Assistance Animals

Getting Started

Students should contact the DRC to schedule an 'Assistance Animal' consultation with a DRC coordinator. The necessary forms will be provided after the initial consultation.

UWSP staff receive regular updates and training regarding assistance animals. Policies, procedures and forms have been created in consultation with other UW campuses and the UW System Office of General Counsel.

Service Animals

Service animals are a type of assistance animal recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA, 2008). Service animals are dogs (or miniature horses) trained to carry out a specific task.

The ADA establishes broad public access rights for people with disabilities who use service animals. On UWSP's campuses in Stevens Point, Marshfield, and Wausau, that means service animals can go most anywhere that a person can go, including classrooms, administrative buildings, dining/food service locations, and libraries.

Students with service animals are advised to register with the DRC to facilitate access and communication to campus departments, including Residential Living.

​Service Animal Policy

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ESAs are a type of assistance animal recognized under the Fair Housing Act (1968). In United States v. University of Nebraska-Kearney (2015), the court found colleges and universities are "housing providers" covered by the Fair Housing Act and must have a process to consider disability-related exceptions to any policies prohibiting animals in university-operated housing.

Students living in UWSP residence halls who want to live with an animal must submit a request to the DRC to verify need.

A typical ESA request takes weeks for the University to assess documentation and consider placement options. First-year/new transfer students should initiate a request no later than July 1st to ensure a decision well before arriving on campus in August.

The animal is not allowed in housing until DRC communicates an official approval to the student and residence hall staff.

Verification of Need

Having a diagnosed psychological condition is not the sole criteria for the University to recognize an ESA. To be approved by the DRC, students and their care provider must specify the functional limitations of the condition and explain how residing with an animal is necessary to alleviate those limitations. This defined therapeutic benefit differentiates an ESA from a pet. Typically, this is the outcome of a significant psychotherapy relationship with a behavioral health practitioner that includes consideration of many treatment options. Many care providers will not engage in ESA verifications due to concerns about liability or professional ethics. Certificates or letters from online animal registries are typically not considered acceptable documentation.

Students and care providers should note that the University is responsible for determining what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. The role of a student's care provider is to describe how the condition manifests itself and how the requested accommodation is necessary to ensure access to university housing. If a care provider supports the student's desire to live with an animal but does not describe the impact on major life activities and how the animal/human relationship mitigates those symptoms it is likely the student's request will be returned for additional clarification or denied.

Students recognized with an ESA are generally allowed one animal. Requests for multiple animals are only granted in situations where student and care provider can specify how different animals achieve distinct symptom relief. The University is not legally required to accept multiple ESAs solely because the animal's well-being requires a companion animal. If a student will not separate "bonded" animals, the student can consider securing a different animal for the necessary support.


Animals that are generally considered acceptable in a wide variety of dwellings may not be considered safe in a communal living environment where residents interact more frequently in hallways, lounges, kitchenettes, restrooms, and similar common areas. Animals that are known carriers of disease (i.e. salmonella, zoonotic diseases) even when healthy, have an elevated risk of escape, or require equipment or supplies that are ill-suited for the size of a room or the communal living environment will not be allowed. DRC staff reserve the right to ask for additional animal health or veterinary records if standard vaccination or routine veterinary care is not applicable to the given animal. Cats and dogs must be licensed annually through the City of Stevens Point.


Students should fully understand expectations about residing with an animal on campus (if approved). Students need to:

  • Consider how the animal's age, temperament, and life experience will influence its behavior in the residence hall environment.
  • Assess their ability to care for, offer sufficient companionship to, and financially support an animal. The American Kennel Club estimates an average annual cost of $2,500 for a medium sized dog. Larger animals, and older animals, can require additional resources for food, supplies, and/or veterinary care.
  • Take their animal with them or make suitable care arrangements off campus for overnight departures.
  • Discuss with parents/family members about where the animal can reside over breaks and if/when halls are closed. Students who have surrendered or abandoned animals are unlikely to be considered for future animal requests.
  • Establish a plan in case they become unable to care for the animal. If the student's emergency contact is not able to arrive in a timely manner UWSP will turn the animal over to police and the Portage County Humane Society. Animal owners must pay any boarding fees before the animal is released from the shelter.