Resources

Service and Assistance Animals

Service animals

Service animals are welcome in all areas on campus where the public, participants in services, programs or activities of the University, and invitees of the University are normally allowed to go. They may attend any class, meeting, or other event with the individual with the disability. 

A service animal is defined as a dog (and, under limited circumstances1, 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. 

Responsibilities of the Individual with a Disability Using a Service Animal

Federal law does not require the 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 ask 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.  

1Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. There are four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facilities: (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner's control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse's type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse's presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

Assistance animals

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.

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, which may include animals that are trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, as well as animals needed for emotional support within a housing setting.

It is permissible for the University to inquire if the owner of the 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 the Individual with Disability Using an Assistance Animal

Assistance 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.

Where it is not readily apparent that an animal is a service or assistance animal, the matter should be referred to the DRC if the person with a disability is a student.  NIU, through the DRC, may require that documentation be provided by an appropriate and reliable healthcare provider (e.g. physician or mental health provider) to determine: (a) that the individual has a disability for which the animal is needed; (b) how the animal assists the individual; and (c) the relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides. The DRC will determine, on an individualized case by case basis, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, whether the animal is a reasonable accommodation.

Cleanliness is mandatory for service and assistance animals. Daily grooming and occasional baths (at a vet or a family home) should keep odor to a minimum. Flea and other infestation control is essential. If a flea or infestation problem develops, it should be dealt with immediately and in an effective manner, which may include, but is not limited to, regular cleaning of yourself and your animal with appropriate treatment for the respective flea or infestation problem.  Students who discover a flea or infestation problem are expected to notify University officials immediately. Failure to respond could result in removal of the service or assistance animal. Consideration of others must be taken into account when providing maintenance and hygiene of service and assistance animals.