Service Animals


It is the policy of Mount Holyoke College that service animals assisting individuals with disabilities are generally permitted in all Mount Holyoke facilities, programs and activities, except as described below or otherwise governed by applicable law. 


User/Handler Responsibilities 

While access rights are legally afforded to users of service animals, that access is accompanied by the responsibility of ensuring that animals act and respond appropriately at all times while in public and that users/handlers adhere to the same socially accepted standards of behavior as other members of the College community. Users/handlers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their service animals.

Control Requirements 

The following apply for service animals at Mount Holyoke:

  • The service animal must be housebroken.
  • A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash or other tether, at all times outside of the handler’s private quarters or work area. Note: Exceptions to this guideline are instances where the handler’s disability interferes with the use of a harness, leash or other tether; or the use of a harness, leash or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks. When a leash or tether is not in use, the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals or other effective means).
  • The user/handler is responsible for cleaning up after their animal’s waste, and should always carry sufficient and appropriate equipment to clean up after the animal. Waste must be properly disposed of. Persons with disabilities who physically cannot clean up after their own service animal will not be required to do so; however, these individuals should take their animal to designated relief areas for relief. If an animal relieves itself in non-designated areas (as referenced below), these individuals may ask a person nearby for assistance. 

Financial Responsibility 

A person who has a service animal on campus (including College housing) is financially responsible for property damage caused by their service animal including but not limited to cost of repairs, replacement or cleaning of facilities or furnishings, and any bodily injury or personal injury caused to other persons by the service animal. 


If the animal is residing on campus it must meet the town of South Hadley and/or Massachusetts licensing requirements and wear tags designating this license. If the animal accompanies a commuter student, employee or other campus visitor and resides in another locale, the animal must meet the licensing requirements of the user/handler’s resident town and wear tags indicating this licensing. 


The following health requirements apply to service animals at Mount Holyoke:

  • All dogs must wear a rabies vaccination tag as required by applicable Massachusetts or local law. 
  • All service animals living in College housing or coming onto campus on a regular basis (excluding occasional visitors or guests) must be vaccinated against diseases common to that type of animal in accordance with state and local laws, rules and regulations. All vaccinations must be current. 
  • Animals to be housed in College housing must have an annual clean bill of health from a licensed veterinarian.

Service Animals-in-Training/Service Puppies

The user/handler will provide the College with evidence that the puppy is a bona fide service dog candidate supplied by an authorized service dog organization, and is one that the service dog organization expects will return for specialized training when the puppy is old enough, i.e., proof that the puppy is not a program dropout and will, in fact, be given up after the raising period is over. In addition: 

  • Service puppies and service dogs-in-training may not remain alone in a student’s residence more than four (4) hours at a time, and such limitations shall not be affected by the student’s academic, employment or social schedules. 
  • The user/handler will not delegate any of the responsibilities for raising the puppy or trainee, including but not limited to those delineated herein, to any other student(s) except as follows:  
    • The user/handler may designate roommates to be responsible, in their absence, for feeding, walking (including required cleanup) and maintaining puppy’s sleeping area in clean and good order; however, such designation does not relieve the user/handler of any responsibilities nor transfer such responsibilities to any other person. 
  • Repeated infractions of the Service Animal Policy will result in the removal of the service puppy or trainee from campus.       

Relief Areas 

Relief areas are typically unmowed and unmaintained areas on campus. Students with service animals residing on campus are encouraged to meet with College grounds personnel to designate, on an individual basis, appropriate relief areas.

Students Living in Residence with a Service Animal 

Mount Holyoke encourages, but does not require, students to make themselves known to the College should they desire to have a service animal accompany them in academic classes, activities or services on campus. If a student plans to have their service animal live with them in residence, they are asked to provide notice to the College. Students should provide notice to the College by contacting the Office of Residential Life at or at 413-538-2088. 

Service Animals in the Workplace 

Employee questions about service animals or requests to have a service animal at work shall be made through the Department of Human Resources. Employees can call the office at 413-538-2503. 

Visitors Bringing Service Animals to Campus 

Service animals accompanying individuals with disabilities are welcome in all areas of campus that are open to the public (except in situations determined to apply under section 10, below). Specific questions related to the use of service animals on the campus by visitors can be directed to the Section 504 Coordinator at 413-538-3642 or via email at

Temporary Residents 

All temporary campus visitors/residents (those attending conferences, workshops, lectures, etc.) must adhere to the guidelines outlined in this policy.

