Service & Assistance Animals

Policy Overview

As stated in Blinn College Board Policy FAA, Blinn College (hereinafter referred to as “College District”) is committed to compliance with state and federal laws regarding individuals with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act.

The College District recognizes that some individuals with disabilities use assistance animals. These are animals that work, perform tasks, assist, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support. There are two types of assistance animals: (1) service animals and (2) support animals. Specific rules apply to these two categories, as discussed below. Questions regarding assistance animals should be directed to the Office of Disability Services.

An individual with a disability who uses a service animal may have access to all facilities and buildings on campus that are open to the public. No documentation will be required to establish that the animal is trained or certified. However, in the case of support animals residing with a student in College housing, the College will require that the student provide documentation that establishes the following:

  • The individual has a disability for which the animal is needed;
  • A description of how the animal assists the individual, including whether the animal has received special training;
  • The relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides.

Service Animal Regulations

Under the ADA and Section 504, the College District must provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities so that they may access the programs and services of the College. Service animals may assist a person with a disability to perform specific tasks needed to mitigate the effects of their disability.

Under federal regulations, the only animals that qualify as service animals are dogs. (In some limited cases, a miniature horse may qualify.) The dog must be trained to perform a specific task that assists the person with a disability.

Service Animals at Blinn College District

Individuals with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animals in all College District buildings where members of the public or participants in services, programs or activities are allowed to go. By law, a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals.

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of such tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting an individual with low vision with navigation; alerting individuals who are hard of hearing to the presence of people or objects; pulling a person's wheelchair; or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with a mobility disability. Service animals are trained for a variety of disabilities, including visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical impairments, and mental health issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For example, with certain mental health impairments, the dog is trained to recognize and sense when the person is beginning to have a panic attack and will paw or pull the person to remove them from the situation. This is a specific task; the dog provides more than emotional support.

A service animal must be under the control of its handler. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless the individual’s disability prevents using these devices or these devices interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of tasks. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

Federal regulations do not require a person with a disability to provide documented proof of training or provide documentation of their disability in order to enter a building or area that is open and accessible to the general public. The only questions that College District employees can ask of the person with a service animal are:

  • Do you have the dog because of a disability?
  • What task is it trained to do?

No other questions can be asked, and no proof can be required of training. However, these questions should not be asked when it is readily apparent that the individual has a disability and that the animal is trained to assist the individual.

If the person with a disability answers “no” or “none” to the above questions or responds that the animal is not trained but is used for emotional support, the animal does not qualify as a “service” animal under federal law.

An animal that is not a service animal might still qualify as a “support” animal. Whether the animal qualifies as a support animal will depend on other factors as stated below. An approved support animal is permitted in a residence hall but no other location on campus.

Responsibilities of Individuals with Service Animals; Disruptive Service Animals

Persons with the disabilities who use service animals have certain responsibilities. The service animal is considered an extension of the person and therefore must comply with the same public rules and regulations that the disabled person must comply with. Just as a person cannot yell out loud and run around being disruptive, neither may a service animal.

Individuals with disabilities are responsible for the control of their service animals at all times and must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including vaccination, licensure, animal health and leash laws. A service animal shall be restrained with a harness, leash, or other tether, unless an individual’s disability precludes the use of a restraint or if the restraint would interfere with the animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks. If an animal is not tethered, it must be otherwise under the individual’s control, whether by voice control, signals, or other effective means.

The owner of the animal bears sole liability (criminal or civil) for the actions of the animal (bites, scratches, property damage, etc.).

Individuals are responsible for ensuring the immediate clean-up and proper disposal of all animal waste. Although the College District may not charge an individual with a disability a service animal surcharge, it may impose charges for damages caused by an animal in the same manner the College District imposes charges for damages caused by students or others.

Faculty members may not prevent service animals from entering their classroom, and staff and administrators may not refuse entry to other public buildings on campus, including libraries. Faculty, staff, and administrators may respond to disruptive or other inappropriate animal conduct by directing the individual with a disability to remove the animal. If a faculty member is allergic to the animal, the faculty member should consult with the Office of Disability Services so that the faculty member’s and student’s respective needs for accommodation can be evaluated.

If a service animal becomes disruptive in class (uncontrollable barking, out of control behavior, not housebroken, etc.), the faculty or staff member may direct that the student remove the animal; however, the student is welcome to return. A dog that is disruptive a second time may not return to class for one class session (or three calendar days, whichever is shorter). The student is permitted to attend class without the animal. If the service animal becomes disruptive a third time, the student must meet with the Director of the Office of Disability Services to discuss the College’s service animal requirements. The animal may not return to class for 10 calendar days. The student is permitted to return. If the student is not able to participate without the animal and if the animal continues to be disruptive, the student and the Office of Disability Services shall confer regarding other potential accommodations.

