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Animals on Campus

Swarthmore College welcomes animals that support students with disabilities on campus.  A Service Animal is defined differently than an Emotional Support Animal.  As such, there are different requirements and permissions for each type of animal on campus.


Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.”  This includes individuals with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities.  “The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to a person’s disability.”  

A student with a documented disability does not need an accommodation to have a service animal on campus, but they must notify Student Disability Services prior to bringing the animal on campus.  We will notify various campus community members (Public Safety, Swarthmore Dining, Environmental Services, libraries, residence life and the student’s faculty) of the animal’s permitted presence on campus.  Service animals are permitted anywhere on campus that students are permitted.  Students will be given a housing assignment that is appropriate for them and their dog.

The United States Department of Justice has created a helpful brief about service animals in public and private settings, which addresses some questions and concerns about what Federal law allows with regard to service animals.  Please visit the link at U.S. Department of Justice ADA Publication on Service Animals to learn more. 

5 Tips: When You Meet a Service Dog 

  1. Do not pet or interact with a service dog when it is wearing its harness.  If the dog is resting without its harness, ask the owner's permission before petting the dog and respect the person's decision if they say no.
  2. Do not let your pet near a service dog, even if your pet is leashed.  Allowing your pet to visit or "say hi," even for a moment, can cause the service dog to lose focus on the important job it has to do.
  3. For a blind traveler, do not shout directions, take the person by the arm, or interrupt them when they are crossing the street.  If you are concerned for their safety, ask them if they need help first.
  4. It's helpful to let a person who is blind know that you are nearby and tell them if you have a dog with you.
  5. Do not offer the service dog food or treats.  Remember... distracting a service dog can make its owner vulnerable to harm, so treat the dog as if it is not there.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals are not defined under the ADA, as these animals are not specifically trained to assist individuals with disabilities. However, students with certain disabilities may find their symptoms mitigated by the comfort and companionship of an animal.  Emotional Support Animals are only permitted on campus with a formal accommodation from Student Disability Services. Students who wish to request this housing accommodation must go through the accommodations process.  

If approved for an Emotional Support Animal accommodation, students will be given a housing assignment that is appropriate for them and their animal.  In some cases, that might necessitate changing the student’s housing assignment.  Such housing assignments or changes will be made based on room availability at the time of approval.  If an appropriate dorm room is not available, the student will not be permitted to bring their animal on campus until a room becomes available.  Prior to bringing the animal to campus, the student must complete and submit the following information to Student Disability Services:

  • Emotional Support/Assistance Animal Agreement (provided to students upon approval of the accommodation)
  • Veterinary documentation and state animal license, as appropriate
  • ESA Information and Care Sheet (for emergency care of the animal in the event of the student’s unforeseen ability to provide care)

Emotional Support Animals are only permitted in the student’s assigned dorm room.  Emotional Support Animals are not permitted in other students’ rooms, in common areas of the student’s dorm or in other campus buildings.