Penn State Housing and Food Services provides reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability who has a verifiable need of having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in University housing. A reasonable accommodation is an exception to the University’s rules, policies, practices, or services that a student with a disability may need to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy University housing.

This process is for a student to request an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), and NOT a Service Animal.

To University housing students: Please check with your University regarding their specific procedure to apply to have an ESA.

What is the difference?

  • Service Animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a people with disabilities. These tasks can include things like pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person who is visually impaired, or alerting a person who is having a seizure. The tasks a service dog can perform are not limited to this list. However, the work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability. Service dogs may accompany persons with disabilities into places that the public normally goes. The Request for Service Animal in University Housing (pdf) should be used to request a Service Animal.
  • An ESA is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other animals) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments. The animal is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who has emotional disabilities. Unlike a Service Animal, an ESA is not granted access to places of public accommodation; its access is restricted to the student’s housing assignment.



A student with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation related to housing must have accepted a Housing and Food Service (HFS) Contract. Documentation received for a student who does not have a HFS Contract will not be processed. Learn more about the HFS Contract process.


To request a reasonable accommodation for an ESA, the student must have a qualified third-party (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical licensed social worker) who is personally treating the student complete the Request for Emotional Support Animal in University Housing form (pdf).


The student should submit Request for Emotional Support Animal in University Housing form (pdf) on or before the following dates for the appropriate semester that the student will first move into on-campus housing. Documentation may be submitted at any time, but after the deadline dates, the University may not be able to take into account a student’s preference for assignment (such as area or roommate).

Summer Session June 1
Fall Semester June 15
Spring Semester December 1


To make a reasonable accommodation for the student’s need, there may be certain situations where housing preferences (such as area or roommate requests) cannot be honored. If a student submits documentation after the dates indicated above, the student will be assigned to an appropriate room assignment as quickly as possible, when acceptable space can be determined. If a student is offered a change to the housing environment, an additional cost may be associated with the resulting assignment or requests. Any reasonable accommodation is considered, but the student must support the accommodation request with a documented need linked to his or her disabling condition.

The reasonable accommodation takes effect once the determination is made, based on space available. Documentation cannot be submitted for a future semester without having the assignment for the current semester updated – once a determination is made, the student’s room assignment will be updated immediately.


The student should call the Student Disability Resource (SDR) Office at the student’s campus of attendance to discuss method to submit documentation and then schedule the intake appointment: