Western Colorado University is committed to allowing people with disabilities the use of a Service or Emotional Support Animal, as necessary, on campus to facilitate their full participation in University programs and activities. Set forth below are specific requirements and guidelines concerning the appropriate use of and protocols associated with Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. Western Colorado University reserves the right to amend this policy as circumstances require.
Section I. Definitions
A Service Animal is “any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered a service animal for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the Handler’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low-vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort, emotional support, well-being, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for purposes of this definition.” Service Animals may travel freely with their Handler throughout University housing (and other areas of the University, see Section VII part G. of this document).
Emotional Support Animal
Emotional Support Animals are a category of trained or untrained animals that provide therapeutic emotional support to an individual with a disability but are not considered Service Animals under the ADAAA and Western’s Service Animal Policy. Some Emotional Support Animals are professionally trained, but in other cases Emotional Support Animals provide necessary support to individuals with disabilities without any formal training or certification. An Emotional Support Animal 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. All Emotional Support Animals be fully vaccinated and reliably housebroken. Emotional Support Animals must be contained within their privately assigned residential area (room, suite, apartment) at all times, except when transported outside the private residential area in an animal carrier or controlled by leash and harness. All areas except for privately assigned living space in housing are off limits to approved Emotional Support Animals without prior authorization from Disability Services, which includes all academic buildings, the University Center, all athletic facilities, and maintenance buildings. The term Emotional Support Animal will be referred to any animal not considered a Service Animal under the ADA.
A Partner/Handler/Owner is a person with a Service or Emotional Support Animal. (The term Handler will be used in this document to reflect any of these terms).
A pet is a domestic animal kept for pleasure or companionship. A pet is not considered a Service Animal or an Emotional Support Animal. Pets are not permitted on campus.
An approved animal is a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal that has been granted as a reasonable accommodation by Western Colorado University under this policy.
Section II. Procedures for Requesting to Have Support Animals in University Housing as a Reasonable Accommodation
Emotional Support Animals cannot be brought into University housing without approval of University officials. Western will approve only one Emotional Support Animal per student due to space limitations of residence halls and to ensure the safety and well-being of animals and students in residence. Failure to comply with this policy can result in a denial for a request for an Emotional Support Animal. Students are encouraged to ensure their proposed Emotional Support Animal meets policy before initiating a request to have an Emotional Support Animal in university housing to avoid the unnecessary costs and burden of boarding their proposed animal off-campus until the animal is approved. If the proposed support animal does not meet policy, it will not be approved. No exceptions will be granted to this policy.
The procedure for requesting Emotional Support Animals in University Housing are outlined below:
- A student requesting permission to keep an Emotional Support Animal in University Housing must make a formal request to the University’s Disability Services offices at least 63 days before housing for the animal is needed (no later than June 1st for the fall term and no later than Nov. 1st for the spring term). To do so, the student must submit the appropriate Request Form for Disability Housing Accommodations, as well as documentation of their disability to be reviewed by the Disability Services office. This form can be located on our website at https://elbert.accessiblelearning.com/Western/ApplicationStudent.aspx. Additionally, if a request is made with less than 63 days remaining in the term, the proposed support animal may not be approved until the following term.
- Documentation of the need for an Emotional Support Animal must meet the following documentation guidelines:
- The student’s name
- Information concerning the healthcare professional’s personal relationship with the student involving the provision of healthcare or disability-related services
- The type of animal for which the reasonable accommodation is sought (i.e., dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, or other rodent, fish, turtle, other specified domesticated type of animal or another specified unique animal). The student must submit a full color photo of the animal dated within 30-days of the request to have their proposed ESA or Service Animal in residence. Additionally, the student must also submit the size of the crate, kennel, or cage required for their proposed animal.
- Disability-related information which includes:
- Whether the student has a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity or major bodily function and
- Whether or not the student needs the animal because it does work, aids, or actively performs one or more disability-related task that benefits the student because of his or her disability, or because it provides therapeutic emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of the disability of the student and not merely a pet.
- Additionally, if the specified animal is not a dog, cat, or other animal that is traditionally kept in a household, the healthcare provider needs to provide the following additional information:
- The date of last consultation with the student (must be within the last six months) and establish an ongoing relationship with the student).
