Service Animal Policy

The University of Chicago Student Service Animal Management Policy defines a Service Animal and sets forth guidelines for students’ use of Service Animals on campus.


The purpose of this policy is to provide the University community with guidelines for the use of Service Animals by students on campus. This policy will assist in:

  • Understanding the rights of students with disabilities who utilize Service Animals
  • Identifying the types of Service Animals
  • Providing a framework for managing Service Animals on campus

Service Animals and the Law

Pets and non-research animals normally are restricted on university property.  However, under federal law, Service Animals are not excluded from university property or activities so long as they meet the guidelines set forth in this policy.  Service Animals are defined as animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities such as:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling wheelchairs for those with limited mobility
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Performing other special tasks.

Service Animals are working animals, not pets.


A person with a disability using a Service Animal is called a Partner. A person without a disability with a Service Animal is called a Handler.  Sometimes Partners and Handlers work together with Service Animals, while other times Partners work solely with Service Animals.  A Partner, or a Handler, and his/her Service Animal are called a Team. The two work as a cohesive unit in accomplishing the tasks of everyday living.

Conflicting/Competing Disability Accommodations

Students with medical condition(s) affected by Service Animals should contact Student Disability Services if they have a health or safety related concern about exposure to a Service Animal. The student registering the concern will be asked to provide medical documentation that identifies the condition(s) allowing a determination to be made as to whether the condition is disabling and whether there is a need for an accommodation.

Types of Service Animals

Service Dog

A dog trained to assist a person with mobility or health impairment is a Service Dog. The types of duties the dog may perform include: carrying, retrieving, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking, helping a person up after the person falls, etc. Service Dogs are sometimes referred to as Assistance Dogs.

Guide Dog 

A dog trained to serve as a travel tool/assistant for persons who are blind or have severe visual impairments is a Guide Dog.

Hearing Dog

A Hearing Dog is trained to alert a person who is deaf or has impaired hearing of sounds, e.g., someone knocking at a door.

Seizure Response Dog

A Seizure Dog is trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder. How the dog may serve the Partner depends on his/her needs. The dog may stand guard over the Partner during a seizure, or the dog may go for help. Some dogs have learned to predict seizures and warn the Partner in advance.

Dog in Training

A dog being trained to perform as a Service Animal has the same rights as a fully-trained dog when accompanied by a trainer and identified as such.

Miniature Horse

Miniature Horse service animals are trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The animals range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders, and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.  The miniature horse must be housebroken and under the owner’s control. Other factors to consider:

  • The facility must be able to accommodate the horse’s type, size, and weight
  • The horse’s presence must not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility

Emergency Situations

Service Animals must wear identifying markers visible to emergency response teams. In the event of an emergency, responding emergency personnel should be trained to recognize Service Animals and be aware that the animal may try to communicate the need for help. The animal may become disoriented from the smell of smoke in a fire or laboratory emergency, or from sirens. The Partner and/or Service Animal may be confused from the stressful situation. Emergency personnel should be aware that the Service Animal is trying to be protective and, in its confusion, should not be considered harmful. Emergency personnel should make every effort to keep the Service Animal with its Partner. However, emergency personnel’s first effort should be to the Partner; this may necessitate leaving the animal behind in certain emergency evacuation situations.

Management of Service Animal

  • The Service Animal must be vaccinated and licensed as required by state law and/or local ordinance
  • Service Animals must be accompanied by the Partner
  • The Partner must remain in close proximity to the Service Animal
  • The Service Animal must be restrained on a leash at all times
  • The Service Animal should be responsive to voice commands at all times, and be under the full control of the Partner
  • To the extent possible, the Service Animal should be unobtrusive to other students and the learning environment.

The Partner (student) may request that others avoid: petting or addressing his/her Service Animal as it may distract if from the task at hand, feeding the Service Animal, deliberately startling the Service Animal, and separating or attempting to separate the Partner from his/her Service Animal. Students may inquire if the Partner needs assistance if there seems to be confusion.

To the extent possible, the Service Animal should not:

  • Sniff people, dining facilities tables, or the personal belongings of others
  • Display any behaviors or noises that are disruptive to others unless it is part of the service being provided for the Partner
  • Engage in personal grooming in public settings
  • Block an aisle or passageway for fire and/or emergency egress.

Poor Health

Service Animals that are ill or in poor health should not be taken into public areas. A Partner with an ill Service Animal may be required to remove the animal from university property.


It is the responsibility of the Partner to make arrange any cleaning necessary due to the presence of the Service Animal. Feces must be cleaned immediately and disposed of properly. This includes University common areas and exterior property such as courtyards, walkways, etc.

Campus Access for Service Animals

A Service Animal is permitted to accompany the student anywhere the student goes on campus with the following exceptions, which describe areas that generally are off-limits to Service Animals:

Research Laboratories
Chemicals found in many labs can be harmful to Service Animals. Organisms naturally found on most dogs or other animals could negatively impact the outcome of research.

Mechanical Rooms/Custodial Closets 
Such locations can have chemicals or machinery that could potentially harm a Service Animal, and Service Animals may cause disruption to services provided in the location.

Medical Center
Except in emergency visits, students with a Service Animal must notify and coordinate with medical personnel staff in advance of the presence of a Service Animal to insure that patient safety is not compromised, as well as the need to minimize the risk of exposing the Service Animal to infections and disease.

Other Potentially Dangerous Areas
Any room, studio, or classroom with sharp metal cuttings or glass shards on the floor; hot material such as molten metal; excessive dust; or moving machinery may pose a danger to Service Animals. When students with Service Animals must be in one of these restricted areas for a course requirement, alternative arrangements will be considered to provide access. When it is determined unsafe for the Team to be in one of these areas, reasonable accommodations will be provided to assure the student equal access to the academic program or activity.

Using a Service Animal in College House System & Graduate Student Housing

As noted, Service Animals must be accompanied by the Partner, and remain in close proximity to the Partner and be restrained on a leash at all times.

In university-owned housing units, whenever a work-order is requested, the resident Partner must remove the Service Animal to a room where facilities staff will not need to enter to complete the repair.

It is the responsibility of the Partner to make arrange any cleaning necessary due to the presence of the Service Animal. Feces must be cleaned immediately and disposed of properly. This includes University common areas and exterior property such as courtyards, walkways, etc.

Students living with a Service Animal in university-owned housing units are strongly encouraged to maintain Renter’s Insurance, including liability coverage for the animal.

Removal of Service Animal from a University-Owned Housing Unit or Campus

If a Service Animal becomes aggressive and poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the Partner will be required immediately to remove the Service Animal from university property. This behavior includes excessive barking, running around without a leash, or growling/biting others. The Partner of a Service Animal is then expected to report such incidents to Student Disability Services within 24 hours of the occurrence.

A Service Animal that makes excessive noise in a residence hall can be very disruptive to other residents. A disruptive animal in a classroom can also hinder the learning of other students. If the Service Animal exhibits this behavior, the Partner will be required to remove the Service Animal from campus until the inappropriate behavior can be brought under control.

An excessively unclean or unkempt Service Animal may be asked to leave campus until the problem is resolved. Failure to uphold and abide by these policies described here could result in a Partner not being permitted to keep his/her Service Animal in university-owned housing units.