Service and Emotional Support Animals

Service Animal:

A "service animal" is a dog, or miniature horse, that is individually trained to perform work and/or tasks for a disabled person. The work and/or task must be directly related to the person's disability, such as guiding a person with impaired vision, or alerting a person with impaired hearing. Caltech permits students to use service animals in connection with all Institute facilities, programs, and activities consistent with its obligations under federal and state law.


The person who requires the assistance of a service animal is responsible for keeping the animal harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times, unless these devices interfere with the animal's work, or the person's disability prevents using these devices, in which case the person must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

A student wishing to live with a service animal in Institute housing must inform CASS in a timely manner, so that appropriate arrangements can be made, and so that the expectations for the appropriate care and behavior of the animal living on campus may be discussed. CASS will not ask about the nature or extent of a student’s disability, but when it is not readily apparent, CASS may ask the student if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task they have been trained to perform. Caltech does not require documentation for service animals, such as proof that the dog has been certified, trained, or licensed as a Service Animal.

Students who are approved to have a service animal in Caltech housing will be required to sign a Service Animal Agreement (SA Agreement). Caltech may require removal of an approved service animal if there is any violation of any of the terms and conditions of the SA Agreement. Residential Life staff will make a reasonable effort to notify the other residents in the housing unit where the service animal will be located. This notice will be limited to information about the animal's presence as an accommodation to a student with a disability: there will be no disclosure of the student's disability.

Emotional Support Animals:

An "emotional support animal" (ESA) is an animal that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person's disability, and is necessary to afford the person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy Caltech housing. An ESA may be necessary to provide physical assistance, emotional support, calming, stability, and other kinds of assistance. Caltech permits students with disabilities to have an ESA reside with them in Caltech housing, consistent with federal and state law.

Caltech does not allow ESAs anywhere other than the Caltech housing that is occupied by the registered student. Moreover, that student is responsible for keeping the animal harnessed, leashed, caged or tethered at all times, unless these devices interfere with the animal's work or the student's disability prevents using these devices, in which case the student must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.


A student wishing to bring an emotional support animal into Caltech housing must request that accommodation from CASS at least 30 days in advance. Any student who introduces an unapproved animal into Caltech Housing will be subject to a $200 fine; will have two weeks to remove the animal; and may lose their housing privileges, per Caltech's Pet Policy. The approval of a request is animal-specific and is not transferable to another animal. Only one ESA will be approved per student, unless the medical provider gives justification for more than one animal (based on additional need).

Students seeking to have an ESA in undergraduate or graduate housing must submit a request for review each academic year. A request for a returning ESA should be submitted at the same time housing selection begins for Caltech Housing each April, in order to guarantee consideration. There are designated spaces for approved animals within a variety of areas across Caltech housing. In order to allow for other students who have allergies and/or phobias, approved ESAs will ordinarily be placed/moved into those spaces. 

A student who wishes to have an ESA in Caltech Housing must register with CASS and provide appropriate documentation of the need for the ESA signed by an outside psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, physician or other health care professional who has an established treatment relationship with the student. Please note that CASS does not accept letters from the numerous online companies who (in exchange for a fee) offer verification or certification for the need of an ESA. The animal may not take up residence before it has been approved. 

CASS will determine, on a case-by-case basis, and in collaboration with other appropriate offices on campus, whether to approve the student's request for an ESA. A request for an assistance animal may be denied as unreasonable if the presence of the animal: (1) imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden; (2) fundamentally alters Caltech’s housing program; (3) poses a direct threat to the health and safety of the student or others; or (4) would cause substantial property damage to property. Animals who exhibit aggressive or destructive behavior or have potential to transmit zoonotic diseases will not be approved. 

In making this determination, CASS will consider the needs of the student; the impact of the animal on other members of the housing facility and Caltech community; and whether the available and/or assigned space is appropriate for the animal. The student may be required to move to alternate Caltech housing, depending upon housing location, in order to best accommodate them and/or the animal. 

The decision of the CASS will be provided to the student in writing. Denials may be appealed under the disability grievance procedure. 

If the request for an ESA is approved, the student will be required to sign an Emotional Support Animal Agreement (ESA Agreement). Caltech may require removal of an approved emotional support animal if there is any violation of any of the terms and conditions of the ESA Agreement. Residential Life staff will make a reasonable effort to notify the other residents in the housing unit where the ESA will be located. This notice will be limited to information about the animal's presence as an accommodation to a student with a disability: there will be no disclosure of the student's disability. 

Other resident students with medical condition(s) who are directly and negatively impacted by animals (e.g., respiratory diseases, asthma, severe allergies) are asked to contact CASS if they have a health or safety related concern about exposure to an ESA. Such affected students may be eligible for a disability accommodation when living in proximity to an ESA.

CASS, Residential Life, and Caltech Housing staff will collaborate, as necessary, to resolve conflicts related to an ESA. Staff members will consider the needs and/or accommodations of all resident students involved. If the student's ESA causes damage to the student's unit or the common areas of the housing facility, the student will be charged for the cost of repairing the damages and may be asked by Caltech Housing to remove the animal if the animal's behavior continues.