What is an Emotional Support Animal, or a “Comfort Animal”?
Emotional Support Animal (or “Comfort Animal”) means an animal selected or prescribed to an individual with a disability by a healthcare or mental health professional to play a significant part in a person’s treatment process, e.g., in alleviating the symptoms of that individual’s disability. An emotional support animal does not assist a person with a disability with activities of daily living, and does not accompany a person with a disability at all times. An emotional support animal is not a “Service Animal.”
An Emotional Support Animal may not reside in College housing without the approval of relevant College officials.
Process of Obtaining Approval
- The owner must request permission to have an emotional support animal in their on-campus housing.
- The owner is required to provide appropriate documentation to the Office of Accessibility Services on or before the College Housing Application Deadline.
- Documentation includes a signed letter, on professional letterhead, from the student’s physical or mental healthcare provider or licensed therapist and should state:
- The provider’s diagnosis of the person’s condition.
- A clear description of the current impact and functional limitations resulting from the diagnosis/disability.
- The provider’s confirmation that the Emotional Support Animal has been prescribed for treatment purposes and is necessary to help alleviate symptoms associated with the student’s condition and/or to help the student use and enjoy college housing services.
- Any additional rationale or statement the College may reasonably need to understand the basis for the professional opinion.
- The student and the physical/mental healthcare provider or licensed therapist must also complete a Mental Health Disability Verification Form OR the Health-Based Disability Verification Form.
- If approved, the student will meet with the Office of Residence Life for further instructions as how to proceed in bringing their animal on campus. The student will be required to submit two forms to the Office of Residence Life:
- The “Service/Emotional Support/Comfort Animal Procedures” will be carefully reviewed with the student.
- The willingness of roommates to share their housing with an animal and the effect of persons with allergies to animal hair or dander will be considered. Depending on considerations, an alternative housing assignment may be considered. Roommates will need to sign the Roommate Agreement Form to indicate that they have agreed to live with an animal.
Responsibilities of Owners
- Must ensure that the animal has annual veterinary visits.
- The animal must be under the control of the owner/handler at all times, and must be restrained by a leash or other appropriate device that does not exceed 6 feet in length.
- The animal must be licensed and fully inoculated in accordance with St. Mary’s County regulations, if such licensing is required by St. Mary’s County, with the burden of proving licensure and inoculation status on the owner.
- Must carry equipment to clean up feces while on College property. Feces must be cleaned up immediately and disposed of properly.
- The animal must wear a tag indicating that they are licensed in St. Mary’s County.
- Owners are solely responsible for arrangements for the care of the animal at all times. The owner may be required to leave College facilities or grounds when their animal is ill. Ill animals should not be taken into public areas.
- Must regularly bathe the animal to avoid significant odors, shedding and fleas. Owners with animals that are unclean or unkempt may be required to leave the College facilities/grounds.
- Will be held responsible for any damage or injuries caused by the animal to persons or property.
Responsibilities of Members of the College Community
- Must ask the owner before petting or playing with the animal.
- Get to know the animals in your community and their owners.
- Make sure the animal is well cared for.
- Must voice concerns to Residence Life if worried about the well-being of the animal.
- Must voice concerns to Residence Life if worried about the safety of yourself and those around you because of the animal.