Definitions | College Housing Procedures | Handler Responsibilities | Forms

As established and defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals shall not be excluded from Cornell College facilities or activities. To facilitate appropriate acceptance of service animals in classes and other campus areas, students with service animals are strongly encouraged to affiliate with the Office of Academic Support and Advising, particularly prior to bringing service animals into classes.

As stated in the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. Service animals in training must wear a vest identifying them as a “Service Animal in Training” when in public.

Assistance animals may be considered for access to College housing.  Assistance animals, including service animals,  may not reside in College Housing without prior approval from the Residence Life Accommodations Committee and subsequent registration with the Residence Life Office. All assistance animals residing in College Housing must be housebroken.

Handlers must take responsibility for obtaining a dog license from the City of Mt. Vernon within 30 days of bringing a service or assistance dog to campus and abide by all other Mt. Vernon animal control ordinances.  Handlers are also responsible for ensuring that animals are under their control and adhering to any College or City cleanup rules.


Assistance Animal: Assistance animals are not pets.  Assistance animals are animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or animals that provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.  Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing minimal protection to rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.  Some, but not all, animals that assist persons with disabilities are professionally trained.  Other assistance animals are trained by the owners themselves and, in some cases, no special training is required.  The question is whether or not the animal performs the assistance or provides the benefits needed as a reasonable accommodation by the person with the disability.  An assistance animal may or may not also qualify as a service animal.   

Service Animal: Any dog, miniature pony or simian that is individually trained or in the process of being trained to do work or perform specific tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting an individual who is blind or has low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with mobility disabilities, and helping an individual with psychiatric and/or neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Service Animals in Training:  Individuals training a service animal are afforded the same rights to those individuals who require the assistance of a service animal.  If you are training a service animal to aid and guide persons with disabilities, you must contact the Office of Academic Support and Advising and comply with the requirements set forth in this Policy. 

Individual with a Disability (ADA definition): An individual with a disability is a person who 1) has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities or 2) has a record of such an impairment.

Handler: The individual with a disability who utilizes a service or assistance animal as an accommodation.

Accommodation: Any modification or adjustment in policies, practices, procedures, or work/school/housing environment to enable a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equal opportunities and access to College rights, privileges, benefits, and services.

College Housing Procedures for Service/Assistance Animals

Assistance animals, including service animals, may not reside in College Housing without prior notification and registration. Documents required for review of requests for assistance animals in College Housing must include the following:

a)      Completion of the Residence Life Office’s Documentation of Medical and/or Psychological Conditions form by a currently licensed health care professional with no familial relationship to the individual being evaluated. For emotional support animals, the form must be completed by a currently licensed mental health practitioner. The form should include information specifically addressing:

  • the nature of the proposed handler’s disability,
  • the date[s] of the medical diagnosis and prescription for such an animal,
  • how the animal is necessary to provide the proposed handler access to Cornell College’s housing program, and
  • the relationship between the disability and the assistance the animal provides.

b)      A written request from the prospective handler explaining

  • the need for the animal
  • the type of animal
  • the date when the animal was acquired
  • description of the animal (e.g. weight, breed, etc.), whether the animal is housebroken, and the animal’s name. 

It is strongly advised that prospective handlers give a copy of the relevant medical documentation guidelines to their treating clinicians. Prospective handlers should be aware that it may take up to two weeks for requests to be reviewed. Insufficient documentation may result in accommodation delays or denial.View documentation guidelines for students here.

No documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal is required if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the College.

In the event that an assistance animal is approved to be in College Housing, the Director of Residence Life (or designee) will meet with the student handler to review and sign the Guidelines and Agreement: Assistance Animal in Campus Housing. Once this has been completed, the handler must follow all sections of the Cornell College Service and Assistance Animal Policy, including Handler Responsibilities. Permission to have a non-service assistance animal in College Housing does not extend to other campus facilities or to common areas of the residence hall (e.g., lounges, class/meeting rooms, laundry rooms).

