ACCESS ADVOCATES - Animals on Campus

Service Dog

In partnership with faculty and staff across campus, the Office of Disability Services is excited to kick off their monthly Access Advocates feature. This month, Residence Life helps us understand why it may seem like you are seeing more animals in classrooms and residence halls.

If there is a topic you would like us to address in the future – or, if you would like to write an article for us - please contact us at

Animals on Campus - Understanding Why They're Here

It seems like there are more animals on campus; what’s going on?

Students are bringing service animals and emotional support animals with them to campus at an increasing rate. In an effort to maintain an inclusive and accessible campus environment, Rutgers University is committed to accommodating students’ documented needs related to their service animals and support animals.

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. A service animal’s duties may include guiding a person who is blind, calming a veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or retrieving items for an individual with a mobility impairment. A service animal is considered a working animal, rather than a pet.

An emotional support animal (ESA) is different from a service animal. An ESA provides support and comfort to individuals with a documented disability that would require such support. ESAs are not required to go through training and are not limited to dogs; in fact, many students may have cats or other small animals on campus with them as their ESA.

You may also notice students affiliated with campus organizations such as the Companion Animal Club and the Seeing-Eye Puppy Club who are handling animals on campus. These students partner with outside organizations to foster, handle, and train animals to be placed in permanent homes as service animals for people with disabilities.

Where are service animals and emotional support animals permitted on campus?

Service animals can accompany their handlers in any area where the public is normally allowed to go. This includes residence halls, classrooms, student centers, libraries, dining halls, etc.

Emotional support animals are permitted only in the student’s assigned living space. Emotional support animals are not permitted in public spaces such as classrooms, student centers, dining halls, or libraries.

Animals affiliated with the Companion Animal Club and the Seeing-Eye Puppy Club are permitted in most public spaces as well, but students must ask for their professor’s permission before bringing the animal to class.

All animals, regardless of whether they are service animals, ESAs, or service animals-in-training, are required to be leashed when in public spaces.

How can I identify whether an animal is a service animal or an emotional support animal?

Service animals and ESAs are not required to wear a special harness or garment that identifies them as a service or support animal. When in doubt, faculty and staff members may ask a student only two questions about the animal:

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Faculty and staff cannot inquire about the person’s disability, request medical documentation or training documentation, or request to see the dog demonstrate its ability to perform a specific task. If a faculty/staff member still has a concern after asking the two questions above, they may contact the Office of Disability Services or Residence Life – Student Support for additional guidance.

For more information:

Contributed by:

Justin Kelley, Assistant Director of Residence Life for Student Support

Kimberly Kosinski, Residential Care Coordinator for Accommodations and Special Populations


NOTE: In response to questions we have received on this article, please see our Animals on Campus FAQs page.