Skip to main content

Animals on Campus

What is the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal?

Service Animals (SA) are defined as dogs or miniature horses that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These tasks can include, but not limited to, things like pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person who is low vision or blind, alerting a person who is having a seizure, or even calming a person diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, the work or task a service dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as Service Animals under the ADA.

Emotional support animals (ESA) are animals (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides comfort or a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support to help mitigate symptoms of a psychiatric disability or other mental impairment beyond the typical pet/owner relationship. An ESA is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability.

Where are these animals permitted on campus?

Service Animal

Service Animals are permitted in all areas of NC State’s facilities, including anywhere students, members of the public, and other participants in services, programs or activities are allowed to go. In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration.  However, there are some exceptions. If admitting SA would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or legitimate safety requirement, the SA may be prohibited. Please contact the Office for Inclusion Equity and Diversity if you believe the animal should be excluded.


An ESA may be approved for on-campus housing. It is not granted access to places of public accommodation, including food-service facilities, classrooms or non-residential buildings without prior approval. ESAs should not be brought to campus prior to obtaining approval from the appropriate administrative office. Students should contact the Disability Resource Office and employees should contact the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.

How do I know if it is a SA or ESA?

Only a Service Animal can go where the handler goes. Faculty or staff are not allowed to request any documentation, require that the SA demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. Cards, certificates or documentation from the handler should not be accepted. If the service that the animal provides is not easily observable, a person can make two inquiries.

  • Is your animal required for a disability?
  • What task is it trained to perform?

The SA must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a SA that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person who has epilepsy may have an SA that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help her remain safe during the seizure. If the SA has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a SA. However, if the animal’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a SA under the ADA and you could request the removal of the animal.

If you have questions about the task performed, you should contact the Disability Resource Office to discuss further.

What if the Service Animal is being disruptive?

Under the ADA, Service Animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Any animal can be asked to be removed if it is found by the University to be out of control or disruptive and the animal’s owner does not take immediate and effective action to control it. Under control means that an animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control or being disruptive.

For more information about animals on campus: Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADAREG 04.20.05 – Service Animals for Persons with Disabilities or contact the DRO or OIED.