Types of Assistance Animals

Service Animals

Service animals are not pets. They are assistive tools like hearing aids and wheelchairs. A service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is only a dog or miniature horse specifically trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability. Examples include, but are not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind, alerting individuals with a hearing loss to sounds, warning and protecting a person having a seizure, pulling a wheelchair, or retrieving a dropped item. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence is not considered work or a task.

Under Wisconsin state law, a service animal may be any species, except restricted farm or wild animals or animals that present a health or safety risk ascertained by an individualized review, that is trained to perform a task directly related to the person’s disability. These service animals are only permitted in university facilities offering goods or services to the general public such as the Union.

Additional information about service animals:

  • Not required to wear a harness, be tethered or leashed if it interferes with the person’s disability, but must always be under the control of its handler.
  • Fully trained service dogs or miniature horses are permitted in virtually all locations or in most spaces the handler can go, except for employment work spaces or when its presence interferes with legitimate safety requirements of the facility.
  • Fully trained service animals that are not dogs or miniature horses are only permitted in university facilities offering goods or services to the general public (e.g., The Union).
  • Handlers may not be asked for documentation for the animal or for their own disability or to have their animal demonstrate the task or work it performs.
  • Handlers may not be charged a service or entrance fee for the service animal.
  • Not permitted in employment workspaces unless approved as a reasonable accommodation by a Divisional Disability Representative.
  • Visit UW-Madison’s Service Animal policy for additional information.

Service Animals-in-Training

Service animals-in-training are not recognized under the ADA and are not a reasonable accommodation, but they are protected under Wisconsin state law. They can be any species, except restricted farm or wild animals or animals that present a health or safety risk ascertained by an individualized review, and are only permitted in university facilities offering goods or services to the general public. Service animals-in-training are not permitted in classrooms or university housing. These animals are undergoing obedience or task specific training such as: settling, attention to and focus on the handler, and behaviors associated with disability access.

Additional information about service animals-in-training:

  • Permitted only in facilities offering goods or services to the general public (e.g., The Union), unless their presence would jeopardize the safe operation or fundamentally alter the program, service, or activity in the location.
  • Must always be on a harness or leash and wear a special cape.
  • Must always be under the control of the handler and in training mode.
  • The handler may be asked to produce certification or documentation of a training school. However, a handler with a disability may not be asked for documentation of their own disability or certification or documentation that the animal is trained or is being trained.
  • Visit UW Madison’s Service Animal policy for more information about service animals-in-training.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are any species, except restricted farm or wild animals or animals that present a health or safety risk ascertained by an individualized review, that alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. An emotional support animal is not a pet and could be a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Emotional support animals, unlike service animals, have no special training to perform a specific task.

Additional information about emotional support animals:

  • Not permitted in any university facilities, including those offering goods or services to the general public, unless approved as a reasonable accommodation by a university disability authority.
  • Not required to wear a harness or cape.
  • Not required to have training or any training certification.
  • Must always be under the control of the handler.
  • Visit UW-Madison’s Emotional Support Animal policy for more information.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals provide affection and comfort to the public, typically in settings such as hospitals, disaster sites, or schools. These pets have a temperament suitable for interacting with members of the public and enjoy doing so. Therapy animals and therapy animals-in-training have no legal rights of access and are only permitted in facilities where they are welcomed and approved pursuant to UWS 18.08. While the handler may be a person with a disability, the therapy animal does not provide a disability-related service to the handler as its primary activity is interacting with and attending to the public.