Emotional Support and Service Animals

Service Animals

A Service Animal is a dog that is individually trained to perform work or tasks for a disabled person. The work or task must be directly related to the person’s disability, such as guiding a person with impaired vision or alerting a person with impaired hearing.

Subject to the provisions of this Policy, the College accommodates service animals in connection with all College facilities, programs, and activities.

The person who requires the assistance of a service animal is responsible for keeping the animal harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times unless these devices interfere with the animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents using these devices, in which case the person must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

A person wishing to live with a service animal in College housing should inform the Office of Accessible Education so that appropriate arrangements can be made and so that the expectations for the appropriate care and behavior of the animal living on campus can be discussed.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability and is necessary to afford the person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy College housing.

ESAs are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but may nevertheless qualify as reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Additionally, ESAs are not pets, but are instead an integral part of an individual’s treatment for a mental health or psychiatric disability and are prescribed by the individual’s healthcare provider.

A person wishing to bring their ESA into College housing must request this as an accommodation at least 30 days in advance. Student requests are made to the Director of Accessible Education (please email for an appointment to begin the process). Faculty requests are made to the Dean of the Faculty. Documentation from a licensed mental health professional with direct knowledge of the person’s disability, the manner in which the animal alleviates one or more symptoms of the disability, and the necessity of the animal in order for the individual to use College housing is required as part of the request process.

Please note that the College does not allow ESAs anywhere other than the College housing that is occupied by that person.

Requirements for All Service and Emotional Support Animals

It is the owner’s/handler’s responsibility to ensure the safety of a service or emotional support animal. While legal access rights are afforded users of service and emotional support animals, with that comes the responsibility of ensuring that the animal behaves and responds appropriately in public and that the animal and the owner/handler adhere to the same socially-accepted standards as any individual in the College community.

The College need not accommodate a service animal or assistance animal if:

  • the handler cannot care for it;
  • the handler cannot effectively control it;
  • it is not housebroken;
  • it would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
  • it would cause substantial physical damage to the property of the College or others;
  • it would pose an undue financial and administrative burden on the College; OR
  • it would fundamentally alter the nature of the College’s operations.

The person who requires the service or emotional support animal is responsible for:

  • feeding and otherwise caring for the animal;
  • controlling the animal and ensuring that the animal’s behavior is appropriate;
  • properly disposing of the animal’s waste;
  • maintaining the animal’s health; and
  • keeping up to date with the animal’s immunizations/vaccinations.

The person who requires the service or emotional support animal is also responsible for any harm or damage that the animal causes to any person or property.

Restricted Areas

Williams College has designated specific areas as off-limits to all animals due to health and safety concerns. These areas include, but are not limited to, research laboratories, areas where protective clothing is necessary, mechanical rooms, custodial closets, and other areas where the animal’s presence would present a danger to the animal’s health or safety or the health or safety of others in the area. Any exceptions would have to be made on a case-by-case basis. If it is determined that an area is unsafe, reasonable accommodations will be provided to ensure equal access to the student.

Conflicting Disabilities

Williams College is aware that persons at the College may have a condition or disability that precipitates an allergic reaction to animals. Persons who have asthma/allergy/medical issues with the animal are to be directed to make their complaint to the Office of Accessible Education and Health Services. The person making the complaint must provide verifiable medical documentation to support their claim. Action will be taken to consider the needs of both persons to resolve the problem as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Public Behavior of the Animal

The health and safety of other students, faculty and staff may also be taken into consideration. For this reason, the service or assistance animal:

  • must not be allowed to act in a disruptive manner (sniffing people, store shelves, dining tables or the personal belongings of others, barking, initiating contact without the owner’s permission) or in an aggressive manner.
  • must remain close to and in the control of the owner/handler at all times while in public spaces.

Grievance Procedures

A person who is dissatisfied with a decision of the College concerning a service or emotional support animal should first discuss the concern with the Office of Accessible Education. If the matter is not resolved through this discussion, the person may take the grievance to the Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Group (DAAG), in accordance with the office’s Grievance Procedures.