Animals on Campus

USC has an established policy generally prohibiting animals from University buildings, including Residence Halls. Limited exceptions exist, such as Service Animals, and in some cases, assistance animals determined to be a reasonable accommodation by OSAS. The information below is intended to help students and the broader campus community understand the difference between various kinds of animals, if and where they are permitted, and when they may be removed.

Service Animals (Service Dogs)

Service Animals are defined as either a dog or, in some circumstances a mini horse, that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. No other type of animal is considered a Service Animal, as defined by the ADAAA. A Service Dog identification vest or harness is not required.  Additionally, there are no breed-restrictions when it comes to Service Dogs, regardless of state or local regulations regarding breeds.

Service Dogs operate within a stimulus-response framework. Their role is active in relation to the person they serve. Therefore, students with Service Dogs may bring their Service Dogs on all areas of USC campuses, unless the presence of the dog would be a fundamental alteration of the program or service, or would result in a health or safety risk to the dog or some aspect of the environment (e.g. presence of dog hair would violate the integrity of a sterile lab).

Service Dogs do not need to be pre-approved by OSAS as a reasonable accommodation. However, we very much encourage students to voluntarily register their dog with our office. As a result of this process, OSAS can provide formal documentation to the student, verifying the role of the Service Dog and confirming support for its presence with the student in various settings. Registration with OSAS also allows our office to notify appropriate campus partners of the dog’s presence for safety and emergency support for the animal as well as the student.

Please review the third tab in this section on Student (owner) Responsibilities with Animal Accommodations for more information.

Note about Service Dogs in Training: The University recognizes and supports fully-trained service dogs as ADA-protected accommodations for some students with disabilities. In certain circumstances, part of the dog’s training protocol involves “in home training” with the individual who will be receiving the Service Dog. It is most helpful for these students to voluntarily work with OSAS so that appropriate supports and communication may be put in place on behalf of the student.

For USC students and other members of the campus community, who may operate solely as a trainer for service dogs: While this is a valuable contribution to the disability community, Service Dogs-in-training are not recognized as an exception to the policies regarding Animals on Campus.  These dogs do not receive support for accessing campus buildings, University housing, or other environments which would otherwise grant access to a fully trained Service Dog and its human partner. In this scenario, the University may ask the trainer to remove the dog in training.

Assistance Animals

Assistance animals may also be known as companion, comfort or emotional support animals. These animals are separate and distinct from Service Animals under the ADAAA; therefore, different guidance applies to their presence in the University setting.  Assistance Animals are generally considered a housing-related accommodation reviewed and approved by OSAS. Students should not have Assistance Animals on campus unless/until they are approved as an Accommodation through OSAS. Because these animals are considered a housing-related accommodation, Assistance Animals are limited to the residential setting, and are not approved for access to other University buildings or events, including classes, labs, dining areas, libraries, etc.

This category of animals typically provides passive, emotional support to an individual with a cognitive or psychiatric disability. The animal’s presence alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s disability. Assistance animals are not limited by type or breed.  They are not required to have special training, certification or be licensed as an assistance animal, and are not required to wear an identification vest or harness.

While Assistance Animals are not limited to dogs, there are requirements for the health and behavior of the animal similar to those of Service Dogs. Additionally, any animal which is prohibited by state or local laws, or that is considered a zoonotic risk, will not be considered a reasonable Assistance Animal accommodation.

Requesting an Assistance Animal Accommodation

A student with a disability who lives, or will live, in University Housing and wishes to request an Assistance Animal as a disability-related accommodation must submit a request with supporting documentation to Office of Student Accessibility Services (OSAS) in advance of bringing the animal to campus. OSAS strongly encourages students to initiate this process well in advance of the housing request and placement process to allow for the complete file review process prior to housing arrangements being finalized. Approval of this accommodation may not guarantee immediate implementation of the accommodation in University housing.

In general, Assistance Animals are only allowed in the residence room, campus apartment or common spaces within the residential community to which the individual with a disability is assigned.  However, the Assistance Animal may not be allowed in common spaces if the animal’s presence poses a health or safety threat to the environment, to other residents, or to the animal itself.   Assistance animals may not accompany the student outside of the residential setting, and are not allowed in any other buildings on University property, nor are they allowed in other controlled spaces on campus.