Handler Responsibilities

In this section, “animal” refers to a service or assistance animal, as described above. Handlers are responsible for any damage caused by their animals and must take appropriate precautions to prevent property damage or injury. The care, supervision, and well-being of animals are the sole responsibility of their handlers at all times.

Handlers of animals on campus must:

1. Take responsibility for meeting legal requirements regarding vaccinations and licensing.

2. Ensure that animals are under control at all times. If an animal exhibits unacceptable behavior, the handler must take effective action to correct the situation.

3. Handlers may maintain the animal in their assigned room, suite common area (if applicable) or in the hallways while entering or exiting the building and taking the most direct route from the handler’s room and outside. When the handler is not present the animal should be housed and secured in the handler’s room in an appropriately sized kennel or container.  If the handler will be off-campus overnight they may designate one person to attend to the animal’s needs during their absence.  If the handler will be off-campus for 48 hours or more they will need to make arrangements for the animal to stay off-campus.

4. In order to help faculty prepare for any facility or curriculum accommodations, it is recommended that handlers inform faculty of their use of service animals prior to the beginning of any block in which they will be using a service animal in class. Faculty are strongly encouraged to work with the Coordinator for Academic Support and Advising regarding communications with student if there are any concerns. 

5. Ensure that animals are provided adequate care and treatment.

6. Adhere to cleanup rules: Handlers must follow local clean up ordinances when their animals defecate. Waste should be disposed of in a sealed bag and placed in a trash room or outdoor receptacle. Individuals with disabilities who physically cannot clean up after their own service or assistance animal may not be required to pick up and dispose of feces but are responsible for finding someone to do so for them.

7. Take responsibility for property damage: Costs associated with any damage to campus facilities or properties resulting from the animal’s behavior are the sole responsibility of their handlers. Damage that occurs in a residence hall will be resolved according to the Residence Life damage policy.

Removal/Relocation of Service/Assistance Animals

Animals may be removed from any campus facility for the following reasons:

1. Out-of-control Behavior: A handler may be directed to remove an animal that is unruly or disruptive (e.g. barking excessively, running around, bringing attention to itself, jumping up on people, exhibiting aggressive behavior) if the handler is unable or unwilling to take effective action to control the animal. Repeated instances of such behavior may result in exclusion from College facilities until the handler can demonstrate that s/he can effectively control the animal.

2. Not Housebroken: Animals must be housebroken. Handlers must also ensure that their animals are kept clean and well-groomed. Animals that are excessively unclean (e.g., repeated soiling of facilities, flea-infested, foul-smelling and/or shedding excessively) may be excluded from College facilities. Although animals will sometimes become ill unexpectedly, the College recommends that animals that are sick should not be brought into College facilities.

If a service animal is properly excluded from the premises, the handler will be offered the opportunity to participate in the service, program or activity without the service animal.

Conflicts between animals and others’ severe allergies, phobias, etc., will be addressed on a case-by-case basis (e.g., relocation to another College housing facility or an alternate office location).

Emergency Situations

In the event of an emergency, college officials and emergency responders will prioritize the safety and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and guests to campus.  Officials and responders are not responsible for removing animals during an emergency, and may not be held responsible for the care, damage to, or loss of the animal.  

Confidentiality and Authority

Information regarding disability is considered highly confidential, is maintained in separate, secure files with limited access, and is only shared on a need-to-know basis. Authorizations for animals used for disability-related accommodations are made based on medical and/or mental health documentation and the situation at hand, and are not subject to challenge by someone other than the person utilizing the service or  assistance animal.

Policy Revisions and Review

This policy is subject to revision and will be reviewed on an annual basis.


City of Mount Vernon Dog Licensing Form

Service Dog Registration for Campus (for dogs not living on campus but simply visiting inside classroom buildings or Commons, the non-public space). Turn in to Academic Support and Advising office when completed via email, fax or in person.