Emotional Support Animal Policy
North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) recognizes the importance of “Service Animals” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), and of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), supported by the Fair Housing Act. The college is committed to allowing individuals with disabilities the use of a Service Animal on campus to facilitate their full participation and equal access to the College’s programs and activities.
NIACC is committed to allowing ESAs necessary to provide students with significant mental health disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy NIACC Housing. This policy explains the specific requirements applicable for use of an ESA in NIACC Housing. NIACC reserves the right to amend this policy as circumstances require. This policy applies solely to ESAs which may be necessary in NIACC Housing. It does not apply to service animals as defined by the ADAAA, and whose presence on campus is explained in the NIACC’s Service Animal Policy.
Although, it is the policy of NIACC that individuals are generally prohibited from having animals of any type in NIACC Housing, NIACC will consider a request by an individual with a disability for reasonable accommodation from this prohibition to allow an ESA that is reasonable and necessary because of a mental health disability. However, no ESA may be kept in College housing at any time prior to the individual receiving approval as a reasonable accommodation pursuant to this Policy. Any requests for animals in residence for individuals with disabilities that are neither service animals nor ESAs should be directed to the Disability Services Office for review on a case-by-case basis. NIACC will not ask for or require a student to pay a deposit or surcharge for an approved ESA.
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that provides therapeutic emotional support for an individual with a diagnosed mental health disability. Unlike service animals that are trained to perform specific tasks that are important to the independence or safety of their disabled handler, ESAs are generally not trained to perform disability-specific tasks. Their therapeutic support is a function of their presence and interaction with the person with a disability. ESAs are not pets, but they typically are animals commonly kept in households as pets. An ESA may be a dog (most common), cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure. Generally, a dog must be at least 9 months of age to live on campus to assure that the dog is reliably housebroken, not disruptive to other residents, and has all of the shots necessary to make it safe to be around humans and other animals (that may be in residence).
Under guidelines from HUD, reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals. Exceptions to these guidelines regarding animals serving as ESAs will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The question in determining if an ESA will be allowed in NIACC Housing is whether or not the ESA is necessary, because of the individual’s disability, to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy NIACC Housing, and its presence in NIACC Housing is reasonable. However, even if the individual with a disability establishes necessity for an ESA and it is allowed in College housing, an ESA is not permitted in other areas of the College (e.g. dining facilities, libraries, academic buildings, athletic buildings and facilities, classrooms, labs, individual centers, etc.).
Criteria for Determining If Presence of the ESA is Reasonable
- NIACC Housing is unique in several aspects including the mandatory assignment of roommates for many individuals and the mandate that individuals must share a room or suite in certain residence halls. To ensure that the presence of an ESA is not an undue administrative burden or fundamental alteration of NIACC Housing, NIACC reserves the right to assign an individual with an ESA to a single room without a roommate. Additionally, if roommates/suitemates have objections to sharing their living quarters with the ESA, alternative living arrangements may be necessary. Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
- Students should consult with NIACC Disability Services in making a determination on a case-by-case basis of whether the presence of an ESA is reasonable. A request for an ESA may be denied as unreasonable if the presence of the animal: (1) imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden; (2) fundamentally alters NIACC housing policies; (3) poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others; and/or (4) would cause substantial property damage to the property of others, including NIACC property.
- Here’s an ESA Provider Form that you can sign so that NIACC Disability Services can send it to your mental health provider to assist in obtaining helpful information in determining need for the ESA.
- NIACC may consider the following factors, among others, as evidence in determining whether the presence of the animal is reasonable or in the making of housing assignments for individuals with ESAs, including, but not limited to:
- The space available is insufficient to house the necessary cage/crate to hold the animal;
- The animal’s presence would force another individual from individual housing (e.g. serious allergies);
- The animal’s presence otherwise violates individuals’ right to peace and quiet enjoyment;
- The animal is not housebroken or is unable to live with others in a reasonable manner;
- The animal does not meet city, county, and/or state ordinances;
- The animal poses or has posed in the past a direct threat to the safety or health of an individual or others such as aggressive behavior towards or injuring an individual or others; or potential transmission of zoonotic diseases exist that cannot be effectively mediated;
- The animal causes or has caused excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear.
- NIACC believes that NIACC Housing is not an appropriate setting to raise a young puppy/kitten. Generally, dogs must be at least 10 months of age and cats six months of age, be spayed or neutered, before being allowed to live in-residence.
- Generally, only one ESA is allowed per residence unit and one ESA will be approved for a student, in order to fulfill the intent of the FHA requirement.
General Use Guidelines
A. Living Space
An ESA must be contained within the Owner’s privately assigned individual living accommodations (e.g., room, suite, or apartment) except to the extent the individual is taking the animal out for natural relief. When an ESA is outside the private individual living accommodations, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness.
B. Dominion and Control
Notwithstanding the restrictions set forth herein, the ESA must be properly housed and restrained or otherwise under the dominion and control of the Owner at all times. No Owner shall permit the animal to go loose or run at large. If an animal is found running at large, the animal is subject to capture and confinement and immediate removal from NIACC Housing.
C. Owner’s Responsibilities
If NIACC grants an Owner’s request to live with an ESA, the Owner is solely responsible for the custody and care of the ESA and must meet the following requirements:
- The Owner must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. It is the Owner’s responsibility to know and understand these ordinances, laws, and regulations. The College has the right to require documentation of compliance with such ordinances, laws, and/or regulations, which may include a vaccination certificate.