The student must first be approved to have the assistance animal as an accommodation before bringing the animal to campus.  A student may not misrepresent their registration status with OSAS, or the role of the animal as an accommodation. Misrepresentation could result in the animal being immediately removed from campus at the student’s expense and other disciplinary action.

OSAS collaborates closely with Residential Education, Housing and the student during the review and, if approved as an accommodation, the implementation process. When reviewing the student’s request, OSAS considers numerous factors, including, but not limited to:

  • How does the presence of the animal link directly to the impact(s) the student experiences from their disability within the residential setting?
  • What is the student’s established history making use of an Assistance Animal as part of an overall mental health treatment plan? What other support measures are being taken? How does the animal meet a need that cannot otherwise be met through therapeutic means?
  • What is the animal’s behavior, age, health status, care and maintenance regimen, and size? Are the animal’s vaccinations up-to date? Is the animal spayed/neutered? Is the animal prohibited by state law or generally considered a zoonotic risk to the health of others in the community?

Please note: Generally, an animal that is too young to be vaccinated or spayed/neutered would not be considered eligible to serve as an appropriate Assistance Animal accommodation, since basic state/city/University health code standards cannot be met.

If approved for the Assistance Animal accommodation, a student will need to:

  • Meet in-person with their OSAS Specialist to review and sign the Assistance Animal Agreement form, acknowledging the policies, rights and responsibilities that accompany this accommodation.
  • Meet with Residential Education staff and the student’s roommate(s) to establish a Roommate Agreement related to the Assistance Animal prior to the animal arriving on campus.
  • Provide Residential Education staff a copy of the Letter of Accommodation, showing OSAS approval of the animal as an accommodation.

Please review the section below on Student (ownerResponsibilities with Animal Accommodations for more information.

Student Responsibilities with Animal Accommodations

By implementing an approved animal accommodation, the student (owner) accepts responsibility for the appropriate care and behavior of the animal, and agrees to operate within the University’s animal accommodation policies. The University is not responsible for the custody or care of a Service Dog or assistance animal.

Student Owners/handlers must

  • Be in control of their animals at all times, e.g. not allow the animal to run at others, bark, growl, snap, lunge, or bite.
  • Keep animals in a carrier or controlled by a leash or harness, with the following exceptions: 1) when an animal is in the owner’s room in University housing; 2) If an individual’s disability precludes the use of a restraint or 3) if a service dog needs to be off leash to do its job (e.g., a dog trained to enter a space to check if there are threats and then return and signal to an owner that it is safe to enter). In this case the animal must be otherwise under the individual’s control (e.g., voice control, signals or other effective means).
  • Clean-up after and properly dispose of animal waste in a safe and sanitary manner.
  • Be responsible for the cost of any damages caused by the animal.
  • Follow city, county, and state ordinances/laws or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, spaying/neutering, and other requirements for animals.
  • Provide appropriate care to ensure the overall health and well-being of the animal, appropriate for the type and breed. Animals should not be left unattended for extended periods of time, overnight, or during holiday breaks. Should this be discovered, the University has the right to place the animal in boarding at the owner’s expense.
  • Ensure that the animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for others. The owner must always be in control of the animal.
  • Be responsible for all costs associated with the removal, transportation and/or boarding of the animal, should the University determine the need to remove the animal. Additionally, the owner is expected to fulfill his/her housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.
  • Complete a Roommate Agreement through Residential Education prior to the animal being brought to campus.

University staff may ask that animals be removed from campus under the following circumstances:

  • The animal is in a non-residential University building and does not meet the definition of a Service Dog.
  • The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage.
  • The animal is not under the owner’s control, or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance, health or safety risk, or interference with the University community.
  • The animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of a University program.
  • The student has left the animal unattended for extended time(s) and/or the animal’s health or well-being is in question.
  • An owner/handler does not comply with the responsibilities listed above.

Please email OSAS at osasfrontdesk@usc.edu or call us at 213-740-0776 with any questions or concerns regarding animals as an accommodation.