Service and Assistance Animals

Harvard University Disability Resources (UDR) welcomes students, faculty, staff and visitors with disabilities and serves as a central resource regarding both Service Animals and assistance animals.

Overview - Service Animals

A Service Animal is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack or performing other duties.

Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Only two questions can be asked to determine if a dog is a Service Animal:
  • Is the dog a Service Animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Harvard Faculty and Staff cannot require a special identification card for a dog identified as a Service Animal or restrict the type of dog breeds that can be used as Service Animals.

Service Animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the Service Animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective means.


Overview - Assistance Animals

An assistance animal (also sometimes referred to as an Emotional Support Animal, therapy animal or comfort animal), is defined by the Fair Housing Act as an animal that provides emotional support or comfort that alleviates one or more symptoms of a person’s disability and is necessary for an individual’s equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing.

Under the Fair Housing Act, an assistance animal does not need to qualify as a Service Animal and may be an animal other than a dog. An assistance animal is not a pet but is required for a disability, and the animal is not required to be individually trained or certified.

Residents wishing to request an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation should contact their Accommodation Coordinator in Harvard University Housing and review the information on our website at the Housing Accommodation section.



Students are encouraged to follow the local process at their School regarding the presence of a Service or Assistance Animal on campus. Please see the LDC List to find your School’s contact person or office.


Faculty and Staff wishing to request the presence of a Service Animal as a reasonable accommodation in the workplace should contact their Accommodation Coordinator (i.e. HR Consultant, University Disability Resources). For more information on this process please see Workplace Accommodations.

VISITORS to Harvard-owned Public Facilities

Under the ADA, organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. Therefore, Service Animals accompanying visitors to campus are permitted access and visitors do not have to formally notify the campus of the animal’s presence.