Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Rules, Requirements and Restrictions

Please read this information in its entirety to understand the rules, requirements and restrictions of the Stephens College ESA Procedure, starting with the Stephens College ESA Policy. You will be asked to verify your understanding and acceptance of this information when submitting the registration form.

Stephens College is committed to granting reasonable accommodations to its rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford people with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwellings, as required by federal, state and local law. The following details the rules, requirements and restrictions for an ESA accommodation on Stephens’s campus.


Specific Requirements for Cats and Dogs


Cats must be a minimum of six (6) months old and altered. No exceptions will be made. They must be altered and litter box trained; current on all vaccinations including FVCRP, rabies, and FELV/FIV negative; current on flea/tick preventatives; must be registered with the City of Columbia; and must wear tags.



  • Dogs must be a minimum of six (6) months old and altered. No exceptions will be made. They must be housebroken; altered; current on all vaccinations, including DHLPPV, rabies and Bordetella; heartworm tested; current on flea/tick preventatives; must be registered with the City of Columbia; and must wear tags. Dogs must be crated when the student is not in the room. The student is responsible for removing all fecal matter created by the dog on college property.
  • Dogs must be groomed regularly; however, not in College bathrooms. There is a dog bath available to dog owners located next to the Doggy Daycare facility in the lower level of Searcy Hall.
  • Students with dogs are encouraged to bring training devices such as shock or spray collars that will discourage them from creating an unnecessary amount of noise in the residence halls.


Specific Requirements for Other Types of Animals

  • Rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, sugar gliders, guinea pigs and lizards must be kept in an aquarium or other appropriate housing when the student is not in the room.
  • Birds must be kept in a cage or other appropriate housing when the student is not in the room.

 One ESA per student is allowed.


Responsibilities of the Student/Owner

In addition to reading and abiding by the Emotional Support Animal Policy and abiding by other directives the ADA Coordinator and Student Development staff deem necessary and appropriate, the owner/student should

  • Keep the Animal in Residence Hall Unit. The ESA 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 ESA is outside the private individual living accommodations, it must be in an animal carrier or controlled by a leash or harness. ESAs are not allowed in any College facilities other than the campus housing to which the resident is assigned.
  • Keep the Animal under Control. The ESA must be properly housed and restrained or otherwise under the dominion and control of the Owner at all times. ESAs must be on a leash or in a carrier when outside of the Owner’s room or when walked on campus property. No Owner 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 campus housing. The animal should respond to voice or hand commands at all times and be fully controlled by the Owner. The Owner should ensure the ESA does not display aggressive behavior or display behaviors or make noises that are disruptive or frightening to others. Owners are responsible for any damage or injuries caused by their ESAs and must take appropriate precautions to prevent damage or injury.
  • Abide by Laws and Policies. The Owner must abide by current city, county, and state ordinances, laws, and/or regulations pertaining to licensing, vaccination, and other requirements for animals. It is the Owner's responsibility to know and understand these ordinances, laws, and regulations. The College requires documentation of compliance with such ordinances, laws, and/or regulations. The College reserves the right to request documentation showing that the animal has been licensed. Additionally, the Owner must abide by all equally applicable residential policies, 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.
  • Ensure the Animal is Well Cared-For. The Owner is required to ensure the animal is well cared for at all times. The Owner is solely responsible for the cost of care for the ESA. Any evidence of mistreatment, abuse, neglect, or leaving the animal unattended for unreasonably long periods of time may result in immediate removal of the ESA and/or discipline for the responsible individual. The College will not base this determination on speculation or fear about the harm or damages an animal may cause. College personnel shall not be required to provide care or food for any ESA including, but not limited to, removing the animal during emergency evacuation for events such as a fire alarm. 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. Additionally, ESAs may not be left overnight in College housing to be cared for by any individual other than the Owner. If the Owner is to be absent from the residence hall overnight or longer, the animal must accompany the Owner. The Owner is responsible for ensuring that the ESA is contained, as appropriate, when the Owner is not present during the day while attending classes or other activities.
  • Be Responsible for Property Damage. The Owner is required to clean up after and properly dispose of the animal's waste in a safe and sanitary manner and, when provided, must use animal relief areas designated by the College. The Owner may be charged for any damage caused by the ESA beyond reasonable wear and tear to the same extent that it charges other individuals for damages beyond reasonable wear and tear. The Owner's living accommodations may also be inspected for fleas, ticks, or other pests if necessary as part of the College’s standard or routine inspections. If fleas, ticks, or other pests are detected through inspection, the Owner will be billed for the expense of any pest treatment above and beyond standard pest management in the residence halls. The College shall have the right to bill the Owner's account for unmet obligations under this provision.
  • Notify the ADA/Section 504 Coordinator if ESA is No Longer Needed. The animal is allowed in College housing only as long as it is necessary because of the Owner's disability. The Owner must notify the Coordinator if the ESA is no longer needed or is no longer in residence. To replace an ESA, the new animal must be necessary because of the Owner's disability and the Owner must follow the procedures in this policy when requesting a different animal.


ESA Removal

ESAs may be removed from residence halls for the following reasons:

  • The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or causes substantial property damage to the property of others, including College property;
  • The animal's presence results in a fundamental alteration of a College program;
  • The Owner does not comply with the Owner's Responsibilities set forth above; or
  • The animal or its presence creates an unmanageable disturbance or interference with the campus community. 

The College will base such individualized determinations upon the consideration of the behavior of the particular animal and resident on a case-by-case basis, and in consultation with Residential Life, the Owner, and other parties as appropriate. Any removal of the animal may be appealed pursuant to the ADA grievance procedure found both in the curriculum catalog and handbook. The Owner will be afforded all rights of due process and appeal as outlined in that process.

Should the ESA be removed from the premises for any reason, the Owner is expected to fulfill housing obligations for the remainder of the housing contract. 


ESA Registration

In order to house an ESA on the Stephens College campus, you must complete two steps:

1. Complete and submit your ESA Program Registration Form. All registration documentation must be submitted prior to the ESA residing in a residence hall. You will need to have the following documents available to upload:

  • A recent photo or your ESA
  • Your ESA’s veterinary records showing up-to-date vaccinations

ESA Program Registration Form >


2. License your ESA with the City of Columbia. Cats and Dogs must be registered with the City of Columbia. You will not be able to do that until you arrive in Columbia. Registering your ESA has to be done in person at the City of Columbia office located at 1005 West Worley or through a local veterinarian when administering vaccines. Your City of Columbia License must be obtained within two (2) weeks of arrival on campus and uploaded through the following link.  Please retain the original copy in your personal pet file. If your license is issued for multiple years, it is still required to upload again at the beginning of each academic year.

ESA License Upload Form >

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