Assistance Animal

Important Documents

Montana State University Billings recognizes the importance of providing reasonable accommodations in its housing policies and practices where necessary for individuals with disabilities to fully participate in the University housing program. This Policy explains the specific requirements and guidelines that govern requests for reasonable accommodation in University housing. MSU Billings reserves the right to amend this policy at any time as circumstances require.

Montana State University Billings allows service animals, service animals in training, emotional support animals, and certain other animals on University property as described in this regulation. Service animals and other animals allowed on University property must be appropriately controlled (attended and restrained) by the animal’s owner or handler at all times. As it pertains to university housing, service animals, emotional support animals for resident and tenants, and certain other animals are permitted within the residence halls and student family housing.

The University’s ADA coordinators are the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Disability Support Services.

Any student with disabilities concerned about accessibility and/or accommodation issues should contact Disability Support Services, College of Education 135 (406) 657-2283 (Voice/TTY).

What is a service animal?

“Service animal” means any dog* 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, and which meets the definition of “service animal” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 28 CFR 35.104.  The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.

Service animals work and perform tasks to assist persons with disabilities and are not pets. Members of the University community must not:

  1. Touch or feed a service animal unless invited to do so;
  2. Deliberately distract or startle a service animal;
  3. Separate or attempt to separate a service animal from the person using the animal’s service; or
  4. Ask for demonstration of the animal’s abilities.

*Under particular circumstances set forth in the ADA regulations at 28 CFR 35.136(i), a miniature horse may qualify as a service animal.

Policies and Procedures Regarding Service Animals 

What is an emotional support animal?

“Emotional support animal” means an animal that provides therapeutic benefit(s) to their owner through emotional support, calming, stability and other kinds of assistance to help alleviate symptoms associated with a disability.  Emotional support animals do not perform work or tasks that would qualify them as “service animals” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Emotional support animals that are not service animals under the ADA may still be permitted, in certain circumstances, as outlined in this policy and in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.

What's the procedure for requesting a service or emotional support animal?

Service animals accompanying campus visitors with disabilities are welcome in all areas of campus that are open to the public (except in situations determined to apply under the Section VI (B) above) and university residential space. Specific questions related to the use of service animals at the University by visitors should be directed to Disability Support Services.

Faculty, staff, students, and tenants with a disability who utilize a service animal are not required to register the animal with any University office, but may be asked what services the animal has been trained to perform. However, University Housing and Residence Life may request advance notice of a service animal to be in residence through its housing accommodation portion of the housing application.

Employees (faculty, staff, or student employees) who wish to train service animals must have prior approval of the appropriate unit administrator. If approved, the training must not conflict with hours of scheduled work at the University or job responsibilities.

A resident/tenant wishing to request a service or emotional support animal should follow Disability Support Services’ general procedures for requesting an accommodation, which can be found on the Disability Support Services website. If the request for accommodation is made fewer than 60 days before the individual intends to move into University housing with the animal, MSU Billings cannot guarantee that it will be able to meet the individual’s accommodation needs during the first semester or term of occupancy.

Disability Support Services may require a statement from a reliable third party indicating that the resident has a disability and that the animal would provide emotional support or other assistance that would ameliorate one. A reliable third-party includes, but is not limited to someone who provides medical care, therapy or counseling to persons with disabilities, including, but not limited to, doctors, physician assistants, psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. Montana State University Billings, in consultation with the resident, and other parties, as appropriate, may consider the criteria below in determining whether the presence of the animal is reasonable in the making of housing assignments for individuals with assistance animals:

  • Whether the animal poses or has posed in the past a direct threat to the individual or others;
  • Whether the animal causes or has caused excessive damage to housing beyond reasonable wear and tear;
  • Whether the animal's presence would force another individual from individual housing (e.g. serious allergies);
  • Whether the animal's presence otherwise violates individuals' right to peace and quiet enjoyment;
  • Whether the animal's vaccinations are not up-to-date; and
  • Whether the animal is housebroken (which means puppies/kittens may not be approved) or is unable to live with others in a reasonable manner. 

The individual must provide written consent for Disability Support Services to disclose information regarding the request for and presence of the emotional support or service animal to those individuals who may be impacted by the presence of the animal including, but not limited to, Housing and Residence Life personnel and potential and/or actual roommate(s)/neighbor(s). Such information shall be limited to information related to the animal and shall not include information related to the individual’s disability. Montana State University Billings reserves the right to assign an individual with an assistance animal to a single room without a roommate upon availability.

If approved, where can I take my service or emotional support animal on-campus?

An emotional support animal, does not meet the ADA definition of a “service animal,” must be contained within the owner’s privately assigned individual living accommodations except to the extent the individual is taking the animal out for natural relief. When an emotional support animal is outside the private individual living accommodations, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness at all times anywhere on campus. Emotional support animals that do not meet the ADA definition of “service animal” are not allowed in any University facilities other than the University housing to which the resident is assigned.

