About this guide
This resource gives information about emotional support animals (ESA) and expectations of residents and the university community, so everyone can safely access and enjoy University Housing. This guide is intended only for those living on campus; individuals living off-campus should contact the Fair Housing Council for assistance. Visit the Emotional Support Animals in University Housing policy for more information.
In this guide, the term “resident” or “guest” refers to anyone – student, live-in employee, program participant, family member, conference guest, or overnight guest – living in a university residence hall or apartment.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is not a pet. It is a reasonable accommodation approved by the university so a resident or guest with a disability is able to use and enjoy their assigned room or apartment. The use of an ESA requires care and attention, and ESA owners must always have full control of their animal to ensure safe community living.
Full control includes making sure the animal is always leashed, crated, or caged when outside of the resident’s or guest’s assigned room or apartment.
Additional information about ESAs:
- Not permitted in University Housing or University Apartments until approved as a reasonable accommodation.
- Must be housebroken and able to live with others in a safe and communal manner.
Who can be approved to have an ESA?
A student, live-in employee, program participant, family member, conference participant, or guest can be approved to use an ESA in their own assigned room or apartment.
How does a resident obtain approval to have an ESA?
The McBurney Disability Resource Center reviews requests from residents and guests who need an ESA to enjoy the use of their own assigned room or apartment.
Approval must first be given before a resident or guest can use their ESA, and documentation is required. While the McBurney Disability Resource Center handles all ESA requests unrelated to a job accommodation, there are two different applications based on one’s affiliation with the university:
- Students complete the McBurney Connect application.
- All others complete the Division of Extension form managed by the McBurney Center.
Employees requesting an ESA as a job accommodation contact the Employee Disability Resources Office.
Where in housing can ESAs go?
In addition to its owner’s own assigned room or apartment, ESAs are also permitted in “common areas” within the assigned residence hall or apartment building that are also available for use by other residents, such as:
- Laundry rooms
- Mail rooms
- Recreational areas
- Leasing office
- Community center
- Outdoor housing areas
- ESAs must always be leashed, crated, or caged in common areas.
- ESAs are not permitted in other residents’ rooms or apartments, administrative offices, or dining halls. These are not common areas.
Can ESAs go outside of housing?
ESAs are allowed in outdoor residence hall or housing areas but are not permitted in other residence halls or apartment buildings, classrooms, libraries, the Memorial Union or the Terrace, or other university spaces, unless approved as a reasonable accommodation.
Can ESAs go inside the Eagle Heights Community Center?
ESAs are allowed in the community center because it is a common area, but they are not permitted within the Eagle’s Wing childcare center. The ESA must always be leashed, crated, or caged inside the community center and under the owner’s full control.
What responsibilities does a resident or guest approved for an ESA have?
A resident or guest must take humane care of their ESA and ensure it coexists in a safe and well-behaved manner within housing. Residents and guests should be prepared to present an annual clean bill of health upon request from University Housing or University Apartments.
Supervision and care responsibilities include:
- Caring for and supervising the ESA:
- Having a back-up caregiver who can quickly respond to and care for the animal in case of an emergency.
- The university is not responsible for the ESA’s care at any time, including emergencies.
- Not leaving the ESA unattended for extended periods of time.
- Always maintaining control of the ESA:
- Keeping the ESA leashed, caged, or crated whenever it is outside of the individual’s own assigned room or apartment.
- Accompanying the ESA when in any permitted common areas or outdoors.
- Making sure the ESA does not interfere with routine activities of the residence hall or apartment or cause difficulties for individuals who reside there.
Maintaining the ESA’s health includes:
- Regularly feeding, stimulating, or exercising the ESA.
- Staying current on all vaccinations.
- Treating the ESA to prevent fleas, ticks, and other pests.
- Making sure the animal receives an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian.
- Caring for the animal’s health to ensure no abuse or neglect.
Respecting the housing environment includes:
- Ensuring the ESA is housebroken.
- Disposing the ESA’s waste in outdoor waste bins.
- Monitoring the ESA to prevent damage to housing facilities.
- Maintaining the living space to not attract pests.
What can a resident do to prepare for a maintenance visit?
Do the following for a maintenance visit:
- Leash, cage, or crate the ESA.
- If in an apartment, shelter the ESA in another room away from the repair work.
- Consider taking the ESA off-campus.
What do roommates, residence hall visitors, and the general community need to know about ESAs?
ESAs are a reasonable accommodation for a resident or guest with a disability to enjoy and use their room, apartment, or common areas in their own residence hall. In most instances, roommates are informed about ESA approvals. While it is fun to pet or play with an ESA, they are not pets.
Here are tips to make sure ESAs are successfully integrated into the housing community:
- Do not ask the ESA owner about their disability, medical condition, or the need for the animal.
- Do not distract, harass, or deliberately startle an ESA.
- Do not feed, pet, play with, or handle an ESA.
- ESAs are permitted in common areas of a residence hall or apartment building. They are not allowed in another resident’s room, apartment, or any residence hall or apartment building where the ESA owner does not reside.
- Never attempt to separate an ESA from their owner.
- ESAs must always be leashed, crated, or caged when outside of its room or apartment.
What if the ESA is causing conflict with my roommate or others?
Residents are encouraged to communicate with the ESA owner to resolve conflicts. Respectful dialogue and establishing clear rules and expectations can often address issues. House Fellows can assist with engaging in conflict resolution.
Residents without a disability who do not want to live with an ESA can contact their House Fellow or Residence Life Coordinator to get more information.
What if I have a medical condition or disability that is affected by an ESA?
In the event a roommate has a disability under federal law that prevents them from living with an ESA, University Housing may move either resident based on space availability.
What do House Fellows, Residence Life Coordinators, Resident Managers, and housing administrators need to know about ESAs?
ESAs are a reasonable accommodation for a resident or guest with a disability to enjoy and use their room, apartment, or common areas in their own residence hall or apartment building.
Housing staff and administrators should know:
- There is a process by which ESAs are approved before they are allowed within a residence hall or apartment building.
- ESAs are permitted in common areas of a residence hall or apartment building. They are not allowed in another resident’s room or apartment.
- ESAs must always be leashed, caged, or crated when outside of its assigned room or apartment.
Role of House Fellows:
- Direct residents who have questions about the reasonable accommodation process to the McBurney Disability Resource Center.
- Support residents and help resolve conflict.
- Refer residents with concerns about ESAs to the appropriate professional staff.
- Document ESA concerns through the Incident Report form.
Role of Residence Life Assistance Coordinator, Resident Managers, or their designee:
- Support House Fellow staff.
- Meet with residents with approved ESAs to review University Housing’s expectations.
- Upload or send appropriate documentation through Housing systems or to administrators.
Role of Housing Administrators:
- As needed, meet with residents with approved ESAs to review University Housing’s or University Apartments’ expectations.
- Maintain records of approved ESAs.
- Notify Residence Life Coordinators or other staff of ESA changes or approvals within residence halls or apartments.
Who can I contact for more information?
UW–Madison values the full inclusion of everyone in its housing program. Contact the following for additional information:
- McBurney Disability Resource Center for questions about the reasonable accommodation process or ESAs.
- University Housing for questions about housing, roommates, or any other issues pertaining to residence halls or apartments.
- ADA Coordinator for questions about the university’s obligations regarding ESAs.