Department of Psychology

Emotional Support Animal Policy

Letters of Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Please note an ESA is distinguishable from a Service Animal. For information regarding service animals, as defined by the ADAAA, please see the WIU Service Animal Policy.


An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

The animal is part of the treatment plan for a person who meets the definition of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The animal would address specific functional limitations to allow the person to live independently.

Students living in Western Illinois University housing wishing to have an ESA should review WIU’s Emotional Support Animal Policy and Guidelines.


While many of our staff love animals and are pet owners, and we understand that an animal can be an important source of support during stressful times for many individuals, clinicians at the WIU Psychology Clinic do not provide assessments to document the need for an emotional support animal.

There is increasing recognition that some expertise is needed to assess whether the animal’s temperament and behavior allow it to be emotionally or physically therapeutic. An ESA must be well-behaved and not cause harm or a disturbance at home or on an airplane.  To find a mental health professional in our area to help you meet this need, a good place to start is to contact your health insurance provider.