St. Mary's College of Maryland

Service Animal Policy

Service animals are animals that assist specific individuals in their daily life as it relates to the individual's disability. The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as "any . . . animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals who are hearing impaired to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items." An individual who needs the use of a service animal is required to notify the College and request approval for use a service animal on campus. The individual is required to provide the College with proof that the individual has a disability as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA, and that the animal at issue is individually trained to do tasks to assist the individual. For a service animal to be allowed in campus buildings, the animal must be necessary to assist the individual in the activities of daily living and trained to fulfill those functions. Pets, therapy, companion or comfort animals are not included in this definition of service animals and are not permitted in campus buildings.

Other Definitions

  1. Therapy, Companion or Comfort Animals: These are animals that have been prescribed as treatment and, while they may be an integral part of therapy, they generally do not assist the individual in the activities of daily living. They may or may not be trained and certified. They are not considered to be service animals and do not have the rights of service animals. Persons who believe their therapy animal meets the requirements for a service animal should follow the ADA grievance policy.
  2. Common Types of Service Animals: These are most typically dogs although occasionally monkeys.
  3. Guide Dog: A carefully trained dog that serves as a travel tool for persons with severe visual impairments or who are blind or have low-vision.
  4. Hearing Dog: A dog that has been trained to alert a person with significant hearing loss, or who is deaf, when a sound such as a knock on the door or a fire alarm occurs.
  5. Service Dog: A dog that has been trained to assist a person who has a mobility or health impairment. Type of duties the dog may perform include carrying, fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking, helping a person up after the person falls, etc. Service dogs are sometimes called Assist Dogs.
  6. S-Sig Dogs (Social Signal Dog): A dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog may alert the person to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g. hand flapping.) Recognizing familiar persons in a crowd, steering around a mud puddle, responding to other people or social signals are possible roles for a S-Sig Dog. A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.
  7. Seizure Response Dog: A dog that is trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder. The ways in which the dog serves the individual depends on the person's needs. The dog may stand guard over the person during a seizure, or the dog may go for help. Some dogs are capable of predicting a seizure and can warn the person in advance.
  8. Handler (Partner): The individual with the disability who requires assistance with one or more daily living activities from a service animal.
  9. Team: A term used to reference the handler and service animal when they work together to accomplish the tasks of everyday living

Responsibilities of Handlers


  1. Are responsible for requesting approval to use a service animal on campus and in College facilities. As part of the approval process, handlers are required to notify and verify their own disability and submit requested documentation to the ADA Coordinator (Academic Services) of the need for a service animal on campus. Handlers may be required to provide documentation from their personal physicians. Forms and information may be obtained from the ADA Coordinator.
  2. Are responsible for providing evidence and documentation to the ADA Coordinator that the animal meets the definition of a service animal.
  3. Are responsible for providing evidence of the service animal's current clean health and vaccinations to the ADA Coordinator. The animal shall be licensed and wear a vaccination tag. The handler must ensure that the service animal has annual veterinary visits.
  4. Are responsible for keeping the animal on a leash or harness at all times.
  5. Must ensure that the service animal wears identification at all times that indicates their work status (e.g. harness, cape, ID tag).
  6. Must be in full control of the service animal at all times. A handler may be required to leave College facilities or grounds if an animal is disruptive or unruly (e.g. barking, running around.) If an animal repeatedly demonstrates improper behavior, the handler may be prohibited from bringing the animal to campus or in College facilities until significant steps are taken to mitigate the behavior (e.g. re-training, muzzling). In such cases, evidence of the steps taken must be submitted to the ADA Coordinator.
  7. Are solely responsible for arrangements for the care of the service animal at all times. A handler may be required to leave College facilities or grounds when their animal is ill. Ill animals should not be taken into public areas.
  8. Must regularly bathe the animal to avoid significant odors, shedding and fleas. Handlers with animals that are unclean or unkempt may be required to leave the College facilities/grounds.
  9. Must carry equipment to clean up feces while on College property. Feces must be cleaned up immediately and disposed of properly.
  10. Will be held responsible for any damage or injuries caused by the service animal to persons or property.

Responsibilities of Members of the College Community

Campus Community Members:

  1. Must permit service animals to accompany their handlers at all times and everywhere on campus, except for places where there is a health, environmental, or safety hazard (e.g. teaching laboratories, mechanical rooms/custodial closets, areas where protective clothing is necessary, or other areas where there is a danger to the service animal such as metal cuttings, sharp objects on the floor, hot material on the floor, high levels of dust, or where there is moving machinery.)
  2. Must not pet or disturb a service animal while working. Always request permission to pet a service animal.
  3. Must not offer food or treats to the service animal without asking permission from the partner.
  4. Must not deliberately startle a service animal.
  5. Must not separate or attempt to separate a service animal from his/her partner.
  6. Should not hesitate to ask the partner if she/he would like assistance if the team seems confused.
  7. Must report incidents of misbehavior by the service animal, mistreatment of the service animal by the handler or engagement of the service animal in inappropriate or unethical behavior by any person to the ADA Coordinator in the Office of Academic Services.

Exceptions and Grievances

Any handler dissatisfied with a decision made concerning a service animal should follow the ADA grievance procedures.

Any student who is uncomfortable living with a service animal in the residence hall should request a room change with the Office of Residence Life.