University Policies

Emotional Support Animal Guidelines

These guidelines explain the specific requirements applicable to an individual's use of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in University housing and apply solely to ESAs that may be necessary for University housing. They do not apply to "Service Animals" as defined by the ADAAA. WIU reserves the right to amend these guidelines as circumstances require.

  1. Definitions
    1. Emotional Support Animal
      ESA’s are a category of animals that provide necessary emotional support to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability and serves the purpose of alleviating one or more identified symptoms of an individual's disability, but they are not considered Service Animals under the ADAAA and WIU’s Service Animal Policy. Some ESAs provide the necessary support to individuals with disabilities without any formal training or certification. An ESA is usually a dog, cat, or other common domestic animal that provides therapeutic/emotional support to an individual with an identified disability.
    2. Owner
      The owner is the individual who requires the accommodation and has received approval to bring an ESA into University housing unless the individual is a minor, in which case the guardian assumes ownership.
    3. Student Development and Success Center
      The Student Development and Success Center (SDSC) is the campus office designated to hear requests for reasonable accommodations for the purpose of ensuring equal access to all WIU programs and activities. As such, SDSC collaborates with students with disabilities and University Housing and Dining Services to determine appropriate accommodations in the residence halls. All questions regarding or requests for ESAs in the residence halls should be directed to the Student Development and Success Center, 125 Memorial Hall, 309-298-1884,
  2. Procedures For Requesting Emotional Support Animals in University Housing
    All students requesting ESAs in the residence halls must complete an Accommodation Request Form and submit it to the SDSC by email at or by mail to Student Development and Success Center, 125 Memorial Hall, Western Illinois University, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL 61455. Once they have submitted the completed form to the SDSC, they will be contacted to schedule a welcome appointment. This appointment aims to gather information about the student’s experience, discuss accommodations and documentation and provide guidance on the next steps. Third-party documentation from a qualified professional may be provided prior to the welcome appointment. If it is not provided prior to the welcome, documentation needs will be discussed during the appointment and will be required prior to the approval of the ESA. For more information on documentation supporting the need for an ESA, please see Section III of this document.
  3. Documenting the Need for an Emotional Support Animal

    The Emotional Support Animal Documentation form should be completed by the physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professionals with whom the individual has a well-established relationship. The ESA must be a component of an ongoing mental health treatment plan. The form should be completed within the last six months.

    Please note that requests for multiple ESAs will be denied unless it is well-documented a need exists for more than one ESA (i.e., each animal provides unique assistance or multiple animals are required to achieve the necessary benefits/therapeutic effects desired by the prescribing professional).

    Beware of online scams. Some websites offer to write a letter and certify your animal as an ESA for a fee. There currently is not a government-approved certification database for ESAs, and in most, if not all, cases, we will not accept these letters.

  4. Criteria for Determining If Presence of the Emotional Support Animal is Reasonable
    The question in determining if an ESA will be allowed in University housing is whether or not the ESA is reasonable and necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing. A request for an ESA may be denied as unreasonable if the presence of the animal: (1) imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden; (2) fundamentally alters University housing policies; and/or (3) poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others; and/or (4) would cause substantial property damage to the property of others, including University property.

    WIU may consider the following factors, among others, as evidence in determining whether the presence of the animal is reasonable or in the making of housing assignments for individuals with ESAs:
    • The size of the animal is too large for the available assigned housing space;
    • The animal's presence otherwise violates individuals' right to peace and quiet enjoyment;
    • The animal is not housebroken or is unable to live with others in a reasonable manner;
    • The animal's vaccinations are not up-to-date;
    • The animal poses or has posed a direct threat to the individual or others, such as aggressive behavior towards or injuring the individual or others; or
    • The animal causes, or has caused, excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear.
    Students whose request for an ESA is denied will have the opportunity to appeal such decisions. All appeals are reviewed by the Associate Vice President for Student Services. Students will receive information about the appeals process upon notification of the decision on the request for disability housing accommodations.

