Can I keep a turtle in my dorm room as a service animal to accommodate my anxiety disorder?

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A turtle or other animal that simply provides a companion for stress relief and relaxation does not meet the definition of a service animal and therefore the institution may not allow it in campus housing. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a service animal is "any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government." Assistance may include help with navigation for someone with a visual impairment, response to noises for someone who is deaf, early warning for someone who has regular seizures, or retrieving items and opening doors for someone with a mobility impairment.

The ADA requires that service animals be permitted in public places, including residence halls. It is always a good idea to inform your institution that you have a service animal and let them know how this might impact your housing needs.

For more information about service animals and therapy animals consult the Service Animal Registry of America and the Delta Society for Therapy Animals.

You may also be interested in reading the DO-IT Knowledge Base article Is allowing the use of service animals and therapy pets in campus housing considered a reasonable accommodation?

Last update or review: July 12, 2010