Assistance Animals

University Policy on Assistance Animals and Pets

The Ohio State University and the Wexner Medical Center recognize that service animals help people with disabilities participate in everyday life, and that other animals can provide support or comfort. The University and Medical Center have a general “no pets” policy in all of its buildings. Pets are allowed on the grounds when leashed and under control. Service animals are generally allowed to accompany their handlers in any building or public space where their handlers are permitted. Emotional support and visiting therapy animals may be allowed in specified areas of the University and Wexner Medical Center with advanced approval. All animals are the responsibility of their handlers and should be under their control, house broken, in proximity to the handler and responsive to commands, in harness, on a three-foot lead, or in a carrier. The animal should not be disruptive or exploring others or the environment. An animal’s behavior is considered the handler’s behavior; the animal will be held to the same basic standard of conduct as their handlers. If they are disruptive to university business or community behavioral expectations in educational, medical, or residential environments, handlers may be asked to correct the animal’s behavior or remove it from the environment. Assistance animal is the general term that incorporates service animals and emotional support animals.

Definitions and Additional Information

Assistance Animals

Assistance animals include those that provide active support (i.e., Service Animals), as well as those that provide passive support. Animals providing these passive services are generally referred to as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), and they can help to alleviate or partially mitigate an impact of a disability, which can allow that individual to benefit from OSU’s programs and services.​ Listed below are the types and definitions for each category of Assistance Animal.

Service Animals

Service animals are trained to perform tasks directly related to the individual's disability (e.g., psychiatric, cognitive, mental, communication, physical and sensory disabilities), and are generally allowed to access anywhere their handlers are permitted on campus (exceptions may exist in sterile environments and areas requiring protective equipment or clothing for access). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, only dogs and miniature horses are protected service animals. Some examples of work tasks of a Service Animal include:  

  • Guide 
  • Retrieve 
  • Assist 
  • Alert 
  • Prevent/interrupt behavior

Service Animals in Training

Service animals in training are not recognized by federal law but are recognized by Ohio Revised Code 955.43. However, puppy rearing (for dogs under six months of age) focused on socialization is general obedience training is not typically considered to be in training. Service animals in training must have a liability insurance policy provided by the nonprofit agency sponsoring the training and be engaged in learning service tasks. 

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (ESA) provide passive support that partially alleviates the impact of a disability, but they do not have the same access rights as service animals. Use of an ESA on campus is potentially a reasonable accommodation to No Pet Policies.   

See Emotional Support Animal Documentation Guidance For Clinicians

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals have been trained to provide comfort, support, and affection to people other than the handler. Therapy animals may be allowed access to specific locations with prior permission. 

If the function of a service animal is not readily apparent, University and Medical Center employees are permitted by law to ask the following two questions: 

  • Is this a service animal required for a disability? 
  • What work or task is this animal trained to perform? 

You cannot ask about their disability. Under the ADA, service animals do not need documentation for access. You are allowed to follow up on ambiguous responses to the two allowed questions.   

At the University or Medical Center, if the handler discloses that the animal is an ESA you can also ask if they have received permission from University Housing, Student Life Disability Services, or the ADA Coordinator's Office to have the animal on campus.  

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the presence of an assistance animal on campus, please contact the ADA Coordinator’s Office at 614-292-6207 or


If you would like to request an accommodation or have questions about assistance animals, please contact the ADA Coordinator’s Office at 614-292-6207 or to review the request or make a referral to the appropriate office. 

If there is a behavioral problem with the animal, you should first ask the handler the two allowable questions. If it is a service animal and there are behavioral issues, you may then ask the handler to correct the behavior. If this does not improve, you may ask that the animal be removed from the facility then notify the ADA Coordinator’s office at 614-292-6207 or

1.Direct Threat 

  • Individualized assessment based on recent, credible, and objective evidence relating to the specific animal. 
  • Unit/Service specific and evidence-based assessment of health risks based on credible objective sources. 

2. Lack of Control 

  • Violation of reasonable expectation of behavior by the either animal or handler.  

3.Inability to Provide or Arrange Care 

  • The University and Wexner Medical Center are not responsible for the care or supervision of any assistance animal. 

4.Insufficient Documentation of Disability or Extenuating Circumstances Related to Location 

  • If the request is made in a location that could lead to zoonosis.  
  • If the request is made in a location that requires maintaining a sterile field. 

5. Denial of a request for an ESA may also be based on insufficient documentation confirming a disability or of the need for an ESA as an accommodation in the context requested.