Emotional Support Animals in University Housing

Penn State Housing and Food Services provides reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability who has a verifiable need of having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in University housing. A reasonable accommodation is an exception to the University’s rules, policies, practices, or services that a student with a disability may need to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing.

This process is for a student to request an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), and NOT a Service Animal.
What is the difference?

  • Service Animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a people with disabilities. These tasks can include things like pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person who is visually impaired, or alerting a person who is having a seizure. The tasks a service dog can perform are not limited to this list. However, the work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person's disability. Service dogs may accompany persons with disabilities into places that the public normally goes. The Service Animal in University Housing (PDF file) should be used to request a Service Animal.
  • Emotional Support Animals (ESA) is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other animals) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments. The animal is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who has emotional disabilities. Unlike a Service Animal, an ESA is not automatically granted access to places of public accommodation, including areas where residents are normally permitted to go (example, commons areas, student lounges, laundry facilities, dining halls). An ESA is not permitted in other areas of the University without prior approval through the reasonable accommodation process administered through Student Disability Resources (SDR).


A student with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation related to housing must have accepted a Housing and Food Service (HFS) Contract. Documentation received for a student who does not have a HFS Contract will not be processed. Learn more about the HFS Contract process


To request a reasonable accommodation for an ESA, the student must have a qualified third-party (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical licensed social worker) who is personally treating the student complete the Emotional Support Animal in University Housing form (PDF file)


The student should submit Emotional Support Animal in University Housing form (PDF file) on or before the following dates for the appropriate semester that the student will first move into on-campus housing. Documentation may be submitted at any time, but after the deadline dates, the University may not be able to take into account a student's preference for assignment (such as area or roommate).

Summer Session June 1
Fall Semester June 15
Spring Semester December 1

To make a reasonable accommodation for the student’s need, there may be certain situations where housing preferences (such as area or roommate requests) cannot be honored. If a student submits documentation after the dates indicated above, the student will be assigned to an appropriate room assignment as quickly as possible, when acceptable space can be determined. If a student is offered a change to the housing environment, an additional cost may be associated with the resulting assignment or requests. Any reasonable accommodation is considered, but the student must support the accommodation request with a documented need linked to his or her disabling condition.

The reasonable accommodation takes effect once the determination is made, based on space available. Documentation cannot be submitted for a future semester without having the assignment for the current semester updated - once a determination is made, the student's room assignment will be updated immediately.


The student should call the Student Disability Resource (SDR) Office at the student's campus of attendance to discuss method to submit documentation and then schedule the intake appointment:

  • University ParkStudent Disability Resources, 116 Boucke Building. 814-863-1807
  • Commonwealth CampusesCampus Disability Coordinator
    • Abington 215-881-7962
    • Altoona 814-949-5540
    • Beaver 724-773-3867
    • Behrend 814-898-7101
    • Berks 610-396-6410
    • Brandywine 610-892-1461
    • Greater Allegheny 412-675-9454
    • Harrisburg 717-948-6025
    • Hazleton 570-450-3017
    • Mont Alto 717-749-6045


The student will be responsible for scheduling an intake appointment with an SDR staff member at the student's campus of attendance.

The information completed on the request form will be reviewed by SDR to determine:

  • That the student is a person with a documented disability;
  • The ESA being requested is necessary to afford the student, as a person with a disability, an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the on-campus housing facilities; and
  • That there is an identifiable relationship between the disability and the support that the ESA provides.


After the intake appointment is completed, the student will receive an email within 1-2 weeks after submission that will include the determination letter. The student will be informed if the ESA as an accommodation has been approved, if a change in room assignment is appropriate, any associated room rate charges if applicable, and other associated information. The determination will be applied immediately, and will stay active on the student's account as long as the student has a HFS Contract.

The University reserves the right to reassign the student to a space to accommodate the student and the ESA, if there is a potential impact on the student's roommate(s). This move will only accommodate the student, and not the roommate(s).

A student may submit an appeal to the determination within fifteen (15) days of receiving the letter by following the University’s Grievance Procedure.


If a student is approved to have an ESA in University housing, the student will be required to schedule a meeting with Housing and/or Residence Life staff to review the ESA Owner’s Responsibilities prior to the student bringing an ESA in to University Housing.

An ESA must be contained within the privately assigned student living accommodation (room, suite, or apartment), except to the extent the student is taking the animal out for natural relief. When an ESA is outside of the student’s private living accommodation, the animal must be either controlled by a leash or harness or contained in an animal carrier. An ESA is not automatically granted access to places of public accommodation, including areas where residents are normally permitted to go (example, commons areas, student lounges, laundry facilities, dining halls). An ESA is not permitted in other areas of the University without prior approval through the reasonable accommodation process administered through Student Disability Resources (SDR).

Student’s Responsibilities as the ESA Owner:

  • The student must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. The student must 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 or a veterinarian’s statement regarding the animal’s health. The University reserves the right to request documentation showing that the animal has been licensed.
  • The student is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the animal’s feces in a safe and sanitary manner. If the animal is a dog, the dog must be housebroken and kennel trained.
  • In the case of an emergency, the University is not responsible for evacuating the animal.
  • The University will not ask for or require a student with a disability to pay a surcharge or comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without animals.
  • The student is financially responsible for any and all actions of the animal, including but not limited to, bodily injury or property damage, such as furniture or floor coverings replacement. The student may be charged for any damage caused by the ESA that is beyond reasonable wear and tear. The student’s living accommodation must be kept clean with no odors from the ESA. The student’s living accommodation may be inspected for fleas, ticks, or other pests if necessary. If fleas, ticks, or other pests are detected through inspection, the living accommodation will be treated using approved fumigation methods by a University-approved pest control service. The student will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in University housing. The University shall have the right to bill the student’s account for unmet obligations under this provision.
  • The student is responsible for the appropriate management of the animal. Disruptive and/or aggressive behavior by the animal cannot be permitted, and if it occurs, the animal will need to be removed from University housing.
  • The ESA may not be left alone overnight in University housing to be cared for by another student. The ESA may not be housed in another student’s living accommodation. If the student is to be gone overnight or for a prolonged period, the ESA must accompany the student.
  • The student agrees to abide by all equally-applicable policies that are unrelated to the student’s disability such as assuring that the ESA does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for other students residing in University housing.
  • The ESA is permitted in University housing only as long as it is necessary due to the student’s disability. The student must notify the University, in writing, if the animal is no longer needed or is no longer in residence. To replace an animal, the student must submit a new request to demonstrate that the new animal is necessary due to the student’s disability.
  • If it is necessary for the animal to be removed from University housing premises, the student is obligated to fulfill the Housing and Food Service (HFS) Contract obligations for the remainder of the HFS Contract term.