If the service animal of a campus visitor is disruptive, the College may ask the person to remove the service animal for the remainder of the activity; however, the visitor is welcome to return. A dog that is disruptive a second time may not return for three calendar days. The visitor is permitted to attend without the animal. If the service animal becomes disruptive a third time, the visitor must meet with the Director of the Office of Disability Services to discuss the College’s service animal requirements. The animal may not return to campus for 10 calendar days. The visitor is permitted to return. If the visitor is not able to participate without the animal, the visitor and the Office of Disability Services shall confer regarding other potential accommodations.

While no proof of training is required, dog obedience and training programs are highly recommended for individuals with assistance animals.

Assistance Animals in Blinn College District Housing

If an animal qualifies as a service animal, the College must allow the animal in student housing. However, the student will need to complete a form that provides the animal’s name, vaccination information, contact information in case of emergency, and related information. The student will receive the College’s rules regarding sanitation, disruption, and safety. A request to reside with a service animal in a residence hall may be denied if: (1) the specific animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Determination that any assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others will be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal rather than speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals may have caused. Breed, size, and weight limitations will not apply.

If an animal does not qualify as a service animal under the ADA, the College District will need to evaluate whether the animal qualifies as a support” animal under the Fair Housing Act. In contrast to service animals, support animals must remain in the student’s personal residence and cannot be brought to public common spaces in the residence hall such as a laundry room or lounge. When the animal is transported outside, it must be in an animal carrier or restricted by leash or harness. Students with a disability who desire to reside with a support animal should submit an application to the Office of Disability Services.

When determining whether an animal is a support animal, the College District will ask:

  1. Whether the student has a physical or mental disability. If the disability is readily apparent or if the student has previously submitted documentation to the Office of Disability Services, the College District may have sufficient information to determine whether the student is a person with a disability under the law. If not, the College District will request that the student provide information that reasonably supports that the student has a disability.
  2. Whether the animal provides support with respect to the student’s specific disability. The student is encouraged to submit documentation from a health care professional or disability services agency confirming the therapeutic need for the animal.
  3. Whether the animal is the type that is commonly kept in a domestic household such as a dog, cat, fish, bird, or hamster, or whether the request involves very unique circumstances in which a non-household animal could be allowed.

If the answer to any of the questions is “no,” or if the student has provided insufficient information, the College District is not required to grant the accommodation so long as the requester has been provided a reasonable opportunity to provide necessary information.

If the animal qualifies as an assistance animal, then the College District will not charge a deposit or fee. Support animals may be dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, turtles, and other small, domesticated animals that are traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes. If an individual requests to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households, then the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal.

Employees who receive requests for accommodation of an assistance animal should direct the student or applicant to the Office of Disability Services. The Office of Disability Services will handle the request on a confidential basis. If the request is approved, residence hall staff will be informed that the accommodation is needed because of a disability but details about the disability will not be provided.

Some students may have medical conditions that are adversely impacted by the presence of animals (e.g., respiratory disease, asthma, severe allergies) and may be unable to live in or occupy shared spaces with assistance animals. The Office of Disability Services will consider the needs and/or accommodations of all persons involved on a case-by-case basis.

For more information on assistance animals in student housing, individuals may wish to review “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act,” available at https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf. This document provides helpful guidance; however, failure to comply with this guidance document does not alone establish a violation of applicable law.

Standards of Behavior by Animal and Animal Owner

Health, sanitary, safety, and disruptive standards must be maintained as follows:

