Cornell College recognizes under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) the importance of emotional support animals (ESA) which provide emotional support for persons with disabilities. It is important to note that animals that may be needed because of a disability may be identified by various names. For example, an individual may identify the animal as a companion animal, therapy animal, or emotional support animal. The FHAA assures that people with disabilities be allowed to have an ESA in the residence with them if the animal is necessary for individuals for the full benefit or enjoyment of College housing and/or participating in College housing program. This policy explains the specific requirements applicable to an individual’s use of an ESA in College housing.  This policy applies solely to Emotional Support Animals which may be necessary in College Housing. It does not apply to Service Animals as defined by the ADA. Cornell College has developed a separate policy regarding the presence of service animals in College housing

Cornell College reserves the right to amend this policy at any time, as circumstances require.

The emotional support animal (ESA) process begins with Academic Support and Advising (the office that approves all disability accommodations and maintains disability documentation for accommodations).  This is a two-step process, with the approval for the need of an ESA being the first step through the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising and then the approval of the specific animal as an ESA being the second step through the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life.

The student must first fill out the Documentation of Medical and/or Psychological Conditions form and submit.  The information on this form should be accompanied by an email from the student sharing the following information:

  • 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.  

A student who has a documented disability must submit this form, generally completed by a licensed and qualified mental health provider, with whom the student has had an ongoing therapeutic relationship and is a provider in the State of Iowa or the student’s home state. This documentation must show consistent care with a provider who can give a diagnosis(es) that is a disability and be able to validate need for an ESA.  You can submit this documentation by fax: 319-895-5187, email: or personally bring it to the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising in 309 Cole Library. 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.

The student will then meet with the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising to discuss the request further if additional information is needed. The student may be approved for an ESA or the student may need to get more documentation to proceed.

Once approved, the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising will send a housing request to the Residence Life office where they will have 60 days to provide options to the student.  The approval of the specific animal as an ESA is done by the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life and may be subject to a number of considerations including the age of the animal, the space needed to house the animal, the care/feeding requirements of the animal, and the risk of transmission of zoonotic disease in the communal living setting.  Students are typically only approved to have one animal as their ESA in campus housing.   

In the event that an emotional support 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: Emotional Support Animal in Campus Housing. Once this has been completed, the handler must follow all sections of the Cornell College Emotional Support Animal Policy, including Handler Responsibilities. Permission to have an emotional support 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).

Under no circumstances, can an animal be on the Cornell College campus until a student has been through the entire ESA process with both Academic Support and Advising and Residence Life.

Information about service animals can be found in our Service Animal Policy.