Stanislaus State is also committed to allowing Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) necessary to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing. This information applies solely to ESAs, which may be necessary in University housing. It does not apply to service animals as defined by the ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act).

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) comfort owners with mental health issues. They are not pets. They are part of an individual’s mental health treatment plan. ESAs can be any animal and are not trained to perform specific tasks directly related to an individual’s disability. Instead, ESAs provide necessary emotional support to an individual with a disability but are not considered a Service Animal. However, under the federal Fair Housing Act, students may request that an ESA reside with them in University Housing. ESAs, unlike service animals, generally may not accompany a person with disabilities to all public areas on campus. Per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.” Notice: FHEO-2020-01 Issued: January 28, 2020.

Assistance animals are not pets. They are animals that do work, perform tasks, assist, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.

There are two types of assistance animals: (1) service animals, and (2) other animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities (referred to in this guidance as a “support animal”).

An animal that does not qualify as a service animal or other type of assistance animal is a pet for purposes of the FHA and may be treated as a pet for purposes of the lease and the housing provider’s rules and policies.

Determination of an Assistance Animal

The question in determining if an Assistance Animal will be allowed in University housing is whether the ESA is necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing and the animal’s presence in University housing is reasonable. ESAs are not permitted in other areas of the University (e.g., dining facilities, academic buildings, athletic buildings, facilities, classrooms, labs, etc.). Please note the animal should not be in residence unless/until the request is approved. The approval of a request is animal-specific and is not transferable to a different animal.

Required Documentation

Students seeking approval for a support animal in Housing and Residential Life must apply or services with DRS. You can submit our online application for services or you can submit a print application.

Part of that application includes obtaining documentation from a licensed physician or mental health provider, including, without limitation, a qualified psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professionals to provide information for the University to determine whether:

  1. The individual qualifies as a person with a disability (i.e., has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities); and
  2. The support animal is necessary to afford the person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy Housing and Residential Life (i.e., that the animal would provide emotional support or other assistance or would ameliorate one or more symptoms or effects of the disability).

By having your mental health clinician complete our Emotional Support Animal Clinician Information Request, we should have all the information needed to determine your animal is an ESA, not a pet. It is important that you have your clinician fill out the form as completely as possible with all of the requested detail. Failure to provide sufficient information may result in your request being denied. Instead of submitting our Clinician Information Request form, your mental health clinician can submit a letter on their letterhead as long as it provides all of the information we request in our form. If you or your clinician have questions about the form, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

The final document will give us information on the animal you wish to bring to campus. Completing our Student ESA Questionnaire will help us learn more about your ESA.

Once you've submitted all of the documentation, we will contact you to meet in an interactive process to discuss your request. 

Therapeutic Relationship and Documentation from the Internet

Disability Resource Services will base the reasonableness of the therapeutic relationship as described by The American Counseling Associations Code of Ethics C.2.a Boundaries of Competence and the Human-Animal Interactions in Counseling (herein referred to as HAIC) statement regarding Assistance Animals (valid through March 2024). Specifically, HAIC states that:

“…counselors abstain from writing letters for persons seeking counseling or assessment for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA recommendation letter unless the counselor has specialized training and experience in working with the human-animal bond in counseling such as would be outlined in the ACA AAT-C Competencies, due to the potential risks involved for clients, the public, the counselor, and the animal.”

 Generally, mental health care professionals with no contact with a patient except for limited encounters specifically intended to produce an ESA letter are not considered reliable. To confirm the professional-client relationship, as such limited encounters lack diagnostic rigor and the level of familiarity with the functional limitations arising from the diagnosis to support strong recommendations.

DRS also follows the guidance the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides, “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.” Notice: FHEO-2020-01 Issued: January 28, 2020.

Documentation from the Internet

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. Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider may request reliable documentation when an individual requesting a reasonable accommodation has a disability and disability-related need for an accommodation that are not obvious or otherwise known. 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.

Specific Responsibilities Of Support Animal Handlers

The handler must be in full control of the animal at all times. The animal’s care and supervision are solely the handler’s responsibility. An animal shall be under the handler’s control using a harness, leash, or other tethers, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tethers, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tethers would interfere with a service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).

Handlers are responsible for knowing Turlock City and Stanislaus County codes which require immunization and licensing.

The handler must maintain appropriate hygiene and cleanliness of their animal to control odor, shedding, and fleas. The handler must immediately remove and properly dispose of fecal matter. If the individual cannot perform the task due to the disability, it is their responsibility to arrange for removal and disposal.

The handler of an animal is expected to ensure that the animal shows appropriate behavior, including full socialization, good temperament, and no barking or disruptive noises or behavior.

Legal grounds for removal of animals exist if: 1) a handler fails to maintain effective control or 2) an animal is not housebroken. An animal may be requested to leave a facility or program if the animal’s behavior or presence poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, is unruly or disruptive, or if hygiene/cleanliness standards are not followed. Animals may be excluded in areas where the presence of a service animal fundamentally alters the nature of a program or activity or is disruptive or unsafe.

Examples may include specific research labs, non-residential food preparation areas, mechanical, utility, or custodial closets, areas with moving machinery or floors with sharp objects, or extreme temperatures.

Emergency response teams will try to keep the animal with its handler in an emergency. However, it may be necessary to leave an animal behind in certain emergency evacuation situations as determined by emergency personnel.


If you have questions or need additional information regarding ESAs, please contact DRS at or (209) 667-3159.

Updated: August 15, 2023