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Emotional Support Animal Guidelines and Agreement


Northern Kentucky University (“NKU” or “University”) recognizes the importance of both “Service Animals” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) and the broader category of “Emotional Support Animals” under the Fair Housing Act. NKU values the use of Service Animals on campus to facilitate full-participation and equal access to University programs and activities. NKU is also committed to permitting Emotional Support Animals to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University Housing.

These Guidelines detail the specific requirements applicable to an individual’s use of an Emotional Support Animal in University housing. These Guidelines apply only to “Emotional Support Animals” as defined below. These Guidelines do not apply to “service animals” as defined by the ADAAA. NKU reserves the right to amend these Guidelines and exceptions to this policy are at the discretion of the Director of the Office for Student Accessibility.

Animals, other than fish, are prohibited in University housing. However, the University will consider all requests for an Emotional Support Animal’s presence in University housing subject to the guidelines below.


Emotional Support Animal
Emotional Support Animals (“ESA” or ESAs”) are a category of animals that provide necessary emotional support to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s disability, but which are not considered Service Animals under the ADAAA and NKU’s Service Animal Policy. In some cases, Emotional Support Animals provide the necessary support to individuals with disabilities without any formal training or certification. Dogs are commonly used as ESAs, but other animals are also capable of serving a person with a disability as an ESA.

The “Owner” is the individual who has requested the accommodation and has received approval to bring the ESA into University Housing.

Office for Student Accessibility (OSA)
The Office for Student Accessibility collaborates with individuals, faculty, and staff to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to all NKU programs and activities.


  • An individual with a disability must have a reliable, licensed third party treating professional complete the “Request for Information Regarding an Emotional Support Animal Form” (the “Verification Form”) to document the request for a reasonable accommodation through the Office for Student Accessibility (OSA). Copies of the Verification Form are available from OSA.
    • NKU will accept and consider requests for reasonable accommodations in University housing at any time. The individual making the request for accommodation should complete and provide the Verification Form to the Office for Student Accessibility as soon as practicably possible before moving into the University housing. However, if the request for accommodation is made fewer than 60 days before the individual intends to move into University housing, NKU cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the individual’s accommodation needs during the first semester or term of occupancy.
    • If the need for the accommodation arises when an individual already resides in University housing, he/she should contact the Office for Student Accessibility and submit the Verification Form as soon as practicably possible. NKU cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the accommodation needs during the semester or term in which the request is received.
    • The Verification Form should be completed by a reliable, licensed third party, generally from a treating professional in the State of Kentucky or the student’s home state, who can verify that the requested accommodation is necessary to provide the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing.
    • If the third party returns the Verification Form without sufficient information for the Office for Student Accessibility (OSA) to determine whether an accommodation is necessary, the Director of OSA will inform the individual in writing of the verification’s insufficiency and may request additional information, including requesting to speak directly with the individual supplying the third-party verification.

Criteria for Determining If Presence of the Emotional Support Animal is Reasonable:

  • University housing may require the assignment of roommates and/or that individuals share a room or suite in certain residence halls. Therefore, to ensure that the presence of an ESA is not an undue administrative burden or fundamental alteration of University housing, NKU reserves the right to assign an individual with an ESA to a single room without a roommate.
  • However, for all requests for ESAs, the Office for Student Accessibility shall nonetheless consult with Residence Life in making a determination on a case-by-case basis of whether the presence of an ESA is reasonable. NKU may consider the following factors, among others, as evidence in determining whether the presence of the animal is reasonable or in the making of housing assignments for individuals with an ESA: 
    • The size of the animal's crate is too large for available assigned housing space;
    • The animal’s presence imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden;
    • The animal’s presence fundamentally alters University housing policies; 
    • The animal's presence would force another individual from individual housing (e.g. serious allergies);
    • The animal's presence otherwise violates individuals' right to peace and quiet enjoyment;
    • The animal is not housebroken or is unable to live with others in a reasonable manner;
    • The animal's vaccinations are not up-to-date;
    • The animal poses health risks from zoonotic diseases or safety concerns regarding containment that cannot be sufficiently mitigated for inclusion in the communal living setting;
    • The animal poses or has posed in the past a direct threat to the individual or others such as aggressive behavior towards or injuring the individual or others; or
    • The animal causes or has caused excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear. 

NKU will not limit room assignments for individuals with an ESA to any particular building or buildings because the individual requires an ESA. However, the University has determined that the residence hall setting, in most cases, is not an appropriate environment in which to raise a young puppy. Generally, dogs must be at least 10 months of age and cats must be 4 months of age, be spayed or neutered, and be up-to-date on all required vaccinations before they can live in-residence in University housing. Generally, the presence of only one ESA will be approved per student and only one ESA per room although unique circumstances will be considered. 

