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Service and assistance animals

NIU, through the DRC, may require documentation provided by an appropriate and reliable healthcare provider (e.g., physician or mental health provider) to determine:

  • that the individual has a disability for which the animal is needed
  • how the animal assists the individual and
  • the relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides

The DRC will determine, on a case by case basis, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, whether the animal is a reasonable accommodation.

Animals whose behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others, would pose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the University’s operations may be excluded regardless of training, documentation, or certification.

Service animals

A service animal is defined as a dog (and, under limited circumstances, a miniature horse) that is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. The work a service animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Federal law does not require an individual to provide documentation that a service animal has been trained as a service animal. NIU may ask if the service animal is required because of a disability, as well as what work or tasks the animal has been trained to perform.

Service animals whose behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or is disruptive to the campus community may be excluded regardless of training, documentation or certification. Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support, or to act as a crime deterrent, do not qualify as service animals.

Assistance animals

Assistance animals are defined as an animal that may be necessary and otherwise reasonable to provide an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling as well as animals needed for emotional support within a housing setting.

Assistance animals are welcome for an individual with a disability as a housing accommodation, but are not allowed broadly on campus nor allowed to attend classes, meetings or other events with the individual with the disability.

NIU can inquire if the owner of an assistance animal has a disability, if the assistance animal is necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and engage with a residential dwelling and if there is an identifiable relationship between the disability and the assistance the animal provides.

Responsibilities of animal owners

The cost of care, food, arrangements, supervision and maintenance of a service or assistance animal are the sole responsibility of the owner at all times.

Service and assistance animals on campus must:

  • Meet all requirements for the presence of animals in public places (vaccinations, licensure, ID tags, etc.) mandated by state or local ordinances.
  • Be clean. Daily grooming and occasional baths (at a vet or a family home) are recommended. Flea and other infestation control is essential. If a flea or infestation problem develops, deal with it immediately including, but not limited to, cleaning yourself and your animal with appropriate treatment for problem. Students who discover a flea or infestation problem are expected to notify University officials immediately. Failure to correct the problem could result in removal of the animal.
  • Be in good health. Animals housed in University housing must have an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian.
  • Be under control. You must be in full control of your animal at all times. This may include the use of a harness, leash or tether, unless these devices interfere with the animal’s work or your disability prevents using them. If your dog exhibits unacceptable behavior, you are expected to employ the proper training techniques to correct the situation, which may include voice, signal or other effective controls.
  • Not cause damage to the campus. You are financially responsible for any property damage caused by the animal while on campus.
  • Defecate in appropriate places. Take your animal to the marked toileting areas for animals, when provided, clean up waste and immediately place it in the appropriate trash receptacle.
  • Not cause undue financial burdens upon the University. All functions of animal use, including training or re-training, travel, animal food purchasing, maintenance, grooming and veterinarian care are your responsibility.

Service and assistance animals in University housing and dining centers

You must make the request for appropriate housing accommodations for you and your animal.

Animals must always be kept on a leash or halter except in your own room with the door shut.

  • Vocalizations or noises from your animal must be kept to a minimum.
  • Do not bathe your animal in the shower rooms, bathtubs or sinks in the residence halls.
  • Wash food dishes only in the large sink on each floor.
  • Keep animal food in a covered container.
  • In dining centers, animals must: 
    • Remain quietly by the student’s chair or under the table out of the way of others.
    • Not disturb others at the table in any way, including other animals.
    • Keep their noses and all body parts off tables, trays and food-servicing counters at all times.
    • Stay out of food preparation areas.

Removal of service and assistance animals

If your animal is out of control or not housebroken, you may be asked to remove the animal from University facilities.

If an improper behavior happens repeatedly, you may be told not to bring the animal into any University facility until you have taken significant steps to mitigate the behavior. Mitigation can include muzzling or refresher training for both you and your animal. If a service or assistance animal is removed from University facilities, you must still be provided the opportunity to participate in the services, programs and activities without having the animal on the premises.

Service and assistance animals that are ill should not be taken into public areas. If your animal is ill you may be asked to leave University facilities.

If your animal is unclean or noisy, you may be asked to leave University facilities.

If your animal is usually well-groomed, the University may consider an animal that appears messy due to environmental conditions (rain, snow, sleet, mud, etc.) well-groomed until you are able to groom the animal appropriately (give it a bath, brushing, towel dry, etc.).

Grievances and/or Complaints

If you are dissatisfied with a decision made concerning your service or assistance animal, follow the applicable institutional Appeal/Grievance Procedure. Individuals who have a complaint regarding a service or assistance animal in Housing and Residential Services or Campus Dining Services should direct those to Housing and Dining staff.