as possible. The Housing Office will be notified of this decision as well.

Step 7 - Requirements from the Department of Housing

If your request for an emotional support animal is approved, your Residence Director and/or your Resident Advisor will contact you to review a document called Guidelines and Agreement for Maintaining an Animal in Murray State University Housing. This document outlines the responsibilities of you the owner for maintaining an animal on campus.

You will also be expected to provide the Housing Office with proof of vaccinations for your animal. This is to ensure that your animal has a clean bill of health and is safe to reside on campus.

The Housing Office will also notify all residents in your building to let everyone know that ‘a resident’ has been approved for an emotional support animal. You will not be singled out by name and your room number will not be disclosed. This message is intended to let all residents know that the University’s pet policy has not changed and that students would need to have a valid, medically-documented reason for having an animal on campus. This email message is also intended to give students the opportunity to let the Housing Office know if they have any allergies or other concerns about living in the same building with an animal(s).

Please note that there are some areas within the residential colleges that have been deemed as animal-free zones. Depending on which residence hall you live in and what type of animal you are requesting to bring to campus, a reassignment may be necessary. If a reassignment is needed, the Housing Office will communicate with you your relocation options.

The Housing Office will not charge you an additional deposit (i.e. pet deposit); however, please note you would be responsible for paying for any damages that may occur as a result of something your animal may have done in your room or in your residence hall.

By law, the University is required to maintain record of individuals residing on campus who have disclosed to the University (i.e. the Office of Student Disability Services or the Housing Office) that they have a disability. If your request for an emotional support animal is granted by the ADA Subcommittee of the Affirmative Action Committee, by law your name will be added to the House Bill 321 listing. This listing will remain confidential and will only be used in the event of an emergency that would require the evacuation of your residence hall. Names on the HB 321 listing will only be revealed to individuals who have been trained to respond to emergency situations (i.e. the Housing Department staff and both campus and community emergency personnel). 

Step 8 - Required Communication

You will need to contact both the Office of Student Disability Services and the Housing Office:

  • when you plan to bring your emotional support animal to campus

  • if it is necessary to make a change to the type of animal you will have on campus

  • if your ESA is no longer needed on campus



Download ESA Resource Guide

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