Access to University Facilities by Emotional Support Animals:

Emotional Support Animal

An ESA must be contained within the Owner’s personally assigned living quarters (e.g., room, suite, apartment) except to the extent the ESA must be outside to relieve itself. When an ESA is outside the Owner’s living quarters, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness. ESAs are not allowed in any University facilities other than the University residence to which the Owner is assigned.

Dominion and Control

An ESA must be properly housed and restrained or otherwise under the dominion and control of the Owner at all times. No Owner shall permit the animal to go loose or run at large. If an animal is found unaccompanied by its Owner, the animal is subject to confinement and removal from University Housing.

Owner's Responsibilities for an Emotional Support Animal:

If the University grants an Owner’s request to live with an ESA, the Owner is solely responsible for the custody and care of the ESA and must meet the following requirements:

  1. The Owner must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. It is the Owner’s responsibility to know and understand these ordinances, laws, and regulations. The University has the right to require documentation of compliance with such ordinances, laws, and/or regulations, which may include a vaccination certificate. The University reserves the right to request documentation showing that the animal has been licensed.
  2. The Owner is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the animal’s waste in a safe and sanitary manner.
  3. The animal will not be bathed, or its cage/crate or bedding cleaned using University facilities.
  4. The Owner is required to ensure the ESA is well cared for at all times. Any evidence of mistreatment or abuse may result in immediate removal of the ESA and/or discipline for the responsible individual.
  5. NKU will not request nor require an individual with a disability to pay a fee or surcharge for an approved ESA.
  6. An individual with a disability may be charged for any damage caused by his or her ESA beyond reasonable wear and tear to the same extent that it charges other individuals for damages beyond reasonable wear and tear. The Owner's living accommodations may also be inspected for fleas, ticks or other pests, as necessary. 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 Owner will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in the residence halls. The University shall have the right to bill the Owner’s student account for unmet obligations under this provision.
  7. The Owner must fully cooperate with University personnel with regard to meeting the terms of this Policy and developing procedures for care of the animal (e.g., cleaning the animal, feeding/watering the animal, designating an outdoor relief area, disposing of feces, etc.).
  8. ESAs may not be left overnight in University housing to be cared for by any individual other than the Owner. If the Owner is to be absent from his/her residence hall overnight or longer, the animal must accompany the Owner. The Owner is responsible for ensuring that the ESA is contained (e.g. caged/crated) as appropriate, when the Owner is not present during the day while attending classes or other activities. The University reserves the right to inspect the enclosure to be used in containing the animal.
  9. The Owner agrees to abide by all equally applicable residential policies that are unrelated to the individual’s disability such as assuring that the animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for individuals who reside there.
  10. The animal is allowed in University housing, only as long as it is necessary, because of the Owner’s disability. The Owner must notify the Office for Student Accessibility in writing if the ESA is no longer needed or is no longer in residence. To replace an ESA, the new animal must be necessary because of the Owner’s disability and the Owner must follow the procedures in this Policy of having the Verification Form submitted, again to OSA, when requesting a different animal.
  11. NKU personnel shall not be required to provide care or food for any ESA including, but not limited to, removing the animal during emergency evacuation for events such as a fire alarm. Emergency personnel will determine whether to remove the animal and may not be held responsible for the care, damage to, or loss of the animal.
  12. The Owner must provide the University with the name and contact information for someone who does not reside in University housing and who can take responsibility for the animal within 12 hours should the Owner be unable or unavailable to care for it.
  13. The individual must provide written consent for the Office for Student Accessibility to disclose information regarding the request for and presence of the ESA to those individuals who may be impacted by the presence of the animal including, but not limited to, Residence Life personnel and potential and/or actual roommate(s)/neighbor(s). Such information shall be limited to information related to the animal and shall not include information related to the individual’s disability. 

Removal of an Emotional Support Animal:

The University may require the individual to remove the animal from University housing if:

  1. the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others;
  2. the animal’s presence results in fundamental alteration of a University program;
  3. the Owner does not comply with the Owner’s Responsibilities set forth above; or
  4. the animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the University community. 

The University will base such determinations upon the consideration of the behavior of the particular animal at issue, and not on speculation or fear about the harm or damages an animal may cause. If it is determined that the animal must be removed from the residence hall and the Owner fails to comply within 48 hours, the University may have the animal removed to the nearest, appropriate animal shelter. Additionally, failure to comply with the order for removal will result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct, Rights, and Advocacy for consideration of sanctions. Should the ESA be removed from the premises for any reason, the Owner is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.

Provider form follows in the linked form below.