- Any unique circumstances that justify the patient’s need for the particular animal (if already owned or identified by the student), or particular type of animal and
- Whether the provider has reliable information concerning the specified animal and why they specifically recommended this type of animal for the student.
- The Office of Disability Services has a form that requests the aforementioned information in a questionnaire format that must be completed by the student’s healthcare professional if a letter from the professional does not provide sufficient information in regard to the student’s need for a support animal in university housing as a reasonable accommodation. Letters solicited from online ESA letter providers that contain boilerplate language and do not specify the student’s individual need for a support animal in university housing may be rejected on the grounds of providing insufficient information regarding the student’s specific needs.
- Additionally, the aforementioned documentation must be submitted within 30-days of the initial request for a support animal in university housing, must be dated within the last six (6) months, and must be from any of the following sources as listed in the section below. The student must provide documentation from an active provider of care (meaning a social worker, counselor, doctor, or other mental healthcare provider who is licensed to make such a determination), that the student has met with in person for treatment before seeking an ESA letter.
- Students seeking documentation for the purpose of obtaining an ESA as a reasonable accommodation from a healthcare provider licensed in Colorado must meet with their healthcare provider in person to discuss their need for an ESA.
Sources of reliable documentation may include the following:
- A determination of disability from a federal, state, or local government agency.
- Receipt of disability benefits or services that may include Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a person under 65, veteran’s disability benefits (DD Form 214), services from a state vocational rehabilitation agency, or disability benefits or services from another federal, state, or local agency.
- Eligibility for housing assistance or a housing voucher because of a disability.
- This must be for the student; not the student’s parent or legal guardian.
- Information confirming disability from a health care professional such as a physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or nurse.
Documentation from the Internet:
Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for Emotional Support Animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a housing provider can request reliable documentation when an individual requesting a reasonable accommodation has a disability and a disability-related need for an accommodation that are not otherwise obvious or not-known. In HUD’s experience, such documentation from the internet is, not by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance anima. As such, Western Colorado University will reject such documentation from internet providers as unreliable under state telehealth laws and federal HUD guidelines.
Review of Proposed ESA Requests
- The Disability Services coordinator will review documentation and provide a written response to the student within 10 business days of receipt of documentation in support of their request. If the request is approved, the Disability Services Coordinator shall arrange a meeting with the student requesting that an Emotional Support Animal be housed in University Housing as a reasonable accommodation. The student requesting an Emotional Support Animal must sign a contract and acknowledge that they understand and agree to comply with University policy regarding Emotional Support Animals. Completing a request for an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation does not guarantee that the request of the proposed support animal will be approved. Students are encouraged to plan well in advance and ensure their proposed support animal meets policy to avoid unnecessary fees and burden of housing the animal off campus until the request and proposed animal can be approved. If the proposed animal does not meet policy requirements as outlined below, it will not be approved. No exceptions will be granted to this policy.
- The University may reject an animal that:
- Poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others;
- Would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others;
- Would pose an undue financial or administrative burden on the University;
- Would fundamentally alter the nature of University housing operations; or
- Does not comply with the requirements set forth in Section VII below.
Crate/Container Size of Propsed ESAs and Service Animals
The size of the crate that is needed for the Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal in residence will be contained in while the handler is not in the room will also be taken into consideration to ensure adequate living space for both animals and humans in the assigned living space. The crate cannot block any doors, windows, or emergency exits, and cannot be a trip hazard in the room. Crates must have a solid bottom and have adequate space for the animal to comfortably stand up, lie down, and turn around in. The crate must have a reliable securing mechanism that prevents the animal’s escape while the animal is crated. Animals may not be kept in vehicles.
Notification of a Proposed ESA/Service Animal in University Housing
- The student’s roommate(s) or suitemate(s) will be notified (if applicable) to solicit their acknowledgment of the service or emotional support animal in writing and to meet with the Disability Services Coordinator to share any concerns they may have, and notify them that the animal may be residing in shared assigned living space, including apartments and suites.
- Before the proposed ESA or Service Animal in residence is approved to move-in, the student must meet with their Resident Director to review the Service and Support Animal Contract and submit the completed contract with all required signatures to Disability Services.
