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Index > Student Life Policies > Emotional Support Animals ("ESA") Policy

Emotional Support Animals ("ESA") Policy


This policy applies to the specific requirements relevant to an individual’s use of an emotional support animal at RISD.


This policy applies to all individuals who have been granted approval to keep an emotional support animal in RISD housing.

Policy Statement

In accordance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Rhode Island School of Design engages in a deliberative, interactive process with students in order to determine eligibility for reasonable accommodations, including the use of an Emotional Support Animal.


Emotional Support Animal – an animal (approved by RISD through the medical housing accommodation process) specifically designated by a qualified medical provider that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s disability. An ESA may afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their residence hall provided there is a connection between the individual’s disability and the therapeutic benefit the animal provides. ESAs are not typically trained to provide specific services for an individual with a disability.


How RISD Assesses Eligibility Criteria

In applying the above eligibility criteria, RISD will consider ESA requests through an interactive process and will be guided by the following principles:

  • The student must demonstrate through documented expert opinion, or other evidence, that the ESA is both necessary and reasonable for equal enjoyment and use of RISD Housing.
  • The student must also demonstrate that NO other means and methods (e.g. medication, counseling, other housing accommodations, other available interventions, crisis response mechanisms or treatments), or combination of means and methods are available to adequately manage or ameliorate the symptoms of their disability in the housing context.
  • The medical or psychological documentation presented must be from licensed providers that are NOT employed by the Rhode Island School of Design in any of their counseling or health facilities.

Owner Responsibilities for ESAs in College-Owned Residences

  • The owner must notify Disability Support Services ("DSS") if the ESA is no longer needed or is no longer residing on RISD property. If the ESA needs to be replaced, the owner must submit a new request.
  • The owner is responsible to attend and be in full control of the ESA at all times. The ESA shall have a harness, leash, tether or be transported in an appropriate enclosure whenever it is outside of the residence hall room where it will be housed.
  • In shared living spaces, the ESA should be in an appropriate container if the owner is not in the room with the ESA.
  • The owner is responsible for following all rules related to the restrictions of all ESAs from buildings on the campus other than their residence hall.
  • The owner is responsible for the costs of care necessary for the ESA’s well-being. The arrangements and responsibilities for the care of an ESA are the sole responsibility of the owner at all times, including regular bathing and grooming, as needed.
  • The owner is responsible for not leaving the ESA overnight or leaving the ESA unattended for an unreasonable length of time.
  • The owner is responsible for independently removing or arranging for the removal of the ESA’s waste in a timely and appropriate manner.
  • If the ESA voids on the floor or carpet anywhere inside a residence hall, the student is responsible for cleaning up promptly to the best of their own ability in a timely manner. They also must submit a work order request with Facilities Management for the area affected to be disinfected. The student is responsible for all costs associated with such clean up or damage.
  • The owner is responsible for complying with local and state laws concerning licensing, ESA rights, and owner responsibilities. ESAs must be current with immunizations and wear a rabies vaccination tag if appropriate. Annual documentation is required. Please visit this link for more information regarding the licensing of dogs: Pet Licensing and Requirements
  • ESAs must leave campus with the student if the student leaves overnight/during all college breaks. ESAs should NOT go to a friend’s room on campus if the student is not present.
  • ESAs are to remain only in the student’s residential space; ESAs may not be in common areas, classrooms, shops, etc.
  • The owner is responsible for paying for any damage caused to RISD property and are responsible for pest treatment necessitated by the ESA.
  • The owner must abide by all applicable residential policies, including room inspections.
  • The owner is responsible for notifying DSS and Residence Life if the ESA is no longer needed.
  • The owner must complete and submit Residence Life Animal Policy forms with immunization and licensing documentation to the Residence Life office.

Removal of an ESA

An ESA can be removed from campus, at the cost of the student, if:

  • the ESA is found by the college to be out of control or disruptive and the ESA’s owner does not take immediate and effective action to control it.
  • the ESA is not housebroken or kept in a cage where waste can be managed effectively
  • the ESA is found to be neglected or mistreated and prompt corrective action is not taken
  • the ESA is physically ill
  • the ESA is unreasonably dirty
  • the ESA poses a substantial or direct threat to personal or public safety, causes substantial physical damage to the property of others, or poses an undue financial or administrative burden on RISD.

Reminder: ESAs are not permitted anywhere on campus, outside of the residence hall, where ESAs are NOT allowed.

All ESA owners must abide by applicable local ordinances. Rhode Island state law requires that all dogs over the age of four months be vaccinated against rabies, and be licensed through the local city and town. Please visit this link for more information: Pet Licensing and Requirements

Any ESA that misbehaves or any owners (or others) who mistreat their service animal or ESA should be reported to Public Safety.

RISD Community Responsibilities

  • The Community must allow the ESA to reside with its owner in their residence hall room or suite once the ESA is approved as a disability-related accommodation.
  • Community members should contact Residence Life if any questions or concerns arise relating to ESAs, including any additional questions regarding visitors to campus who have ESAs.
  • Community members should report any ESA that misbehaves or any owners (or other individuals) who mistreat their ESA to the Department of Public Safety and DSS.
  • Community members will not charge a fee for the ESA to reside in the residence hall but may assess usual fees for any damages incurred. RISD has permission to share animal locations provided on the Animal Registration Form with Public Safety.

Disability Support Services (DSS) Responsibilities

  • DSS is responsible for developing the necessary procedures for the college and facilitating the use of ESAs by students on campus.
  • DSS assists owners and the RISD community when questions or concerns arise relating to ESAs on campus and seeks legal advice when necessary.


Students requesting an ESA must follow the Medical Accommodations Process outlined below:

Submitting your Medical Accommodation Request

  1. Visit the RISD Housing Portal
  2. Click the ‘Housing Application Tab’
  3. Select the term that your request is for
  4. Review and revise your personal information
  5. Select ‘Medical Accommodation Request’ from the drop-down menu at the bottom of your profile questions
  6. Read through the Medical Accommodation Guidelines, and download the Medical Provider form if necessary. Click ‘Save & Continue.’
  7. Complete the Student Medical Accommodation Form. Click ‘Save & Continue.’
  8. Upload the completed, signed, and scanned Medical Provider form. Click ‘Save & Continue’
    • To make this process easier, please properly label the document(s) with your first initial and last name, followed by “Medical Provider Form”. For example: J. Doe Medical Provider Form.
  9. If you are applying for an ESA, please also download, fill out and upload your Animal Care Agreement at this time. If your ESA is approved, you will be asked for immunization records upon approval.

Revision history

This policy was last reviewed/modified on: 1/29/2021

Next scheduled review: TBA


Issuing Office

Disability Support Services

Responsible Officer

Vice President for Student Life

Individuals/offices required for review and changes

Disability Support Services

Residence Life

Office of the General Counsel