Service and Support Animals

Service Animals

A service animal is defined by RCW 49.60 and POL-U5620.04, as an animal that is trained for the purpose of assisting or accommodating a sensory, mental, or physical disability of a person with a disability. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

It is unlawful for any person who has received notice that their behavior is interfering with the use of a service animal to continue such behavior with reckless disregard by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the service animal handler (RCW 9.91.170).

As provided by law and University policy, a service animal may accompany its handler in academic settings:

  1. When it is readily apparent that a service animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for its handler, faculty and staff must allow the service animal to access academic settings with its handler. Although service animals often wear a vest or patch identifying them as service animals, there is no requirement that service animals have any identification.

  2. In the infrequent circumstance that it is not readily apparent that an animal is a service animal, and faculty have not previously received information from DRS that an animal is a service animal, faculty and staff may make the following limited inquiries of the service animal’s handler:

    • Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?

    • What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

Faculty and staff may take action as follows, based on handler responses:

  • If the service animal handler indicates that the animal is required due to a disability and that it has been trained to perform work or a task for the handler, faculty and staff must allow the service animal and its handler to access the academic setting.

  • If the answer to either question is in the negative or the student chooses not to answer either of the questions, then the faculty or staff member need not permit the animal to enter.

  • If a question remains for the faculty or staff person as to whether the animal is a service animal, the faculty or staff person should allow the animal to access the academic setting and later contact the Associate Director of DRS to discuss the situation.

In no circumstance should a University employee outside of DRS ask the service animal’s handler for information about their disability for the purposes of determining whether to permit a service animal.

Student Rights and Responsibilities in Academic Settings

  1. Students with service animals are not required to register their animal with the University.
  2. Students with service animals are encouraged to meet with a DRS counselor so that DRS can notify faculty in advance of courses that a service animal will be present.
  3. Students with service animals are responsible for the health and safety of their animal in academic settings. This includes the animal’s cleanliness, vaccinations and licenses as required by state law and/or local ordinance. This information will need to be made available upon the request of DRS or Public Safety.
  4. As required by POL-U5620.04, Allowing Animals on University Property, the handler of an animal is responsible for the immediate control and behavior of theanimal.

Faculty and Staff Rights and Responsibilities in Academic Settings

  1. If the presence or behavior of the service animal constitutes an imminent threat to people, the faculty or staff member should ask the handler to immediately remove the animal. As stated in POL-U5620.04, Public Safety is to be contacted if a handler refuses this request to remove the animal. If the handler is asked to remove the service animal, they must be offered the opportunity to return to the University premises or the immediate area without the service animal and/or be provided with alternate accommodation within a reasonable time to participate in the University service or program.

  2. If the service animal is not under the handler's control or the service animal is disturbing or disrupting the normal administrative, academic, or programmatic routine, the handler must be given an opportunity to get the animal under control. If the disruption or disturbance continues, the faculty or staff member should contact DRS or public safety for assistance.

Service Animals in the Classroom

Service animals are permitted to accompany their handlers in all WWU classrooms.

Service Animals in Laboratories and Non-Laboratory Hazardous Work Areas

DRS partners with academic departments to identify potential places for students with service animals to safely bring animals to laboratories and non- laboratory hazardous work areas. Based on the different tasks an animal might perform, designated spaces may not work effectively for all students and their service animals. Laboratories and shops are often tight spaces with unique chemical, biological, physical and other hazards. Students with service animals are strongly encouraged to contact their DRS counselor at least four weeks in advance of any lab or shop coursework. DRS will setup a meeting with the student and appropriate academic personnel to:

  1. Review whether the identified area is effective or whether an alternative location needs to be identified.

  2. Discuss recommended protective equipment such as floor mats, goggles, lab coats and booties. DRS can provide this equipment as needed and requests 4 week notice to do so.

  3. Review chemical, biological, physical and other hazards unique to each lab or shop.

  4. Review student rights and responsibilities (see page 3 of this Standard).

Limited Exceptions in Laboratories Studying Animal/Organismal Behavior or Conducting Animal Research

On rare occasions, the presence of a service animal could compromise the integrity of research or the safety of others. If this is the case, the lab manager or faculty member should notify DRS prior to the beginning of the quarter. Examples of this would include animal/organismal research facilities, medically sensitive patient and clinic areas and biologically sensitive research sites that could be affected by animal dander, hair or fur. If a service animal is restricted from certain areas, DRS is available to assist in evaluating reasonable accommodations. These limited exceptions are determined in consultation with the faculty member, the ADA Coordinator, and the relevant institutional board and parties.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA):

Animals that provide emotional support to an individual, such as for depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. They are not considered service animals under the law. ESA’s are also referred to as comfort or therapy animals.




POL-U1600.03 Accommodating Persons with Disabilities