Emotional Support Animals at The College of St. Benedict

CSB+SJU Pet Policy

The only pets allowed in campus residence halls/apartments/houses are fish with a tank no larger than 10 gallons. However, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established the need for housing providers to consider “Emotional Support Animals” (or ESAs), as an appropriate accommodation within one’s place of residence under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

What is an ESA?

An ESA is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a documented mental health disability. Different than Service Animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks in any public location, ESAs are not trained and are limited in access to one’s dwelling. The individual seeking to bring an ESA onto campus must have a provider who has prescribed as part of a therapeutic plan to address specific needs, not simply a desire for companionship.

The animal can serve as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person who meets the definition of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The animal is determined to be needed in order to address specific functional limitations and allow the person to live independently. As this is an accommodation, students must participate in an interactive process to have an animal approved.

What type of animals may I have as an ESA?

Guidance published by HUD had described that animals commonly kept in households for pleasure may be approved as reasonable accommodations. An ESA may be a cat (most common), dog, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, fish, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure.  Under guidelines from HUD, reptiles, barnyard animals, monkeys, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals. 

If the individual is requesting to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households as described above, then the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal.

What animals are not permitted?

For the health and safety of our committee, we will not accept requests for reptiles, ferrets, sugar gliders, or spiders since these animals cannot meet vaccination requirements to be certified disease-free. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that emotional support animals should be limited to those that cannot possibly transmit Zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that can be naturally transmitted from animals to humans.

Individuals approved for an ESA may only have one (1) animal. We will not accept requests for more than one ESA.

What happens to animals that have not been approved to live on campus?

Animals found to be living in a dwelling without approval will be removed immediately at the owner’s expense and the student may be subject to disciplinary action within the campus Residential Life conduct process.

What documentation is required?

Student Accessibility Services will only accept documentation from practitioners with whom the student has an established relationship, who is licensed in Minnesota or in the state of the student’s home residence. Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for support animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee. Such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal. To be considered for approval, a student should be prepared to submit appropriate medical documentation.

Our team has created a form to guide practitioners in describing how the functional limitations caused by the disability are mitigated by the animal.  While we may not ask for a specific diagnosis, we must have information that confirms the presence of a mental health disability. Beyond that, we need to know the functional impact of the condition, as well as how the specific animal helps alleviate the impact of disability-related symptoms.

Deadlines: Accommodation requests must be made in a timely fashion. Beginning on May 13,2024, requests for emotional support animals (ESAs) must be complete 60 days prior to move in. 

  • Student Accessibility Services will review all in-semester requests until May 12. Please be advised that in-semester requests can take up to 10 business days for review.
  • For Fall Semester 2024: Friday, June 28, 2024.
  • For Spring Semester: Monday, November 25, 2024.


CSB+SJU has a formal process by which we work with students to determine ESA eligibility. We are available to help students work through the process of requesting an ESA. Be advised that an ESA may not reside on campus prior to completing the registration process or approval process. Students who have a documented mental health disability, who wish to request an ESA, must take the following steps:       

  1. Online Form: Complete the ESA Request Form (link here)
  2. Documentation submitted by a mental health provider: All students must have their providers complete our ESA Verification Form (link here).

***Requests for ESAs will not be reviewed until both of the abovementioned steps are complete.