- After the animal has been formally approved to reside in university housing as a reasonable accommodation, the student will receive notification from Disability Services that their animal has been approved and is allowed to reside on campus in University Housing. The Director of Residence Life and the building’s Resident Director will be notified as appropriate.
- After approval, the submitted documentation must be updated on an annual basis and provided to the Disability Services Coordinator at least 63 days before the start of each academic year or term. This includes summer terms and Maymester if the student will reside in university housing at any time from May through August of any calendar year.
- Students may be granted permission to move off-campus early for disability related reasons only in the extreme rare occurrence that Western cannot accommodate the student on campus.
Section III. Service Animal Use on Campus
Visitors to campus with Service Animals are permitted access to all public facilities, with the exception of areas where service animals are specifically prohibited due to safety or health restrictions, where the Service Animal will be in danger, or where the Service Animal’s use compromises the integrity of research.
Employees with a disability who wish to utilize a Service Animal as a reasonable accommodation in a University office or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public need to contact Human Resources for assistance.
Commuter students with a disability who wish to utilize a Service Animal in a classroom are encouraged, but not required to register with the Disability Services office for access to resources, information, and advocacy around a range of disability-related dynamics, including Service Animals. Service Animals must follow the “Guidelines for Maintaining an Approved Animal at Western Colorado University” found in Section VII. Students who live in university housing who wish to use a service animal because of a disability are required follow the steps in Section IV below to have their service animal reside with them in university housing.
Section IV. Procedures to have an ESA or Service Animal in University Housing
Students desiring to bring their Service Animals to reside within University Housing are required to follow the steps outlined below:
- New students and students who have not registered with disability services who wish to keep an ESA or Service Animal in University Housing must make a formal request to the University’s Disability Services Office. To do so, students must complete the online student application located at https://elbert.accessiblelearning.com/Western/ApplicationStudent.aspx. Students can request an ESA or service animal to reside in university housing at any time but must do so at least 63 days before housing for the animal is needed.
- Requests for Service Animals in housing do NOT require supporting documentation of disability if the student’s disability is readily apparent and observable. However, students must answer relevant questions on the new student application regarding requests for Service Animals in residence.
- The Disability Services Office will review the request and arrange a meeting with the student requesting a Service Animal to live within University Housing.
- Upon approval of an ESA or Service Animal, residential building staff will be notified as appropriate.
Section V. Conflicting Health Conditions
Residence Life staff will make a reasonable effort to notify tenants in the residence buildings where the Approved Animal will be located.
Students with medical condition(s) that are affected by animals (e.g., respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) are asked to contact the Disability Services office if they have a health or safety related concern about exposure to a Service or Emotional Support Animal. The University is prepared to also reasonably accommodate individuals with such medical conditions that require accommodation when living in proximity to Service or Emotional Support Animals.
Section VI. Handler’s Responsibilities in University Housing
Service and Emotional Support Animals – Additional Items
In addition to the requirements set forth in Section VI 1-18, the following guidelines apply to All Service and Emotional Support Animals:
- The Handler is responsible for complying with Gunnison County and the City of Gunnison animal control and licensing laws for animal rights and Handler responsibility. All approved animals must be current with immunizations and wear a rabies vaccination tag.
- The Emotional Support Animal must be spayed or neutered and cannot pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, must not cause substantial physical damage to the property of others, cannot pose an undue financial or administrative burden, or fundamentally alter the nature of the University’s operations.
- If the proposed service animal or emotional support animal does not comply with items 1 and 2 above, it will not be approved to reside in university housing. Students are responsible for ensuring their proposed animal meets policy to avoid unnecessary fees and burden of housing their proposed animal off-campus. If the animal not meet policy, the student is responsible for the cost of maintaining their animal off campus until it can meet the requirements listed above. Western Colorado University reserves the right to impose additional reasonable requirements for unique animals based on its characteristics. No exceptions will be granted to this policy.
- All animals must wear a collar that includes the handler’s first and last name and phone number, as well as a rabies tag, and city pet license in accordance to Gunnison municipal code.
All Emotional Support Animals must be crated when left alone in their handler’s dorm room anytime their handler is not physically present. The crate must include a secure locking mechanism that prevents that animal’s escape.
