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Service Animal

A service animal is any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal trained to provide assistance to a student with a disability.

A service animal is an animal that performs tasks for a student to help them overcome limitations resulting from a disability. Some examples of a service animal's duties are: guiding students with impaired vision, alerting students with impaired hearing, providing security or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

The ADA protects the rights of students with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places including residence halls and classrooms.

Service animals differ from therapy or companion animals. Therapy animals provide individuals with comfort and contact with animals, and are used in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. They are not only used with persons who have disabilities, and do not provide a service requiring ADA protection. Companion animals have no legal definition, are not protected under ADA law, and are generally considered to be a person's pet.



The student is responsible for notifying the services for students with disabilities office, prior to their living or taking classes at the institution, if they use a service animal. Students should alert the services office if there are any problems with obtaining access for their service animal.

  • The service animal must be clean, in good health, with current rabies vaccination.
  • All service animals must be on a leash at all times.
  • All students and university employees must abide by current city ordinances/laws pertaining to licensing and vaccination requirements for service animals. It is the responsibility of the owner and/or user of the animal to know about these ordinances and/or laws.
  • All owners and or users of service animals are responsible to clean up after and properly dispose of their animal's feces while on campus.


Faculty should allow the service animal to accompany the student, not draw attention to the service animal, and maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the student by not discussing the purpose of the service animal with others.


The services for students with disabilities office is responsible for notifying faculty and housing of the student's right to have a service animal accompany them at all times; housing is responsible for providing appropriate room assignments.

  • A service animal would be permitted to accompany the student with a disability to most areas on campus where students are normally allowed to go. There may be some areas on campus that could be considered unsafe (e.g., research laboratories or other areas that would require protective clothing).
  • A service animal may be excluded from a facility, including a classroom, if the service animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
  • A service animal may be excluded from a facility, including a classroom, if the service animal's behavior, such as barking, is disruptive.
  • If a service animal is excluded from a facility, the student with a disability must be given the option of continued classroom participation with an alternative accommodation.


Related Functional Characteristics

Service Animal Needs : Special considerations may need to be made in facilitating service animal access for students with disabilities and protecting the safety of the service animal and others.

The Building Accepting Campus Communities (BACC) project was funded by the US Department of Education Office of Secondary Education grant #P333A080070-09. The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on gender, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.