    WIU will not limit room assignments for individuals with ESAs to any particular building or buildings. However, University housing is unique in several aspects, including the mandatory assignment of roommates for many individuals and the mandate that individuals must share a room or suite in certain residence halls. To ensure that the presence of ESAs is not an undue administrative burden or fundamental alteration of University housing, WIU reserves the right to assign an individual with an ESA to a single room without a roommate.
  5. Access to University Facilities By Emotional Support Animals
    If an individual with a disability establishes the necessity for an ESA and it is allowed in University housing, an ESA is not permitted in other areas of the University (e.g. dining facilities, libraries, academic buildings, athletic buildings and facilities, classrooms, labs, individual centers, etc.). An ESA must be contained within the owner's privately assigned individual living accommodations (e.g., room, suite, apartment) except to the extent the individual is taking the animal out for natural relief. When an ESA is outside the private individual living accommodations, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness. ESA’s are not allowed in any University facilities other than University residence halls (e.g. dormitories, suites, apartments, etc.) to which the individual is assigned.
  6. Rights and Responsibilities
    • Notwithstanding the restrictions set forth herein, the ESA must be properly housed and restrained or otherwise under the dominion and control of the owner at all times. No owner shall permit the animal to go loose or run at large. If an animal is found running at large, the animal is subject to capture, confinement, and immediate removal from University housing.
    • If the University grants an owner's request to live with an ESA, the owner is solely responsible for the custody and care of the ESA.
    • The owner must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other animal requirements. It is the owner'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. The University reserves the right to request documentation showing that the animal has been licensed.
    • The owner is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the animal's waste in a safe and sanitary manner and, when provided, must use animal relief areas designated by WIU.
    • The owner is required to ensure the animal is well cared for at all times. Any evidence of mistreatment or abuse may result in immediate removal of the ESA and/or discipline for the responsible individual.
    • WIU will not ask for or require an individual with a disability to pay a fee or surcharge for an approved ESA.
    • An individual with a disability may be charged for any damage caused by his or her ESA beyond reasonable wear and tear to the same extent that the University charges other individuals for damages beyond reasonable wear and tear. The owner's living accommodations may also be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests if necessary 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 using approved target pest control methods by a University-approved pest control service. The owner will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in the residence halls. The University shall have the right to bill the owner's account for unmet obligations under this provision.
    • The owner must fully cooperate with University personnel with regard to meeting the terms of this Policy and developing procedures for care of the animal (e.g., cleaning the animal, feeding/watering the animal, designating an outdoor relief area, disposing of feces, etc.).
    • ESA’s may not be left overnight in University Housing to be cared for by any individual other than the owner. If the owner is to be absent from his/her residence hall overnight or longer, the animal must accompany the owner. The owner is responsible for ensuring that the ESA is contained, as appropriate, when the owner is not present during the day while attending classes or other activities.
    • The owner agrees to abide by all equally applicable residential policies that are unrelated to the individual's disability such as ensuring that the animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for individuals who reside there.
    • The animal is allowed in University housing only as long as it is necessary because of the owner's disability. The owner must notify the Disability Resource Center 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 owner's disability and the owner must follow the procedures in this Policy and the Reasonable Accommodation Policy when requesting a different animal.
    • WIU personnel shall not be required to provide care or food for any ESA including, but not limited to, removing the animal during emergency evacuation for events such as a fire alarm. Emergency personnel will determine whether to remove the animal and may not be held responsible for the care, damage to, or loss of the animal.
  7. Removal of Emotional Support Animal
    The University may require the individual to remove the animal from University 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 owner does not comply with the owner's Responsibilities set forth above; or
    4. The animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the University community.
    5. The animal’s living conditions are not conducive to a healthy living environment for the animal, as supported by documentation.
    6. If an animal is found running unrestrained at large, the University retains the right to capture and confine the animal.
    The University will base such determinations upon the consideration of the behavior of the particular animal at issue and not on speculation or fear about the harm or damage an animal may cause. Any animal removal will be done in consultation with the Director of the Disability Resource Center and may be appealed to the Associate Vice President of Student Services. The owner will be afforded all due process rights and appeal as outlined in that process.

    Should the ESA be removed from the premises for any reason, the owner is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.

    Once an animal is removed from university housing, they are not permitted to live on campus again.
  8. Non-retaliation Provision
    WIU will not retaliate against any person because that individual has requested or received a reasonable accommodation in University Housing, including a request for an ESA.