Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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302 Memorial Union
50 Lower College Road
Kingston, RI 02881
T: 401-874-2098
F: 401-874-5694
TT via RI Relay: 711
E: dss@etal.uri.edu

Emotional Support Animal (ESA):
Housing and Residential Life Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

URI Policy and Procedure


 Emotional Support Animal (“ESA”): Indoor-appropriate animals, such as a cat or dog, which are not individually trained to meet a student’s specific disability needs, but provide psychological, mental or emotional support or comfort to the student.

An ESA is NOT a working “Service Animal” (which is a working dog “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”)

Disability: A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual

 URI Housing: Any student housing or residential life facility at URI where students may live.

URI Policy

It is the general policy of the University of Rhode Island (“URI”) that pets ARE NOT allowed in campus buildings or in URI Housing Facilities. This general policy is known, and shall be referred to here, simply as the “no pets rule.”

However, URI will, in appropriate cases, at the request of a student with a disability who satisfies the following Eligibility Criteria through submission of the required documentation and in accordance with the Procedures set forth below, make a partial exception to the no pets rule in the student’s residence only, as a “reasonable accommodation” to a student with a documented disability. Such an accommodation would allow the student with a disability to keep an Emotional Support Animal (“ESA”) with them in URI Housing where the student can demonstrate that the accommodation is necessary for the student to have equal access to and use of URI Housing.

Certain animals will be excluded from the ESA accommodation.  These shall be referred to in this Policy as “Excluded Animals.” Animals that are inherently dangerous or predatory (such as certain snakes, pythons, birds, etc.), large animals (over 30 pounds), and wildlife or endangered species (such as but not limited to ferrets, etc.) will generally be excluded, but exclusion determinations will be made by URI on a case-by-case basis.

When such an exception (reasonable accommodation) is granted, the student will be required to strictly follow the rules pertaining to animal control and student responsibility set forth in the URI Policy Entitled “Responsibility for Emotional Support Animals on Campus” (scroll to end of this page).

At least annually, or upon request, the student will register the animal with URI and HRL representatives, and will provide veterinary evidence that the animal is healthy and appropriately vaccinated according to Rhode Island statute.

Eligibility Criteria:

In order to be eligible for an exception (reasonable accommodation) under this policy, and obtain approval to keep an ESA in URI Housing, the student must demonstrate all of the following:

  1. That the student has a disability;
  2. The exception to the no pets rule (reasonable accommodation) is necessary to afford the student an equal opportunity to use and enjoy URI Housing;
  3. There is an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the exception to the no pets rule (reasonable accommodation) and the student’s disability; and 
  4. The ESA is not an Excluded Animal.

Guidance Concerning Application of the Policy

In applying the above eligibility criteria, URI will be guided by the following “interpretive principles, rules and factors”:

  1. The student will have the burden of demonstrating, through documented expert opinion, testimony and other evidence, that the student would not be able to use and enjoy URI Housing facilities “but for” the requested exception (keeping their ESA in the URI Housing).
  2. The student will have the burden of demonstrating, through documented expert opinion, or other evidence, that the animal is both necessary and reasonable for equal enjoyment and use of URI Housing.
  3. 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 his/her disability in the housing context.  If such other means and methods, or combination of means and methods, ARE available to the student to adequately manage or ameliorate the symptoms of the student’s disability to such a degree that the student, with the aid of those other means and methods, WOULD be able to use and enjoy the URI Housing, then no exception will be granted.
  4. The medical or psychological documentation presented must be from licensed providers that are NOT employed by the University of Rhode Island in any of their counseling or health facilities. 

Note: These eligibility criteria are based primarily on the relevant provisions of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. 3604(f), and regulatory guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development in its Final Rule entitled “Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities” published in the Federal register on October 27, 2008 (73 FR 63834). While URI does not believe that URI Housing falls under the definition of “dwelling” as defined in the FHA, and therefore that the FHA does not apply to URI Housing, URI nonetheless will consider student requests to keep ESAs in URI Housing under the provisions of this Policy and Procedure.


If you believe you have a qualifying disability for an ESA housing accommodation, please contact Disability Services for Students as early as possible, and BEFORE the room assignments process.

Please follow this established process that allows you to request an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) as a reasonable accommodation in URI Housing facilities.   

