Assistance and Service Animals

SUNY Cortland enforces a no-pet policy in its residence halls and apartments.  Exceptions are made for service and assistance animals according to the guidelines outlined below. 

I.  Definitions 

Assistance Animals 

An assistance animal is an animal that may work, perform tasks, or provide assistance for an individual with a disability that alleviates symptoms of a person’s disability. An emotional support animal is one type of assistance animal. An assistance animal is not a pet or a trained service animal. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 protects the right of people with disabilities to keep assistance animals in university housing, even when there is a general “no pets allowed” policy. However, an assistance animal may not be permitted in other areas of the university.  

Service Animals 

A service animal is a dog trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability. Examples include guide dogs for people who are blind, hearing dogs for people who are deaf/hard of hearing, and service dogs for people with physical disabilities and seizure disorders.  Service dogs are not considered “pets” and are welcome on campus in areas open to the public. A service dog is generally permitted to be on university property in any place where the animal’s handler is permitted to be, although there may be specific locations and activities on university property where all animals are prohibited for safety and health reasons, such as research laboratories, food service preparation areas, and areas where there is a danger to the service dog. Exceptions to any such restricted areas may be granted on a case-by-case basis, as necessary. 

Students who wish to bring service dogs to campus are not required to request permission. Students are encouraged to connect with the Disability Resources Office in advance of the semester. This can help ensure appropriate on-campus housing and answer any questions. Service dogs must be in compliance with all state and local health and safety laws and regulations.

II. Considerations for Students Interested in an Assistance Animal 

If you are considering bringing an assistance animal to campus, you may wish to think through the following. 

  • Animals require time and attention. How might these responsibilities fit into your schedule? 
  • Do you have off-campus duties or the desire to spend time away from campus? If so, how will you be able to care for the animal during these times? 
  • Can you afford the cost of food, supplies, and veterinary visits? 
  • Do you have experience with this particular animal and/or species of animal so you know it will provide the assistance you need? 
  • Will the animal be safe and comfortable in your university housing environment? 
  • How will you care for the animal during school breaks or other times you may travel? 
  • If your animal is already part of your family or if you will be bringing a new animal to live with your family, have you talked it over with them? 
  • When is the best time to begin to rely on the assistance animal? 

III. Reasonable Accommodation Policy for Assistance Animals 

A student with a disability may not have an assistance animal on campus until they receive written approval. After receiving approval, the assistance animal may accompany a student everywhere within the student’s university housing facility that the student is allowed to go. The animal may not enter other rooms or buildings on campus unless a separate accommodation is granted allowing them to do so. 

  • Students should follow the instructions for requesting accessible campus housing from the Disability Resources Office.  
  • After a request is received, the Disability Resources Office will contact the student to schedule a meeting to discuss how the animal may provide the student with equal access to university housing.
  • The student will then be notified via email of the final decision, whether additional documentation is needed to support the request, or if any alternative accommodations are recommended.
  • Students have the right to appeal the decision following the procedures set forth in the Disability Resources Appeal and Grievance Procedures

IV. Criteria for Determining if Presence of the Assistance Animal is Reasonable 

  • Permission will be granted only as an accommodation for a disability and only when there is a direct connection between the individual’s disability and the assistance the animal provides. The student must demonstrate that the animal will afford them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy campus housing. 
  • SUNY Cortland may consider the following factors, among others, when determining whether the accommodation is reasonable: 
    • The size of the animal is too large for available housing space; 
    • The animal would force another individual from housing because of serious allergies or other reasons;
    • The animal disrupts peace and quiet; 
    • The animal is not housebroken or unable to live with others; 
    • The animal’s vaccinations are not up-to-date; 
    • The animal poses or has posed in the past a direct threat to the health and safety of others; 
    • The animal causes or has caused excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear; 
    • The animal imposes an undue burden on the university; 
    • The animal fundamentally alters university housing policies. 
  • SUNY Cortland reserves the right to assign an individual with an assistance animal to a single room without a roommate in some cases. 

