Disability Resource Center

Policies & Procedures

Animals on Campus

Service Animals

Service animals are defined as dogs or miniature horses that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These tasks can include, but not limited to, things like pulling a wheelchair, guiding a person who is visually impaired, alerting a person who is having a seizure, or even calming a person who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, the work or task a service dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Employee requests for Service Animals as a reasonable accommodation in the workplace are processed through the Office of Human Resources. In a non-workplace context, Service Animals generally shall be permitted to accompany their partners on campus. When not readily apparent that a dog or miniature horse is a Service Animal, the University may ask:

  1. if the animal is required because of a disability; and
  2. what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.

It is unlawful under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. § 168-4.5) to disguise an animal as a Service Animal or Service Animal in training.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides comfort or a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The animal provides emotional support to help mitigate symptoms of a psychiatric disability or other mental impairment. An ESA is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who suffers from emotional disabilities.

  • ESAs are restricted to the student’s immediate living space and are not allowed in common areas throughout the residence hall.
  • ESAs must be caged or crated any time the student is absent from the room.
  • The University generally does not approve exotic animals, reptiles, amphibians, or other animals that carry zoonotic diseases.
  • ESAs are not to be left in the care of other students and must accompany the student when leaving campus overnight.
  • Documentation of the student’s mental health condition is required from the student’s mental health provider.  The provider will need to know and understand the student’s mental health difficulties, including current symptomatology and how the animal will help to alleviate the symptomatology.
  • CAUTION:  UNCW is concerned about the growing number of questionable website services that create ESA letters for a fee to the purchaser.  These websites are generally unreliable sources and do not produce documentation that adequately supports an ESA request.

ESA Request Procedure

Any qualified student with a disability seeking an ESA must follow the request process and receive approval prior to bringing the animal to campus. Requests for ESAs as a reasonable accommodation by employees who reside in on-campus housing are processed through the Office of Human Resources

Students seeking approval to bring an ESA to reside in campus housing as a reasonable accommodation must:

  1. Enroll with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) through the DRC's Student Portal and submit verification of disability. Please see Documentation Guidelines for more information.
  2. Have your provider complete and submit the Emotional Support Animal Verification Form.
  3. Participate in enrollment meeting and ESA interview with DRC staff.

05.360 Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets Policy


Pets shall not be permitted in University housing and requests for such shall not be considered. Students keeping pets in violation of this Policy shall be responsible for any incurred costs related to the cleaning or repair of University housing.

Pets are prohibited from entering all University buildings, including residence facilities, outdoor athletic or recreational facilities/fields, and other public gatherings where pets have been specifically prohibited. This prohibition applies equally to pets accompanying students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Personal Care Attendants

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is committed to compliance with state and federal laws regarding individuals with disabilities. UNCW is committed to providing accommodations to an otherwise qualified individual with a disability by making reasonable modifications in its services, programs or activities. Students who seek reasonable accommodations must contact and register with the Disability Resource Center on campus. UNCW is committed to reviewing all requests for reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.

The university recognizes that a student with a disability may need, and therefore may be entitled to the use of a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and that a PCA may be an integral part of a student's ability to participate in the university experience. This Policy addresses the use of PCAs by qualified students with disabilities.

The purpose of this Policy is to ensure the university's compliance with applicable law as well as describe the key concepts involved in a request for the use of a PCA and to clarify the responsibilities of the student using a PCA.

Policy on Personal Care Attendance for Students with Disabilities

Evacuation Procedures for Students with Disabilities

UNCW strives to maintain a community that is as safe as possible for all persons. To ensure that individuals with disabilities, who are part of our campus community, are safely evacuated during emergencies, the university seeks to take appropriate and reasonable accommodations to achieve this goal.

In emergencies, it is critical that all persons have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and expectations.

Students with disabilities are the experts on their disability. Before an emergency, identify yourself as having a disability and clearly state your needs for assistance. Know the safest way to lift and carry your wheelchair and be able to describe this process to persons who offer to assist you in evacuation. Encourage students to select a friend who is knowledgeable about their disability that they can count on for help if evacuation is necessary.

Evacuation of persons with disabilities will be conducted in the following areas of campus using the following options in priority order:

  • residence halls
  • academic & support buildings
  • Before drills, building managers, and University Police will be noticed so that persons with disabilities are not unnecessarily evacuated.
  • During any emergency, elevators cannot safely be used for emergency egress. In fact, many of them are recalled to the ground floor so they can be used by emergency personnel and not by building occupants who may become trapped in them.

Evacuation Procedures for Students with Disabilities

Policy of Nondiscrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives individuals with disabilities civil rights protection that is similar to that provided to all individuals on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and religion. The act guarantees equal opportunity in employment, public accommodations, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

In addition, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation act states: "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely on the basis of his/her handicap, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance".

The policy at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is consistent with the ADA and Section 504. UNCW is open and accessible to students with disabilities. We are committed to providing assistance to enable qualified students to accomplish their educational goals as well as assuring equal opportunity to derive all of the benefits of campus life.