Service and Support Animal Frequently Asked Questions

A Service Animal is a dog or a miniature horse that is 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. The work or tasks performed by a trained Service Animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Service Animals are defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).

A Service Animal in Training (SAiT) is a dog or miniature horse that is undergoing training to become a service animal. Under WLAD, SAiTs are legally permitted in spaces open to the public, such as areas open to students and visitors.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is typically an animal that provides a benefit to a person with a disability merely by its presence. ESAs, sometimes called comfort animals, are a type of assistance animal. These animals are different from Service Animals under federal and state civil rights laws because they do not need to be trained to perform a disability-related task and they do not need to be a dog or a miniature horse. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and WLAD, assistance animals may be allowed in university dwelling units as a reasonable accommodation. Generally, ESAs are not allowed in university facilities or programs; however, there may be circumstances where a reasonable accommodation may be granted to allow an employee to bring an ESA into a workplace or a student to bring an ESA to class. The employee or student must request a reasonable accommodation and may be required to provide medical documentation.

Service animals and service animals in training are permitted in all university facilities and programs where members of the public are allowed access, unless the service animal administrator approves a service animal exclusion waiver for a specific program or facility.

Federal and state laws require places of public accommodation, including food establishments, to allow an animal that is presented as a service animal or SAiT into a place of public accommodation. Food preparation areas are generally off limits to members of the public and patrons; therefore, an employee who wants to bring a service animal into a food preparation area would need to request a reasonable accommodation through HRS Disability Services. Part of the reasonable accommodation process is an individualized assessment of the disability-related needs of the employee, the requested accommodation, and potential alternative accommodations. In determining whether reasonable accommodations can be made, a food establishment shall act in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, including food safety regulations.

If it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., a guide dog for a blind individual), you should not ask any questions about the animal.

If it is not readily apparent what role or status the animal has you may ask the individual the following two questions to determine if the animal is a Service Animal or SAiT:

  1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task is the animal trained (or in training) to perform?

You may NOT:

  1. Ask an individual about the nature or extent of their disability;
  2. Require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a Service Animal;
  3. Require the animal to perform a task it has been trained to perform; or
  4. Ask any questions if it is readily apparent that the animal is trained (or in training) to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.

Federal and state laws do not require Service Animals to be identified by a vest or paperwork and likewise the university cannot require vests or paperwork either. Federal and state law also prohibits a place of public accommodation, such as a university, from requiring that Service Animals be registered with the university.

An employee who needs to bring a Service Animal to the workplace must contact HRS Disability Services, to request a reasonable accommodation for which medical documentation may be required.

An employee with a service animal in training must request a waiver to bring their animal to the workplace.

Neither state nor federal law provide protections for employees to have SAiTs in their workplaces. The university may elect to grant an employee an SAiT Waiver permitting them to bring an SAiT to work, but the university can elect to revoke an SAiT Waiver at any time. If granted a Waiver, an employee must ensure that the SAiT complies with all of the behavioral and sanitary rules as Service Animals (see below). If their animal is causing a disruption or if anyone objects to the presence of the animal, the employee must remove the animal.

Title I of the ADA covers disability in employment; under this section of the ADA a Service Animal would be viewed as a reasonable accommodation and employees should follow the normal reasonable accommodation process described by university policy. Title II of the ADA covers disability in state and local governments and Title III covers disability in places of public accommodations. Under these sections of the ADA, the university is required to allow Service Animals in all areas where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go. So, an employee wanting to bring a Service Animal with them into the workplace while they are performing the functions of their jobs is treated the same as any other request for a disability-related reasonable accommodation. That same employee who wants to attend a public event in a university facility that is not related to their duties as an employee would be treated the same as any other member of the public or program participant and would not need to request a reasonable accommodation to bring their Service Animal. Similar protections exist under WLAD for service animals and SAiTs in areas open to members of the public.

Service Animals and SAiTs must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with their work or the individual’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or use of other effective controls. ADA (42 USC 12101 et seq.))

University employees may not ask a handler to remove their Service Animal or SAiT from a University premises unless:

  1. The animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it;
  2. The animal is not housebroken;
  3. The animal is in a prohibited area; or
  4. The animal injures or attempts to injure a person or property.

Prior to requesting removal, the handler is first afforded the opportunity to bring the animal under control. If the behavior persists, a University employee may request that the handler immediately remove the animal from the facility pending a prompt evaluation of the incident by the office or departmental supervisor responsible for the program or facility, in consultation with the Service Animal Administrator.

If the animal is not housebroken, is in a prohibited area, or injures or attempts to injure a person or property, the animal may be removed from the facility immediately.

In the event an animal is removed from a facility, the office or department supervisor or the appropriate central administrative unit responsible for the program or facility works with the handler to assess alternative options to allow continued participation without the animal. This may include referring them to the appropriate disability services provider on campus (HRS for employees or the campus Access Center/Access Services for students).

Some facilities or programs may not be appropriate for any animals, including Service Animals and SAiTs, however, individual facilities and programs do not have the authority to implement a Service Animal exclusion.  Concerns of this nature must be brought to the Service Animal Administrator who may elect to convene a panel of university employees who have relevant specific knowledge about the potential risks posed in the facility or program to aid in the determination of whether or not the university may implement a Service Animal exclusion for the specific facility or program.

Legitimate considerations include whether or not:

  1. The presence of a Service Animal/SAiT represents a direct threat to the safety of people or property; and/or
  2. The presence of a Service Animal/SAiT would constitute a fundamental alteration of the program.

Concerns about the risk to the safety of the Service Animal/SAiT are appropriate to share with the handler but, under state law, the handler is in the best position to weigh the safety risk to their Service Animal/SAiT compared with their need for the Service Animal/SAiT.

Risks must be actual and not speculative and exclusions should not be granted where a reasonable modification of the policies, practices, or procedures would eliminate the risk.

A request for an exclusion of facilities must include a  risk analysis of each specific area of the facility.  A general exclusion for an entire facility is not appropriate without an area by area risk analysis.

When a Service Animal exclusion waiver is approved, the department, program, or facility will be required to place signs in the specific areas where Service Animals are excluded.  The Service Animal Administrator also maintains a list of approved Service Animal exclusion waivers.

You may contact the office or department supervisor, or the appropriate central administrative unit responsible for the program or facility, to discuss options that will help facilitate your participation in activities in the program or facility. The supervisor may refer you to the appropriate disability services office.  A list of disability service offices can be found on the  Accessibility website.