  • Animals require daily food and attention, as well as a daily assessment of their general health, behavior, and overall welfare.
  • Service animals cannot be left unattended at any time. Support animals cannot be left unattended for extended periods. When the owner of a support animal is attending class or another campus activity, the animal must be appropriately restrained or crated within the owner’s residence. No animal should be left overnight without the owner. If the owner must leave campus, the owner must take the animal with them or make arrangements for the animal to be cared for elsewhere. Requesting a friend to care for the animal or check on the animal is not permitted. Students who reside on campus must provide the Office of Disability Services emergency contact information for an adult who can retrieve their animal in the event the owner is unable to return to his or her room or is unable to care for the animal due to the owner’s illness or other emergency. Support animals are not permitted in other locations on campus or in common areas of the residence hall. They are only permitted in the student’s personal residence.
  • Animal waste must be taken care of immediately and in a sanitary manner. Animal feces, defined as cat litter box contents and any solid animal waste, must be disposed of properly. It is the owner's responsibility to remove feces from College grounds, dispose of it in a plastic bag, and then place that bag an outdoor garbage dumpster. Animal feces may not be disposed of in any trash receptacle or through the sewer system inside any building on the college campus. Waste must be taken to a dumpster for disposal.
  • Residents with cats must properly maintain litter boxes. In consideration of the health of the cat and occupants of the apartment or the residence hall room, cat litter box contents must be disposed of properly and regularly. The litter box must be changed with new cat litter regularly as outlined by the manufacturer.
  • Animal accidents within the residence hall room must be promptly cleaned up using appropriate cleaning products. Delay could damage flooring or other property.
  • Regular and routine cleaning of floors, kennels, cages, and litter boxes must occur. The odor of an animal emanating from the residence hall room or apartment is not acceptable.
  • Any flea or tick infestation must be attended to promptly by a contracted professional extermination company at the animal owner's expense. Owners are expected to promptly notify the hall office or facilities staff and arrange for extermination when a flea problem is noted. Animal owners should take precautionary measures such as flea medications prescribed by veterinarians, flea and tick collars, or taking the animal to the veterinarian for flea and tick baths. However, housing staff may not use chemical agents and insecticides to exterminate fleas and ticks. Because not all of these precautions will prevent flea and tick infestations, the animal owner is responsible for extermination costs after vacating the residence hall room or apartment. The animal owner must coordinate with the housing office in advance in the event a professional extermination company is used.
  • Animals must not be disruptive. Disruption includes barking during quiet hours or repeatedly or aggressively growling, yowling, howling, etc. Animals which constitute a threat or nuisance to staff, residents, or property, as determined by the Housing Director or designee or campus police, must be removed within seven calendar days of notification. If the Blinn College District Police Department personnel determine an animal poses an immediate threat, animal control may be summoned to remove the animal. If the behavior of an animal can be addressed by the owner and the owner can change the behavior of an animal so the animal does not have to be removed, then a written action plan must be submitted by the owner. The action plan must outline the action to take place to alleviate the problem. The Housing Director or designee will provide a written deadline for compliance. The day after the deadline for removal from the apartment, housing staff will inspect the residence hall room or apartment to check for damage and infestation, and a mandatory cleaning and extermination may be scheduled. Any animal owner found not adhering to the removal directive will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include contract cancellation and loss of housing privileges.
  • The animal owner will take all reasonable precautions to protect other people and College District property from actual injury or the threat of injury or damage. The service or support animal is considered an extension of the student and thus is subject to the same code of conduct as the student would follow. Disciplinary sanctions could include removal of the animal and student from student housing and/or monetary sanctions to cover damage to property, Flagrant violations, such as knowingly allowing an animal to provoke or attack another person or animal, or repeated violations of prior directives could result in expulsion; however, no discipline will be imposed except in accordance with College District disciplinary procedure, and the student will be given a meaningful opportunity to respond to the allegations.
  • The owner of a service animal or support animal that has escaped or cannot be located within one hour shall promptly notify campus police. If the animal owner resides on campus, the animal owner also shall notify residence life staff via the hall office.

Additional Health and Safety Requirements

  • All required immunizations must be up-to-date and a copy of the immunizations must be on file with the Housing Office. Dogs must be licensed and a copy of the license must be on file with the Housing Office.
  • Dogs and cats must be spayed or neutered. A copy of the veterinarian's report must be on file with the Housing Office.
  • A Certificate of Health signed by a veterinarian certifying the dog or cat is healthy and free from any signs of infectious or contagious diseases, parasites, etc. must be on file with the Housing Office.
  • Collars and tags must be worn at all times (when appropriate to the type of animal). Animals must be kept on a leash or in a cage or crate at all times when outside the residence hall or apartment. Dogs, cats, and other animals may not run freely on campus.
  • Dogs must possess friendly and sociable characteristics. Local animal control authorities have authority to remove dogs that are dangerous and have engaged in unprovoked attacks on others. (Texas Health and Safety Code, Title 10, Chapter 833, Subchapter A, Section 822.041). Additionally, a person who habitually abuses or neglects to feed or otherwise neglects to properly care for his or her assistance animal is subject to seizure of the animal under Subchapter B, Chapter 821, Health and Safety Code.

A person who uses a service animal with a harness or leash of the type commonly used by persons with disabilities who use trained animals, in order to represent that his or her animal is a specially trained service animal when training has not in fact been provided, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punished by: (1) a fine of not more than $300; and (2) 30 hours of community service to be performed for a governmental entity or nonprofit organization that primarily serves persons with visual impairments or other disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than one year.

Service Animals in Training

Texas law allows for service animals in training to access areas normally accessible to the public as long as they are accompanied by an approved trainer.

Service animals in training must meet all of the other regulations under ADA for trained service animals.

An approved trainer recognized by the College District is an individual who has been certified by an organization whose primary mission is to train service animals for people with disabilities. If the student is not an approved trainer, the student must provide proof of an approved trainer and the trainer will be with the student and the dog while in campus buildings.

Additionally, service animals must be tethered at all times (unless the leash interferes with the task the animal performs) and meet all local health requirements, including vaccinations.