- An Approved service or Emotional Support Animal outside of the Handler’s own residence hall room (if applicable) must have a harness, leash, or other tether unless a) the Handler is unable to use a harness, leash, or tether, or b) using a harness, leash, or tether will interfere with the animal’s ability to safely and effectively perform its duties. In that case, the Handler must maintain control of the approved service animal through voice, signal or other effective controls. Approved Emotional Support Animals are allowed outside of their Handler’s assigned residence hall room only for toileting, transport to and from campus, and must be on a leash or crated, and under the direct control of the Handler. No off-leash animals are permitted on campus.
- The Handler is responsible for the costs of care necessary for an Approved Animal’s well-being, including bathing and grooming as needed.
- The handler must identify a proxy who can care for the animal in an event that necessitates assistance with the care and well-being of the approved animal. This person must be identified and willing to sign a proxy agreement form. This proxy cannot be a Residence Life staff member or other University employee. Only the identified proxy will be permitted to care for the animal on behalf of the handler of the approved animal.
- Handlers cannot leave their animal overnight in university housing to be cared for by the identified proxy. If the handler must travel or be away from the university for extended periods of time, they must board the animal off-campus for the duration of their travel or plan to take their animal with them. The university is not responsible for the costs associated with boarding an approved animal off-campus. Animals may not be kept in vehicles overnight.
- The Handler is responsible for independently removing an Approved Animal’s waste. Waste must never be placed in a building’s garbage cans or other small trash cans available on University property. See Section VII B for more information (care and supervision).
- The Handler is responsible for ensuring that the Approved Animal does not interfere with the routine activities of the residence hall or cause difficulties for other students who reside there.
- The Handler is financially responsible for the actions of the Approved Animal including bodily injury or property damage. The Handler’s responsibility covers, but it not limited to, replacement of furniture, carpet, windows, wall covering, or other items damaged. The Handler is expected to cover these costs at the time of repair and/or move-out.
- The Handler is responsible for any expenses incurred for cleaning above and beyond a standard cleaning or repairs to University premises that are assessed after the student and animal vacate the residence. The University shall have the right to bill the student account of the Handler for unmet obligations. A hold will be placed on the student’s account until the bill is paid in full.
- The Handler must notify Disability Services in writing if the Approved Animal is no longer needed as an Approved Animal or is no longer in residence. To replace an Approved Animal, the Handler must file a new Request for Disability Housing Accommodations.
- The Handler’s residence will be inspected for fleas, ticks, or other pests once a semester or as needed. The Office of Residence Life 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 University-approved pest control service. The Handler will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in the residence halls.
- If the Handler lives on campus, he or she must feed and provide water for the Approved Animal inside his or her room. Food and water for the Approved Animal are not to be left outside the residence hall room.
- All roommate(s) or suitemate(s) of the Handler must sign an agreement allowing the Approved Animal to be in the residence room with them. In the event one or more roommates or suitemates do not approve, the non-approving suitemate or roommate will be moved to a different room or suite.
- Service Animals are permitted to travel freely with their Handler throughout University housing (and other areas of the University, see Section VII part G. of this document). Emotional Support Animals must be contained within the privately assigned residential area (room, suite, apartment) at all times, except when transported outside the private residential area in an animal carrier or controlled by leash and harness.
- When an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal becomes lost while on campus, the handler must notify the on-call Resident Director as soon as possible to ensure that the animal can be found and returned. Failure to report missing or lost animals on campus can result in a fine or conduct meeting. The student will need to meet with Disability Services and Residence Life staff to give their account of how the animal became lost and the necessary steps they will take to ensure it does not happen again. The university is not responsible for any harm to the animal.
- Approved Animals cannot be left overnight in University Housing to be cared for by another person. Animals must be taken with the student if they leave campus for a prolonged period of time or placed with an identified person who resides off-campus while the student is traveling.
- Student athletes are not permitted to take their Emotional Support Animals with them on official university athletic travel and are responsible for planning to board their approved Emotional Support Animal off-campus for the duration of their travel.
- All students who request a Service or Support Animal in university housing are required to identify a local off-campus contact who can care for their animal during their absence from campus. This person cannot be another University student, staff, or faculty member unless they are a direct family member. Failure to identify an approved off-campus contact will result in the denial of the request until an approved off-campus contact can be named.
