Animals as Disability Accommodations

Background

With limited exceptions, Northern Michigan University prohibits animals [1] in University buildings, including University housing.

Exception:

Northern Michigan University seeks to accommodate persons with disabilities who prove they need an animal’s presence in a University building (including housing) to accommodate a physical or mental/emotional disability.  However, as the University is also responsible for protecting the general University community’s health and safety interests, this Policy is intended to fairly address all parties’ concerns.  

The University’s Disability Services Office is responsible for implementing this Policy.  Success requires the cooperation of all students, staff and faculty.

“Disability” means a medically diagnosable physical or mental condition or impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working and/or learning.

“Service” animals are legally defined (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990) as animals trained and/or certified to meet the physical disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities.  A disabled individual may be accompanied by his/her service animal in public places and in most areas posted "no pet/no animal."  Examples are seeing-eye dogs, animals which alert a hearing impaired person to the presence of people or sound, an animal which retrieves dropped items or otherwise aids a physically disabled person in accomplishing manual tasks, etc.  Service animals are not pets; rather, they are an auxiliary aid similar to a cane, crutches, wheelchair, etc.

Process for Requesting Accommodation

A disabled individual who as an accommodation wishes to have an animal in University buildings, including University housing, must register with and submit a written request to the Disability Services Office.  If possible, your written request should be submitted at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to when you will need access to the University building.  As part of the written request you are required to submit a signed letter from your licensed health care or mental health provider (the letter must be verifiable; e.g. professional letterhead, etc.) with the following information:

  • Nature of your disabling condition or impairment
  • A comprehensive list of your restrictions
  • The provider’s professional opinion that you need the requested animal to lessen the effects of your disability and to utilize NMU’s facilities and/or services 
  • The animal’s function

Disability Services will notify the requesting person if additional information is required.  Once satisfactory and adequate information is received, Disability Services will validate the disability, determine if alternative accommodations would be reasonable, determine if the animal’s presence on campus would cause an undue hardship to NMU and/or its students, residents, staff, or visitors, and will notify the requesting person of Disability Services’ preliminary conditional decision.  If the animal’s presence is approved, such approval will be conditioned on verification the animal is healthy, immunized, can be properly handled by the requesting party, etc.  Following such verification, Disability Services will issue a tag to be worn by the animal whenever the animal is on campus in a place accessible to the general public.

For more information regarding registering and submitting a request with Disability Services, refer to http://www.nmu.edu disability or call (906)227-1737.

Your Responsibilities If Your Request is Approved

The disabled person (“handler”) requesting an exception is solely responsible for the care, control, and supervision of the animal.  The handler must at all times maintain complete control of the animal (e.g. leashed [leashes must be no more than 6 feet long], caged, etc.) whenever the animal is on campus in a place accessible to the general public. 

An animal that is not properly cared for, controlled or supervised may be excluded not only from University buildings, but from the entire campus.  Infractions and consequences will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Injuries caused by an animal must be immediately reported to Public Safety.

Vaccinations: The animal must be seen at least annually by a licensed Veterinarian, who must give the animal a “clean bill of health.”  The animal must also remain up-to-date regarding all immunizations recommended by the animal’s Veterinarian, which at a minimum must protect against diseases/medical conditions common to the type of animal.  Upon request by the University, the handler must immediately produce written verification of the annual Veterinarian visit and all immunizations.  The University has continuing authority to direct and require that an animal receive veterinary attention at the handler’s expense.

You (the “handler”) are financially responsible for all personal and/or property damage caused by your animal while on NMU property.

Licensing:  All legally required licenses unique to the type of animal must be current.  For example, the State of Michigan requires all dogs be licensed by the time they reach 4 months of age [MCL Act 339, 287.266]).  Dog guides, hearing dogs and dogs serving mobility-impaired persons receive the license at no cost [Act No. 112, PA of 1984].  

Records: The handler’s name and information must appear on all documents related to the animal’s care and supervision, such as veterinary records, licenses, service animal identification tags/cards, housing agreements, etc.  

Animal’s Behavior

Animals must be controlled so as not to frighten, disrupt, disturb or interfere with others who work, study, visit, or live on campus or in University housing. 

Animals are not permitted on any University furniture, including furniture in fully or partially furnished residence hall rooms and/or apartments.

Handlers are responsible for cleaning up after their animal.  You must immediately clean up animal waste deposited anywhere on University property, clean up any mess your animal makes on campus or in a University building, vacuum regularly if you live in University housing, etc. 

Animals must not be cleaned/groomed in University rest rooms, including showers or bathrooms in NMU housing.

Areas Off-Limits to All Animals

Mechanical Rooms/Custodial Closets:  boiler rooms, facility equipment rooms, electrical closets, elevator control rooms, custodial storage closets.  The machinery and/or chemicals in these rooms may be harmful to animals.

Areas with health or safety restrictions.  Areas where protective clothing is required/necessary (e.g.  chemical laboratories, research/medical laboratories, wood shops, metal/machine shops, electrical shops, photography dark rooms, etc.).  Areas where the animal could be injured (e.g. rooms with sharp objects, hot materials, moving machinery, etc.), and areas where research animals are present.

Exception:

An exception may be requested through the Coordinator of Disability Services.  The Coordinator will discuss the requested exception with the appropriate instructor or administrator.  Exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Public Etiquette for Interaction with Animals

Persons with proven disabilities who have been approved for an exception by NMU’s Disabilities Services Office should be permitted to have the approved animal with them when on campus and/or in University buildings (provided the animal is not disruptive or disturbing others) except in areas where animals are specifically prohibited (i.e. usually for safety or sanitary reasons), and unless the person has obtained an exception (See, “Areas Off-Limits to All Animals”).

As the handler is potentially liable if you are harmed, do not approach, feed, etc., a handler’s animal unless you have asked and received the handler’s permission. 

As you might be liable for any harm that ensues, do not deliberately startle a handler’s animal or attempt to separate a handler from his/her animal.

Appeals

You may appeal Disability Services’ or NMU’s decisions, such as decisions denying your requested accommodation, denying your animal access to a building/classroom/lab, ordering your animal’s removal from campus housing, etc., by written submission to the Disability Services Coordinator.  Appeals should be submitted within ten (10) calendar days of the decision/action being appealed.  All appeals will be considered by the Accommodation Review Committee.  The Accommodation Review Committee will issue a written decision within fourteen (14) calendar days after receiving a written appeal.

[1] Animals utilized by an instructor for teaching, instruction, research or other academic purposes are not covered by the University’s general prohibition or this Policy.