What responsibilities do I have as an owner of an approved emotional support?

  1. A handler of an emotional support animal must comply with all state laws, local licensure and vaccination requirements, and University regulations.
  2. Emotional support animals must be confined to the student’s or tenant’s immediate living space only and are not allowed in common areas or other rooms throughout the residence hall except to the extend the handler is taking the animal out for natural relief. An emotional support animal must be under the handler’s care or control in the form of a harness, leash, or other tether if being taken outside for reasonable exercise. Emotional Support Animals are not permitted in any University building or structure aside from University residential spaces.
  3. The care and supervision of an emotional support animal is the responsibility of the handler. Emotional support animals may not be left in the care of other residents.  The handler is responsible for ensuring that the emotional support animal is contained, as appropriate, when the handler is not present. If the student or tenant leaves campus overnight, the emotional support animal must be taken along or boarded off-campus.
  4. Emotional support animals cannot be bathed in the residence hall community areas nor can cages be cleaned in residence hall facility community areas.  Additionally, emotional support animals must be fully house or litterbox trained and have all appropriate shots.
  5. As part of responsible animal ownership, the ASPCA recommends that all animals be spayed or neutered.
  6. Any damage to University property that occurs as a result of the emotional support animal’s behavior will be the financial responsibility of the animal’s handler.  If the emotional support animal is disruptive to the living environment for others (for example, barking or other loud noises, or significant odor), or if there is damage done to college facilities, the emotional support animal will need to be removed from the premises within 48 hours of notice being given.
  7. Visitors refusing to comply may be reported to the University Police Department. Possible corrective actions for individual students or tenants resulting from violations of the University student conduct process range from a warning to removal of animal from University property. Possible corrective actions for faculty and staff range from an oral warning to termination of employment. Any appeals related to the removal of animal should be submitted to the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity within 7 business days of receiving the corrective action.
  8. ESAs are permitted on campus only when necessary due to the handler’s disability. The handler must notify the University if the animal is no longer needed.
  9. To replace an ESA, the handler must prove the replacement animal meets all university requirements.
  10. In the event that the University withdraws permission for an ESA, the handler must remove the animal from campus immediately. The handler may follow the grievance procedure to regain permission to bring the ESA to campus. However, the ESA is not allowed on campus during the grievance process. 
  11. The Owner is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the animal’s waste in a safe and sanitary manner.
  12. The Owner is required to ensure the animal is well cared for at all times. Any evidence of mistreatment or abuse may result in immediate removal of the Assistance Animal and/or discipline for the individual.
  13. MSUB will not ask for or require an individual with a disability to pay a fee or surcharge for an approved animal.
  14. The Owner agrees to abide by all equally applicable residential policies that are unrelated to the individual’s disability such as assuring that the animal does not unduly interfere with the routine activities of the residence or cause difficulties for individuals who reside there.
  15. The individual must provide written consent for Disability Services to disclose information regarding the request for and presence of the Assistance Animal to those individuals who may be impacted by the presence of the animal including, but not limited to, Housing and Residence Life personnel and potential and/or actual roommate(s)/neighbor(s). Such information shall be limited to information related to the animal and shall not include information related to the individual’s disability.
  16. Notwithstanding the restrictions set forth herein, the Assistance Animal must be properly housed and restrained or otherwise under the dominion and control of the Owner at all times.  No handler shall permit the animal to go loose or run at large.  If an animal is found running at large, the animal is subject to capture and confinement and immediate removal from University Housing. 
  17. MSUB and emergency personnel are not responsible for removal of the animal during emergency evacuations for events such as fire. Emergency personnel will determine whether to remove the animal and may not be held responsible for the care, damage to, or loss of the animal. 

Can an assistance animal be removed?

Violations of this regulation regarding service and emotional support animals will be addressed through corrective action under the Code of Student Conduct, Human Resources Policies and Procedures, or other applicable University regulations or policies. Removal of service or emotional support animals does not satisfy requirements for housing contract cancellations or first-year live-on requirement exemptions, unless otherwise required because of the disability as a reasonable accommodation. Should the animal be removed from the premises for any reason, the handler is expected to fulfill their housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract.

The University may require the handler to remove the animal from University Housing if:

  1. The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others; 2. The animal’s presence results in a fundamental alteration of a University program;
  2. The handler does not comply with the handler's responsibilities set forth above; or
  3. The animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the university community.

The University will base such determinations upon the consideration of the behavior of the particular animal at issue, and not on speculation or fear about the harm or damages an animal may cause. Any removal of the animal may be appealed pursuant to the grievance procedure found in the University Police Policy Number: 323 – Animals on University Property. The owner will be afforded all rights of due process and appeal as outlined in that process.