- The Owner is responsible for cleaning up the animal’s waste and fluids and disposing of such in outside trash containers only. Waste disposal via NIACC plumbing is prohibited. The Owner should always carry equipment sufficient to clean up and properly dispose of the animal’s waste and fluids. Owners who are not physically able to pick up and dispose of the animal’s waste and fluids are responsible for making all necessary arrangements for assistance. The College is not responsible for these services. Additionally, the animal is not to be bathed or its cage/crate, or bedding cleaned using NIACC Housing or NIACC facilities.
- The Owner is required to ensure the animal is well cared for at all times. Any evidence of mistreatment or abuse may result in immediate removal of the ESA and/or discipline for the responsible individual.
- The Owner may be charged for any damage caused by the ESA beyond reasonable wear and tear to the same extent it charges other individuals for damages beyond reasonable wear and tear. The Owner’s living accommodations may also be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests as necessary. If fleas, ticks or other pests are detected through inspection, the residence will be treated using approved fumigation methods by a NIACC-approved pest control service. The Owner will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in NIACC Housing. The College shall have the right to bill the Owner’s account for unmet obligations under this provision.
- The Owner must fully cooperate with College personnel with regard to meeting the terms of this policy and procedures related to the care of the animal (e.g., cleaning the animal, feeding/watering the animal, designating an outdoor relief area, disposing of waste/fluids, etc.).
- ESAs may not be left overnight in NIACC Housing to be cared for by any individual other than the Owner. If the Owner is to be absent overnight or longer, the animal must accompany the Owner off campus. If you believe an exception to this should be made, Owner must contact NIACC Disability Service to discuss this. The Owner is responsible for ensuring the ESA is contained (caged or crated), as appropriate, when the Owner is not present while attending classes or other activities. The College reserves the right to inspect the enclosure used in containing the animal.
- The Owner agrees to abide by all equally applicable residential policies that are unrelated to the individual’s disability such as assuring the animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for individuals who reside there.
- The animal is allowed in NIACC Housing only as long as it is necessary because of the Owner’s approved accommodation.
- To replace an approved ESA, a new Housing Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal Agreement Form must be completed.
- NIACC personnel shall not be required to provide care or food for any ESA including, but not limited to, removing the animal during emergency evacuation for events such as a fire alarm. Emergency personnel will determine whether to remove the animal and may not be held responsible for the care, damage to, or loss of the animal.
- The Owner must provide the name and contact information for someone who does not reside in NIACC Housing and who can take responsibility for the animal within 6 hours should the Owner be unable or unavailable to care for it.
- The individual acknowledges information may be shared to those individuals who may be impacted by the presence of the animal including, but not limited to, NIACC Student Housing personnel and potential and/or actual roommate(s)/neighbor(s). Such information shall be limited to information related to the animal and shall not include information related to the individual’s disability.
- The Owner is responsible for instructing others on appropriate interactions with the animal and setting clear expectations.
The College may require the Owner to remove the animal from NIACC Housing in the time frame determined by College Personnel if:
- the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others;
- the animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of a College program;
- the Owner does not comply with the Owner’s responsibilities set forth above; or
- the animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the College community.
NIACC will base such determinations upon the consideration of the behavior of the particular animal at issue, and not on speculation or fear about the harm or damages an animal may cause. Any removal of the animal will be done in consultation with NIACC Disability Services.
Appeals/complaints arising under this policy shall be handled under the provisions of NIACC’s Grievance Procedure. The Owner will be afforded all rights of due process and appeal as outlined in that process. If the ESA is excluded from NIACC Housing, the animal must remain off campus during any appeals process.
Should the ESA be removed from the premises for any reason, the Owner is expected to fulfill all housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.
If it is determined that the animal must be removed from College Housing and the student fails to comply with the stated timeframe, the College may have the animal removed to the nearest, appropriate animal shelter, at the Owner’s expense. Additionally, failure to comply with the order for removal may result in disciplinary action.
Procedures for Requesting ESAs in NIACC Housing
A student with a significant mental health disability who wishes to request an emotional support animal in NIACC Housing can do so at any time and must contact Disability Services at (641) 422-4296 or email@example.com. It’s recommended to submit the request at least 60 days in advance of the semester for which an ESA is requested so that appropriate arrangements regarding accommodation determination, placement, roommates, etc. can be made. If requests are made without the 60 day notice, they will be considered and a determination made as quickly as possible. NIACC Disability Services may reevaluate the need for one’s ESA as necessary. Emotional Support Animals are subject to the College’s Housing Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal Agreement Form.
Mandatory Registration of Emotional Support Animals While on Campus
For those individuals who live in College Housing and have been approved to have an ESA live with them, registration of the animal is required with NIACC Disability Services. Registration is not available for visitors to campus.
Documentation of a significant mental health disability and the associated need for an ESA should come from a mental health provider with whom an established provider-patient relationship exists and knows and understands the difficulties and can explain how the presence of the animal may help to alleviate one’s symptomology. The mental health provider must complete the Provider ESA Form as part of the documentation requirements.
The College is concerned about the growing number of questionable website services that offer to “certify” an ESA or to create an ESA letter for a set price, based on nothing more than for example, answers to an online survey. There is no formal recognized certification of ESAs and such letters will rarely provide the information necessary to support a request for accommodation, and are not viewed by NIACC as a reliable source of information.