- The Handler is solely responsible for the care and maintenance of their animal. Students, or other persons, other than the handler or their identified proxy who enter residence halls, apartments, suites, or dorm rooms for the purpose of caring for an approved animal who have not been approved by University officials, will be subject to a conduct meeting and disciplinary action from the University.
- Handlers with service animals or emotional support animals are required to provide an adequate size crate for their animal while living on campus. All ESAs and Service Animals are required to be crated anytime their handler leaves them in their assigned dorm, suite, and/or apartment and the handler is not physically present. Residence Life staff will post a sign on the outside of the student’s room to notify maintenance that an animal is in the room. In rare occasions, depending on the work being performed, the student may be asked temporarily board their animal off-campus to ensure the safety of the animal while the work is being completed. The student will be responsible for the cost of boarding their animal off-campus during these times.
- Housing has the ability to relocate a Handler and their Approved Animal as necessary according to current contractual agreements.
- Students with service animals or emotional support animals that reside within University Housing are expected to abide by all University Residence Life policies and student conduct codes.
- Any violation of the above rules can result in an immediate removal of the Approved Animal from the University and will be reviewed through the Student Code of Conduct as outlined in the Student Handbook. Any violation of the ESA and Service Animal Policy will be considered a Level II Conduct Charge and the student may face conduct charge and sanctions in accordance to the Student Handbook.
- If the Approved Animal is removed from the premises for any reason, the Handler is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.
Section VII. Policy for Maintaining an Approved Animal at Western Colorado University
The following policies apply to all Approved Animals and their Handlers, unless in extenuating circumstances the nature of the documented disability of the Handler precludes adherence to these policies, and permission for a variance from the guidelines has been granted.
Care and Supervision
Care and supervision of the Approved Animal are the responsibility of the individual who benefits from the Approved Animal’s use. The Handler is required to maintain control of the Approved Animal at all times.
The Handler is also responsible for ensuring the cleanup of the Approved Animal’s waste and, when appropriate, must toilet the animal in areas designated by the University consistent with the reasonable capacity of the Handler. Indoor animal waste, such as cat litter, must be placed in a sturdy plastic bag and securely tied up before being disposed of in an outside trash dumpster. Litter boxes must be placed on mats so that waste is not tracked onto carpeted surfaces.
Animal Health and Well-Being
- Vaccination: In accordance with local ordinances and regulations, the Approved Animal must be immunized against diseases common to that type of animal. Dogs must have current vaccination against rabies and kennel cough and wear a rabies vaccination tag. Cats must have normal shots required for a healthy animal. Local licensing requirements are followed.
- Health: Animals to be housed in University housing must have an annual clean bill of health or current vaccination record from a licensed veterinarian. Documentation can be a vaccination certificate for the animal or a veterinarian’s statement regarding the animal’s health. The University has the authority to direct that the animal receives veterinary attention. (Local licensing law is followed.) All Approved Animals must be vaccinated in compliance with state and local laws. Western Colorado University reserves the right to impose additional reasonable requirements for unique animals based on their characteristics.
- Leash: If appropriate, the Approved Animal must be on a leash, unless the leash would inhibit the Approved Animal’s ability to be of service. The leash must not be longer than eight (8) feet in length. E-collars and electronic leashes are not acceptable forms of leashes.
- All approved animals are required to wear a collar that includes the first and last name and phone number of the handler and must include a rabies tag and city pet license as required by Gunnison municipal code.
- Other Conditions: Disability Services may place other reasonable conditions or restrictions on unique Approved Animals depending on the nature and characteristics of the specified animal.
Requirements for Faculty, Staff, Students and Other Members of the University Community
Members of the University Community are required to abide by the following expectations:
- They are not to inquire for details about the Handler’s disabilities. The nature of a person’s disability is a private matter.
- They are to allow a Service Animal to accompany its Handler at all times and in all places on campus, except where animals are specifically prohibited.
- They are not to touch or pet a Service or Emotional Support Animal unless invited to do so.
- They are not to feed a Service or Emotional Support Animal.
- They are not to deliberately startle a Service or Emotional Support Animal.
- They are not to separate or attempt to separate a Handler from his or her Service or Emotional Support Animal.
Removal of an Approved Animal
The University will exclude or remove an Approved Animal when:
- The animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
- The animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of the University’s programs and/or services.