Your disability documentation and submitted evidence must demonstrate that you meet the Eligibility Criteria listed above. Most crucially, you must demonstrate that one or more of your major life functions are significantly, amply or substantially limited in the residential environment, and that your requested ESA is necessary for you, or essential to your ability, to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy URI Housing. The documentation and other information you submit should also directly address the “interpretive principles, rules and factors” set forth in the “Guidance Concerning Application of the Policy” section of the policy, above.

Again, the documentation you submit will necessarily come from external licensed providers, not employed by the University of Rhode Island.

Specific Steps To Follow:

  1. Make an appointment with a counselor in Disability Services for Students (dss@etal.uri.edu) or phone 401-874-2098).
  2. Prior to the first appointment, please provide Disability Services for Students with comprehensive diagnostic data about your qualifying disability. (See Documentation – for a description). This documentation must substantiate the disability and its specific impact upon your ability to live in URI Housing & Residential Life facilities.  The DSS counselor will discuss your concerns with you.
  3. Please also provide a complete personal statement to describe your history of difficulty with public or communal housing from high school until now. This statement or case history should include your reasons for requesting the ESA, including prior experiences.
  4. Please also provide a profile of your requested Emotional Support Animal that, if approved, will later serve as registration information, and that demonstrates veterinary evidence of proper vaccinations and reasonable health.
  5. The accommodation committee in Disability Services for Students will review your statement, supporting evidence, and documentation; they will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant the ESA as a reasonable housing accommodation. You will be informed of their decision by the Director, Disability Services for Students.
  6. If there is sufficient evidence, the DSS committee will forward a formal request, on your behalf, to the Director/Associate Director of Housing & Residential Life for their decision and recommendation on housing assignment location.  Disability Services will not be able to influence the particular location of your housing. 
  7. Upon assignment, you are expected to comply with all HRL requirements, deposit/application procedures, and behavior code policies regarding noise, cleanliness and conduct.  Students are responsible for their animal’s behavior.
  8. Sign the Housing Agreement, which will specify expectations and directions about animal care and behavior. Please see “Other Animal Policies and Guidelines” for information on owner responsibilities and animal behavior guidelines.

Policy: Responsibility for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in URI Housing and Residential Life Facilities.

The following policies are pertinent to an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) approved as a reasonable accommodation for a student with a disability in Housing and Residential Life facilities on the URI Campus.

  • The approved ESA is allowed to reside with the student in their residence hall and is allowed to be taken outdoors anywhere on campus grounds where students are allowed to go.
  • The ESA is NOT allowed in any academic buildings, administrative buildings, athletic facilities, or laboratory settings (including URI Farms, Chemistry labs, etc).
  • URI is not responsible for the care or supervision of the ESA.
  • The animal’s owner is responsible for the cost, care, and supervision of ESAs, including:
    • compliance with any laws pertaining to animal licensing, vaccination, and owner identification;
    • keeping the animal under control and taking effective action when it is out of control;
    • feeding, walking, and disposing of waste;
    • waste disposal via university plumbing or indoor trash containers is prohibited.  Waste must be recovered, bagged, and placed in an outside trash container.
  • URI will not require any surcharges or fees for an ESA in the residence halls, because it is a disability-related accommodation. However, the animal’s owner will be charged for damage caused by an ESA to the same extent that URI would normally charge any person for the damage they cause to university property.
  • People with disabilities who live with emotional support animals must comply with all university rules regarding noise, safety, disruption, and cleanliness.
  • In all cases, the owner of the animal is responsible for the animal’s behavior which is subject to disciplinary action via the URI Student Conduct process.
  • In all cases, the owner of the animal will agree to hold harmless the University of Rhode Island for any damage or any injury to others caused by their ESA.
  • If necessary, the removal of any ESA, with any necessary cleaning, repairs and/or pest control will be done at the expense of the responsible resident.
  • Students must verify that the ESA’s medical and vaccination records are current.  Please contact Disability Services for Students with this information.
  • The student resident will be permitted to have no more than one animal due to the confined residential living space.
  • An ESA (emotional support animal) must be housebroken (i.e., trained so that it controls its waste elimination, absent illness or accident)
  • The emotional support animal must be kept under control by a harness, leash, or other tether at all times.
  • The above policies will be strictly enforced; violations are subject to the URI Student Conduct process.

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