Assistance Animals on Campus FAQs

Iowa State University is committed to assuring that its programs are free from discrimination and harassment based upon protected classes, including physical or mental disability. Discrimination and harassment impede the realization of the university’s mission of distinction in education, scholarship, and service, and diminish the whole community. (See the Discrimination and Harassment policy.)


These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provide clarification of the procedures and practices in place at Iowa State University in support of the Assistance Animals on Campus Policy.

Whom can I speak with regarding questions or concerns related to Assistance Animals, Service Animals, or Emotional Support Animals at ISU?

Current and prospective students and visitors with questions or concerns should contact accessibility@iastate.edu.

Current and prospective employees with questions or concerns should contact University Human Resources (UHR).

Anyone with questions or concerns about assistance animals on campus should contact SAS or UHR. Any reported questions or concerns will be resolved using an interactive process involving all stakeholders to identify on a case by case basis the most appropriate solution.

You may also to contact ISU’s Office of Equal Opportunity to discuss your concerns and/or file a complaint.

Are there service animals besides “seeing-eye dogs”?

Yes, several animals can be trained to do many tasks for people with a variety of disabilities, some of which may not be obvious or even observable. The following examples demonstrate work or tasks that service animals may be trained to perform.

  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • Assisting an individual before or during a seizure
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • Reminding an individual to take prescribed medication
  • Assisting individuals with psychological or neurological conditions by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors

Where are emotional support animals permitted to go on campus?

Emotional support animals are only allowed in the student’s assigned housing unit and common use areas in and adjacent to the student’s assigned room.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not allowed in food service areas even if the food service area is located in the student’s assigned residence hall. Emotional support animals are also not allowed in classrooms, public buildings, events, transportation, etc. For additional information, see the University’s Animals on Campus policy.

Where are service animals permitted to go on campus?

Service animals are generally permitted to accompany their handler/owner on all ISU properties where members of the public, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees are allowed to go. This includes classrooms, dining halls, residence halls, public transportation, etc. University entities selling food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

Some exceptions to this general rule apply. For example, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal if the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.

Where might a service animal’s access to campus be restricted or limited?

Service animals are generally allowed anywhere on campus that their handler/owner is permitted, including classrooms, libraries, student dining, residence halls, etc. However, under certain circumstances, the owner of a service animal may be asked to remove the animal from restricted spaces or have its access to certain parts of campus (temporarily or permanently) restricted. Listed below are several examples of situations that may result in a service animal being removed or restricted from otherwise permitted locations.

  • The service animal is found to be disruptive.
  • The service animal shows aggression toward their handler/owner or others on campus.
  • The service animal is physically ill.
  • The service animal is unreasonably dirty.
  • The presence of a service animal causes danger to the safety of the handler/owner or other others.
  • The service animal’s safety is compromised.
  • The service animal’s presence may compromise the setting (e.g., a sterile lab), or fundamentally alter an educational program (e.g., in a lab with lab animals where the service animal’s presence will disrupt the lab or compromise the work being done there).

What documentation do I need to provide to have an assistance animal on campus?

Student Accessibilty Services can assist students and visitors with service animal and assistance animal accommodation requests. Requests for disability accommodations involving service animals and/or emotional support animals will require appropriate supporting medical documentation. Please contact Student Disability Resources as soon as possible to initiate this process.

Employees who want to request the use of a service animal as a disability accommodation request must contact University Human Resources and follow ISU’s interactive Disability Accommodation Request (DAR) process prior to bringing the service animal to campus. Employees are not permitted to have emotional support animals on campus.

Are faculty/staff allowed to ask an individual about their service animal’s purpose if one enters their office or classroom?

Faculty/staff cannot ask about a person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the service animal, or ask that the service animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Faculty/staff should contact Student Accessibility Services for assistance related to student concerns.

As a faculty member, what should I do if a service animal is disrupting my class?

First, the faculty member should attempt to address their concern directly with the student by requesting the student put a stop to the disruptive behavior. If the student is unable to control the service animal, faculty and staff members may ask the student to remove the animal, but the student should be permitted to return to the classroom. Section 10.5 of the Faculty Handbook outlines procedures related to ‘classroom disruptions’.

For recurring issues involving disruptive service animals, the faculty member should contact SAS for assistance in finding a long-term resolution.

What can I do if I observe a service animal being neglected or mistreated?

For Emergencies: If you feel the situation is urgent, contact campus police at 911 (from campus extensions) or 515.294.4428 (from off-campus phones).

For Non-Emergencies: If the situation is not urgent and involves a student or visitor, please contact Student Accessibility Services. If you know the animal belongs to an employee, you may contact University Human Resources to report your concerns.

When reporting a concern, it would be helpful to share any of the following details as you are able: the name of the person who has the animal; the name/species/breed/physical description of the animal; its locations; the details causing your concern.

Are service animals required to wear some sort of identification or have a license in order to verify they have been trained?

No. Service animals do not have to wear a jacket/vest to identify them as service animals. The handler/owner does not have to provide documentation verifying that the animal is a service animal. Faculty/staff cannot ask about a person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Is there a certificate or special license that the service animal must have?

No. Service animals do not need a special license or certificate.

Do service animals need to be on a leash?

Any service animal must be under the control of the handler/owner by means of a harness, leash, or other tether unless this is not possible due to the nature of the individual’s disability. In this case, the service animal must otherwise still be under the control of the handler/owner by voice commands or signals.

What can I do if I observe a policy violation related to an assistance animal and want to report it (e.g., the handler/owner is not cleaning up after his/her service animal on campus; an emotional support animal is being loud and disruptive near my dorm room; etc.)?

Report student, visitor, or suspected policy violations and/or non-emergent disruptive behavior that take place in the Residence Halls to the Department of Residence or to Student Accessibility Services. If the situation involves an employee with a service animal, University Human Resources may be contacted.

Who is responsible for cleaning up after assistance animals on campus?

As with all animals on campus, the assistance animal’s handler/owner is personally responsible to immediately remove and properly dispose of waste from their assistance animal. They are also responsible for any damage the assistance animal does to University property and/or the personal property of any roommates or visitors.

Faculty, staff, roommates, etc. are not responsible for the care or supervision of assistance animals.

Can a student or employee have more than one assistance animal?

Any person claiming the need for multiple assistance animals would need to provide acceptable medical documentation supporting the need. Any such requests, whether made by a student to Student Disability Resources or made by an employee to University Human Resources, will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis following established procedures to ensure reasonable accommodations are made.

For students residing in student housing, generally only one assistance animal is permitted per housing unit.

What’s the right way to act around a service animal?

Please do not approach or touch service animals. They are not pets. Below find several general etiquette tips to follow when you are around service animals:

  • Remember that the animal is working. It is important not to interrupt the animal while it is performing its tasks.
  • Do not attempt to play with the service animal - it is working and your attempts to pet it or get its attention may distract the animal from the task at hand.
  • Speak to the person, not the animal.
  • Do not touch the service animal without first asking for, and receiving, permission to do so.
  • Do not make loud noises or startle the service animal–this may distract the service animal from doing its job.
  • Do not attempt to feed the animal - it may have specific dietary requirements.
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate an owner from her or his service animal.
  • Do not ask questions about the owner’s disability, or otherwise intrude on her/his privacy.
  • Do not be offended if the student does not wish to talk about the service animal or denies you permission to touch it
  • Allow a service animal to accompany the owner at all times and everywhere on campus. If you have a concern about a service animal’s access, you may report your concern to Student Accessibility Services (re: students or visitors) or University Human Resources (re: employees with service animals).