Services Animals That Are Not Housebroken or Under Control 

If a service animal is determined to be out of control (e.g, displaying vicious behavior toward people or toward other service animals; excessive barking, running around, nipping) or is not housebroken, the owner may be subject to action within the College’s disciplinary process. The infraction will be reviewed on an individual basis through the student conduct process (in the case of students) and by the director of human resources (in the case of employees). The Section 504 Coordinator will review infractions by handlers who are visitors. The parties above may consult, as needed, with the appropriate College officials.

Public Etiquette on Campus 

Service animals are working animals and are not pets. Accordingly, the College asks that members of the Mount Holyoke community and visitors adhere to the following best practices when interacting with service animals. Individuals should:

  • Not assume that the animal is a pet. 
  • Not pet/touch a service animal. Petting distracts them from their responsibilities. 
  • Not restrict the individual and the service animal from full participation in programs and activities of the College. This includes off-campus activities and activities involving transportation. 
  • Not assume the handler must have a visible disability. Do not make assumptions about the necessity of the service animal. 
  • Not ask the handler about their specific medical condition. 
  • Not prioritize the needs of another individual over the needs of an individual with a service animal. For example, the College cannot restrict the access of a service animal fearing another member of the community may have an allergy. 
  • Not feed a service animal. 
  • Not deliberately startle, tease or taunt a service animal. 
  • Not separate or attempt to separate an animal from its handler. Service animals are trained to be protective of the handler.
  • Not hesitate to ask the handler if they would like assistance if the team seems confused about a direction in which to turn, an accessible entrance, the location of an elevator, etc. 

Emergency Situations 

In the event of an emergency, on-campus personnel designated to respond are expected to recognize service animals and their role in communicating their partner’s need for assistance. The response personnel should be aware that animals may be protective in their confusion and should not be considered harmful. The responders should make every effort to keep the animal with its partner.

The handler and/or animal may be confused or disoriented in a stressful situation due to smoke, sirens, wind noise or by shaking and moving ground. The handler should make every effort to control the animal during an emergency and be prepared to muzzle or restrain the animal as needed. 

Students or employees who interact with service animals regularly on campus (either in residence or in the workplace) are encouraged to develop an individual evacuation plan (IEP) with the College. Students can work with Public Safety and Service to create these plans.

Conflicting Disabilities 

Persons who have asthma, allergies or other medical conditions affected by the presence of animals are asked to contact Disability Services. 

Restricted Access 

The College may restrict the use of service animals in certain locations. Service animals may be restricted when their presence would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity; or where the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. The safety of locations will be considered on an individual basis by the Section 504 Coordinator or the director of human resources, the laboratory director or professor, and the College risk management team. If a location is determined to be unsafe, reasonable accommodations will be provided to ensure the individual equal access to the activity. 

Complaints, Appeals and Grievances, and Exceptions to the Policy 

Any claims of discrimination because of a disability or failure to provide reasonable accommodations regarding the use of a service animal on campus may be brought by any person (student, faculty, staff and visitor) to the Section 504 Coordinator. In accordance with the College’s Grievance Procedures, individuals will have the option to pursue a formal and/or informal resolution. 

Section 504 Coordinator
Mary Lyon Hall, room 105

Policy Exceptions

Individuals wishing to request a modification or exception to this policy as a reasonable accommodation should make their request to Disability Services and to human resources for students and employees, respectively. Visitors should speak with the College’s Section 504 Coordinator. 

Definition of Service Animal

Definition is provided by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended. Pub. L. 101 - 336, 104 Stat. 327, 42 U.S.C. 12101 - 12213 and 47 U.S.C. 225 and 611) ((42 U.S.C. 12181)

A service animal is 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 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 individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
  • Providing nonviolent protection or rescue work.
  • Pulling a wheelchair.
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure.
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
  • Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. 

The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition. 

In addition, ADA regulations include as service animals miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. 

Miniature horses may be permitted as an accommodation if reasonable under the following assessment factors: 

  • Whether the miniature horse is housebroken.
  • Whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control.
  • Whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size and weight.
  • Whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

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