- The Handler does not comply with the Handler’s Responsibilities in University Housing.
- The animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference, (e.g. barking, wandering, displaying aggressive behavior) and the behavior is outside the duties of the Approved Animal on the Western Colorado University campus.
- The animal is not house broken.
- The animal is physically ill.
- The animal is unreasonably dirty, (e.g. matted fur, covered in fleas and/or ticks, noticeable dirt on the fur or skin of the animal).
- The animal is found by the university to be out of control and the animal’s Handler does not take immediate and effective action to control it.
Handlers of Approved Animals are solely responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear to persons or University property caused by their animals.
Areas Off Limits to Service Animals
The University can prohibit the use of Service Animals in certain locations because of health and safety restrictions, (e.g. where the animal will be in danger, or where their use compromises the integrity of research). Restricted areas include, but are not limited to, the following: custodial closets, boiler rooms, facility equipment rooms, research laboratories, classrooms with research/demonstration animals, rooms with heavy restricted areas will be granted on a case-by-case basis by contacting Disability Services and the appropriate department representative; the person directing the restricted area has the final decision.
Areas off Limit to Emotional Support Animals
All areas except for privately assigned living space in housing are off limits to approved Emotional Support Animals without prior authorization from Disability Services.
Section VIII. Advisory Notice of Colorado’s Law Regarding Service & Assistance Animals
Under Colorado Law it is a crime to knowingly take a non-service animal into a public business under the guise that it is actually a service animal. It is also a crime to intentionally misrepresent that your animal is an assistance, companion, or emotional support animal in order to avoid pet fees or to have an animal in housing that otherwise does not permit pets.
- On the first offense, the person will receive a written and/or verbal warning.
- From the second offense onward, the person can be charged fines ranging from $50-$500.
Section IX. Guidance on Documenting a Student’s Need for Emotional Support Animals in University Housing
This section provides best practices for documenting a student’s need for emotional support animals in university housing. It offers a summary of information that the Disability Services Coordinator will need to know from a health care professional about a student’s need for an assistance animal in housing. It is intended to help students with disabilities explain to their health care professionals the type of information that the Disability Services Coordinator needs to help them make sometimes difficult legal decisions under fair housing laws. It also will help a student with a disability and their health care provider understand what information is needed to support an accommodation request when the disability or disability-related need for an accommodation is not readily observable or known by the Disability Services Coordinator. The Office of Disability Services at Western Colorado University rely on professionals to provide accurate information to the best of their personal knowledge, consistent with their professional obligations.
When providing this information, health care professionals must use personal knowledge of their patient/client – i.e., the knowledge used to diagnose, advise, counsel, treat, or provide health care or other disability-related services to their patient/client. Information relating to an individual’s disability and health conditions must be kept confidential and cannot be shared with other persons unless the information is needed for evaluating whether to grant or deny a reasonable accommodation request or unless disclosure is required by law.
As a best practice, documentation contemplated in certain circumstances by the aforementioned policy is recommended to include the following general information:
- The student’s name,
- Whether the health care professional has a professional relationship with the student/client involving the provision of health care or disability-related services, and
- The type of animal(s) for which the reasonable accommodation is sought (i.e., dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, other specified type of domesticated animal, or another specified unique animal).
A disability for purposes of fair housing laws exists when a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Addiction caused by current, illegal use of a controlled substance does not qualify as a disability. Additionally, the use of marijuana for both medicinal use and recreational use are prohibited on university property including university housing. As a best practice, it is recommended that students seeking reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals ask health care professionals to provide information related to the following:
- Whether the patient has a mental impairment or mental health condition,
- Whether the patient’s impairment(s) substantially limit at least one major life activity or major bodily function, and
- Whether the patient needs the animal (because it provides therapeutic emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of the disability of the patient/client, and not merely as a pet).
Additionally, if the animal is not a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, it is helpful for patients to ask health care professionals to provide the following additional information:
- The date of the last consultation with the patient,
- Any unique circumstances justifying the patient’s need for the particular animal (if not already owned or identified by the individual) or particular type of animal(s), and
- Whether the health care professional has reliable information about this specific animal or whether they specifically recommended this type of animal.
- It is also recommended that the health care professional sign and date any documentation provided and provide contact information and any professional licensing information.