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Service & Support Animals

Service animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in order to participate in or gain access to programs, benefits or services at the University.


Service animals and emotional support animals may be used by individuals with disabilities for a variety of reasons. Accordingly, it is important to be aware of the University’s responsibilities regarding access for such animals. Below is some additional information about the various types of animals that may be present on campus and the level of protection and access they are granted under the law. If you have any questions regarding an animal, you are encouraged to first consult with theDisability Equity Office.

This resource was last updated January 20, 2023.

Service Animals

Service animals may be used by individuals with disabilities in order to participate in or gain access to programs, benefits, or services at the University.

What is a Service Animal?

Service animals are specifically defined as a dog or a miniature horse that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals can be trained to perform a variety of different tasks or work to assist an individual with a disability (e.g., assisting with balance, providing navigation, detecting fluctuations in blood sugar, etc.). A service animal does not need to have any specific identification, such as a vest or collar. Moreover, there are no restrictions on the breed of dog or miniature horse that can qualify as a service animal.

Access Granted to Service Animals

Under the ADA, an individual who is accompanied by a service animal may not be excluded from an area where the individual would be otherwise permitted to go. While in these areas, the individual is solely responsible for taking care of the animal, including toileting, and must maintain control of the animal at all times. The animal should be harnessed, leashed or tethered at all times, unless such a device would impact the animal’s ability to perform their task or work. In this case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice command.

Grounds to Exclude a Service Animal

While an individual may not be excluded from a space because they are accompanied by a service animal, there are some exceptions when an individual may be asked to remove the animal:

  • If the animal is out of control and the individual does not take immediate steps to control it.
  • If the animal is not housebroken.
  • If the presence of the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

This assessment cannot be based on stereotypes or assumptions about the individual or the breed of the animal, but must be based on observable facts and circumstances. For example, an animal that presents with rabies symptoms or displays aggressive behavior may be excluded as a direct threat to health or safety.

It is important to note that fear of dogs or allergies is NOT enough to exclude a service animal from a facility. If there are concerns about fear or allergies, departments should try to accommodate both parties as much as possible, with the understanding that the animal should not be removed unless one of the other exceptions applies.

If the disability is not apparent, or is it is not obvious what task or work the animal performs, then facility staff may ask two questions to determine whether the animal is a service animal:

  • Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

If the individual answers “no” to the first question or provides an answer that indicates that the animal does not perform a specific task or work in response to the second question, then the individual may be asked to return without the animal. If the individual answers “yes” to the first question and describes a specific task or work (that goes beyond providing support, comfort, distraction, etc.) which the animal is trained to perform, then the individual and animal should be granted access.

Staff may not ask: (1) to see special identification or documentation, (2) that the animal demonstrate the task or work, or (3) about the individual’s disability or require medical documentation.

The Department of Justice provides additional information about service animals.

Service Animals in Training

Michigan law provides service animals in training similar access to public spaces for the purpose of training or socializing the animal. As with service animals, a service animal in training may be removed from a space if they are out of control, not housebroken, pose a direct threat to health or safety, or would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided in the space.

Service Animals for Patients

The University of Michigan Health team is committed to accommodating patients by permitting service animals and service animals in training to accompany them during their visits to our hospitals and health centers.


Support Animals

Service animals are distinct from support animals (also known as “comfort animals” or “emotional support animals”). Support animals can be any type of animal, such as a dog, cat or rabbit. Support animals may be requested as an accommodation in housing units (e.g., residence halls) where the individual is a resident; however, public spaces such as dining halls, classrooms, museums, athletic facilities, etc., may ask that support animals not be brought into the facility.

For questions about requesting a support animal within Michigan Housing facilities, please contact the Housing Information Office at or (734) 763-3164 to obtain information on the review and approval processes that must be completed prior to bringing emotional support animals into any Michigan Housing facility.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are specially trained dogs who have undergone assessment and training in order to volunteer to provide affection, comfort, and support. Therapy dogs are not considered Service Animals under the ADA, but do provide valuable support to individuals during times of extreme stress. Therapy dogs may be intermittently made available on the Ann Arbor campus, and there is no specific policy describing their use. There is a Regents ordinance (Article XIV) which describes specific prohibitions around animals broadly. Therapy dogs are typically brought onto campus during ad hoc events.

For the Health System, therapy dogs can be allowed, but there is specific guidance which must be followed. The volunteer therapy dogs must:

  • Have undergone assessment and training to visit patients and residents in health care and other institutions
  • Be managed by an organization which specializes in pet therapy (e.g., Therapy Dogs International, Paws4Patients, etc.)
  • Valid health certificate from vet
  • Be restricted from isolation rooms, operating rooms (ORs), and procedure rooms

Dogs are bathed on regular schedules and handlers follow strict hygiene and maintenance standards. Everyone who pets the dogs should cleanse their hands before and after to limit the spread of germs. Volunteer dog handlers generally seek permission before entering patient rooms.

Therapy dogs are only allowed in cancer units with clearance from the clinical team.

If you have questions about therapy dogs in U-M spaces, please consult the Disability Equity Office.


U-M Ann Arbor does not have any policies for the allowance of pets on campus. See Regent’s Ordinance, Article XIV: Animals which states that no person shall bring an animal onto U-M property (including buses, stadium, etc.) without prior written permission from certain leadership members expect for those service animals defined under the ADA, animals brought for university-sponsored research, support animals under the Fair Housing Act, or animals used by authorized law enforcement.

Visiting pets (only dogs) are only applicable within the U-M health system and there may be duration limitations on any pet’s visitation time depending upon patients’ health. In order to bring a pet into a U-M health space certain conditions must be met, including:

  • Required health certificate from animal’s vet
  • Pet must be fed & bathed prior to visit
  • Pet may only visit individual who owns the pet (not other patients)
  • Pet must be on a leash and behave throughout the visit
  • Pets are not allowed in ICUs, isolation rooms, or near immunocompromised patients