Michigan State University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities and fulfilling obligations under State and Federal law. This Policy governs the use of service animals on campus by persons with disabilities.

Policy Statement

Persons with disabilities may be accompanied by working service animals on the campus of Michigan State University consistent with the provisions of this Policy. 


Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Service animal: The University recognizes “Service Animals” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAA).  Pursuant to that law, a service animal is defined as any dog that is individually 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. 

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler's disability. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Reasonable Modifications - Miniature Horse

Michigan State University shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability. Other requirements which apply to service animals shall also apply to miniature horses.

Assessment factors

In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, Michigan State University shall consider:

  • The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;

  • Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;

  • Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and

  • Whether the miniature horse's presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

Service Animal Use on Campus

Visitors: Visitors to campus with service animals may access all public facilities, with the exception of areas where service animals are specifically prohibited due to safety or health restrictions, where the service animal may be in danger, or where the service animal’s use may compromise the integrity of research.

Employees: Employees with a disability who wish to utilize a service animal as a reasonable accommodation in a University office or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public must register with the RCPD at least 30 days before the animal is needed.

Students: Students with a disability who wish to utilize a service animal in a classroom are encouraged but not required to register with the RCPD. Students are encouraged to register with the RCPD for access to resources, information, and advocacy around a range of disability-related dynamics, including service animals. Registration is required for any student who wishes to use a miniature horse in University facilities.

University Housing

For use of a service animal by a resident or potential resident in University housing, see: “Service/Assistance Animal Policy in University Housing.”

Service Dogs in Training

Service dogs in training are permitted on campus in all public facilities on the same basis as working service animals (see Section V above), provided that the dog is being led or accompanied by a trainer for the purpose of training the dog and the trainer has documentation confirming the trainer is affiliated with a recognized or certified service dog training organization.

Only adult dogs (twelve months of age or older) are considered service dogs in training under University policy. “Puppies in training” are not permitted in University buildings, except in accordance with Ordinance 23.00 or written permission from the Office of the Secretary of the Board of Trustees.

Service dogs in training are not permitted in classrooms, offices, or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public, except in accordance with Ordinance 23.00 or written permission from the Office of the Secretary of the Board of Trustees.

A student or employee with a disability who wishes to utilize a service dog in training in University housing, classrooms, offices, or other areas of campus buildings not open to the general public must register with RCPD and seek approval through the reasonable accommodation process.

General Requirements

Service animals on campus must comply with all state and local licensure and vaccination requirements.

The care and supervision of a service animal is the responsibility of the individual who uses the animal’s service. The individual must maintain control of the animal at all times. The individual using the animal’s service is responsible for ensuring the cleanup of all animal waste and for any damage caused by the animal. University officials and staff may designate animal toileting areas.

Clarifying Animal Status

Service animals are permitted in all public facilities on campus in accordance with this Policy. University employees should not question an individual about an accompanying service animal if the individual's disability is readily apparent and the function of the accompanying animal is clear.

In the unusual circumstance when an inquiry must be made to determine whether an animal is a service animal, a University employee may only ask two questions:

  • Whether the animal is required because of a disability
  • What work or task the animal is trained to perform

University employees shall not ask any questions about the individual's disability.

Although a service animal may sometimes be identified by an identification card, harness, cape, or backpack, such identifiers are not required and should not be requested or demanded for any service animal on campus.

Conflicting Disabilities

Individuals with medical issues impacted by animals (e.g., respiratory conditions, allergies or psychological conditions) should contact the RCPD for assistance.

Removal of Service Animals

A service animal may be removed from University facilities or grounds if disruptive (e.g., barking, wandering, displaying aggressive behavior) and the behavior is outside the duties of the service animal. Ill, unhygienic, and/or unsanitary service animals are not permitted in public campus areas. The individual responsible for such an animal may be required to remove the animal.

Restricted Areas

The University may prohibit the use of service animals in certain locations due to health or safety restrictions, where service animals may be in danger, or where their use may compromise the integrity of research. Restricted locations may include, but are not limited to: research laboratories, classrooms with demonstration/research animals, medical and veterinary surgical areas, and nuclear research areas.

Exceptions to restricted areas may be granted on a case-by-case basis by contacting the RCPD. In making its decision, RCPD will consult with the appropriate department and/or laboratory representative regarding the nature of the restricted area and any ongoing research.

Interacting with Service Animals

Service animals work and perform tasks and are not pets. Accordingly, the RCPD recommends that members of the University community adhere to the following best practices when interacting with service animals:

  • Do not touch or feed a service animal unless invited to do so;
  • Do not deliberately distract or startle a service animal, and,
  • Do not separate or attempt to separate a service animal from the individual using the animal's service.
Emergency Situations

A handler/animal team may become stressed during emergency situations involving smoke, fire, sirens, or injury, and exhibit protective behavior. Be aware that service animals may try to communicate the need for help. In emergency situations make every effort to avoid separating the handler from the animal.

Policy Exceptions

Individuals wishing to request a modification or exception to this policy as a reasonable accommodation should contact the RCPD.

Dispute Resolution Procedure

Disputes or disagreements about a disability determination, appropriateness of an accommodation, service quality, or an animal restriction should first be raised with the RCPD specialist involved. If the matter cannot be resolved, a dispute resolution should be submitted to RCPD.

Individuals may also file a written complaint with the University’s Deputy ADA Coordinator for Grievances in the Office for Institutional Equity at 517-353-3922.  The University’s ADA/Section 504 Grievance Procedure can be found online at oie.msu.edu under the “Information on ADA/Section 504” tab.

Policy Implementation

The RCPD is responsible for implementing this policy. Success requires the cooperation of all students, staff, and faculty.