Texas Tech University

FAQ: Emotional Support Animals


What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An ESA is an animal that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. For example, an emotional support to an individual that has a mental health disorder.

How can a student request to have an ESA in on-campus housing?

To request to have an ESA in on-campus housing, a student must complete the accommodation request process with Student Disability Services (SDS). The student must have a recognized disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and show that the request for an ESA is a reasonable accommodation that is directly related to their disability needs.

  1. Documentation from a qualified evaluator to whom a student has an established relationship. (An evaluator that the student has only met with once or twice should not complete forms).
  2. Documentation should articulate the need for the ESA based upon the student's medical and/or mental health condition.

*Documentation must indicate how the ESA alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.

Is an ESA the same as a Service Animal?

No. While ESAs are often used as part of a medical treatment plan, they are not considered Service Animals under the ADA. However, they are viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in those housing communities that have a “no pets” rule.

What is the difference between a Service Animal and an ESA?

Service animals are defined as dogs (or miniature horses in limited situations) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a service animal does must be directly related to the person's disability. Service animals 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 has 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.

Additional information can be found on the SDS Service Animal page.

Can a student take their ESA to class?

ESAs are generally only allowed in the dwelling (housing environment) of students and places that any animal is allowed in public. ESAs are typically not allowed in other campus buildings, including classroom buildings, and the TTU Library. If you have specific questions about where an ESA is permitted in the housing environment, please consult with SDS.

Can I bring my ESA to campus while waiting for approval from SDS?

ESAs should not be brought into on-campus housing until approved by SDS.

Do I need an ESA Certificate to bring my animal on campus??

SDS discourages paying individuals found on websites for certificates or template letters. As per the guidance document by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee.

**In HUD's experience, such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal.

What type of documentation do I need?

“Reasonably supporting information often consists of information from a licensed health care professional – e.g., physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse – general to the condition but specific as to the individual with a disability and the assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the animal. A relationship or connection between the disability and the need for the assistance animal must be provided.” (hud.gov).

How long does it take to receive approval for an ESA?

In general, complete documentation will be reviewed and eligibility will be determined within 10 days or less. Placement timeframe is based on availability of housing space and roommate consent. For more information about the review process or the type of information to submit, please visit our Emotional Support Animals page.

The steps to follow before the ESA request process is complete:

Step 1: Complete Student Disability Services Application

Step 2: Complete the Housing Accommodation Request Form and submit for acceptance

Step 3: Meet with Student Disability Services Counselor (James Whitfield/ Raquel Iber)

Step 4: SDS notification to Housing upon completing meeting with SDS

Step 5: Housing will contact student by email to complete additional documentation (ESA Procedure form, room-mate agreement form and Information sheet)

Step 6: Once all documentation is complete, Housing will notify student by email

What type of animal can be an ESA?

"ESA types are typically animals commonly kept in households. Examples include but are not limited a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home" ((hud.gov). In general, reptiles, other than turtles, barnyard animals and exotic animals are not considered household pets. If the individual is requesting to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households as described above, then the requester has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability related, therapeutic need for the specific type of animal. The individual is encouraged to submit documentation from a healthcare professional confirming the need for this unique type of animal.

The ESA Approval Process

Step 1: Student completes the Accommodation Request Process with supporting documentation that meets SDS Documentation Guidelines.

Step 2: Request and documentation is reviewed by SDS staff and approval is determined

Step 3: If approved, student meets with Access Coordinator and housing accommodation approval form is sent to the University Student Housing Welcome Center.

Step 4: The University Student Housing Welcome Center will contact the student to schedule an appointment to review policies and review appropriate documentation (i.e., agreements, rights/responsibilities, and vaccination records as appropriate).

Step 5: Student can bring animal into on-campus housing.

**Please note that if an ESA request is not approved, SDS staff will contact the student to request additional documentation and/or provide rationale.

Student Disability Services