V. Conflicting Disabilities 

Students with a health condition or disability that conflicts with or is adversely affected by exposure to an assistance or service animal should contact Disability Resources. The student may need to provide information to Disability Resources to determine if there is a need for an accommodation.  SUNY Cortland will consider the needs of all students involved when making a reasonable effort to resolve any conflicts that may arise.  

VI. Responsibilities of Owners of Assistance and Service Animals 

Individuals with disabilities are responsible for their animals at all times and must comply with the following: 

  • The owner must have completed all requirements and have received written authorization to have an animal in the residence hall room.  
  • The owner must supply all materials necessary for the care of the animal. 
  • The owner must follow all current local and state government ordinances pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. These may include: 
    • The City of Cortland requires all exotic pets to have a yearly permit. Exotic pets include iguanas, snakes, ferrets, rabbits, chickens, pot-bellied pigs and "pocket pets" (hamsters, gerbils, fancy mice, fancy rats, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, and hedgehogs). Check with a vet to see if your exotic pet needs to be immunized against rabies. New permit applications must be approved by Common Council and the fee is $5.00.  
    • The City of Cortland requires dogs to be registered with the County if they live in Cortland for longer than 4 months. 
  • The owner must be in full control of the animal at all times. When outside the student’s privately assigned room, the animal must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness. Assistance animals are not allowed inside any other university facilities other than the residence hall to which the individual is assigned. 
  • The animal shall not be left in the room overnight when the owner is not present. 
  • A crate must be available in the room for the animal should work need to be completed by maintenance staff. 
  • The owner must take responsibility for the behavior of the animal in private and public places, and for due care and diligence in the use of the animal on campus. 
  • The owner is responsible for any property damage caused to others or to SUNY Cortland by the animal. 
  • The owner must clean up after the animal, including the sanitary disposal of animal waste. Cat litter needs to be bagged and placed directly into the dumpster; it should be emptied on a regular basis. 
  • Use of the animal shall not constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others. 
  • The owner is responsible for the health and wellness of the animal.  
  • The owner is responsible for following residence hall noise guidelines, especially when leaving the animal alone. Excessive noise could be grounds to remove the animal from the residence hall. 
  • The residence may be inspected for fleas, ticks, or other pests once per semester or as needed. The Residence Life and Housing Office will schedule the inspection. If fleas, ticks or other pests are detected through inspection, the residence will be treated using approved fumigation methods by a college-approved pest control service. The owner will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment. Repeat instances of fumigation being required could be grounds to remove the animal from the residence hall. 
  • To replace an assistance animal, the new animal must be necessary because of the owner’s disability and the owner must follow the procedures in this policy when requesting a different animal. 

VII. Removal or Exclusion of Animals 

The university may require the individual to remove an assistance or service animal from university property if the owner does not comply with the responsibilities outlined above. An animal may be removed if it is unclean, unhealthy, or is being mistreated. Any removal of the animal will be done in consultation with the Disability Resources Office and may be appealed following the procedures set forth in the Disability Resources Appeal and Grievance Procedures. Should the animal be removed from campus, the owner is expected to fulfill their housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract. 

Service animals may be excluded from a university program if its presence would fundamentally alter a program or activity. In such situations, the university will work with the student to determine reasonable alternative ways they may participate in the program. Such decisions will be made by an ad hoc committee of knowledgeable participants chaired by the Disability Resources Office. 

VIII. Conflicting Disabilities or Health Conditions 

Students with a health condition or disability that conflicts with or is adversely affected by an assistance or service animal should contact the Disability Resources Office to resolve the matter. The student may be asked to document the impacts of their condition so Disability Resources can determine if there is a need for an accommodation. SUNY Cortland will make a reasonable effort to resolve any conflicts that arise by considering the needs of all students involved.