Man’s best friend inside and outside the classroom

How emotional-support animals play a role on campus, provide students with support and relief

In today’s society, equality and equal rights are a large part of what is being focused on. Making sure everyone is treated the same and has the same opportunities is vital and is ensured today through both older laws and new laws. One way people are ensured equal rights is through the ability to have service animals. From guiding those without vision, to aiding police officers, to being a support source for someone. Today Emotional Support Animals are becoming increasingly more common in both the community and on college campuses, including Loras.

graphic by Anna Petersen

When most people think about assistance animals they think about seeing eye dogs or pets who alert those who suffer from seizures. The list of services animals can provide humans is seemingly never ending, there is always something different that animals are doing to help people. One specific type of assistance animals are Emotional Support Animals, also known as ESAs.

According to Certapet, an online service that helps people through the process of certification, Emotional Support Animals “provides support which alleviates one or more symptoms associated with a mental or emotional disability.” ESAs unlike some other assistance animals “are more specifically chosen as companions to individuals who are psychologically or emotionally disabled.  hese companions may include a variety of animals and may be a current pet.”

While this may seem like a very simple and accessible process, there is actually more to it than just wanting to have your pet around. People suffering from any type of emotional disorder are eligible to obtain an ESA, although these people will require documentation including verification by a psychologist, therapist, or multiple other certified mental health professionals. For many people this small change can make the world of a difference, especially when the bond owners have their support animals. The laws and regulations that are in place have allowed for these animals to have more freedom compared to uncertified pets in some different aspects.

A few years ago, having pets on college campuses living with students seemed a bit like a fantasy. Almost any student with a pet would love to have their animals with them while attending school. The two laws that play the biggest role in people having ESAs on campus is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The ADA as mentioned previously, became a law in 1990 according to the National Network. This law prohibited the discrimination of an individual with a disability, whether it be for school, a job, housing, etc. This allows for service pets to be on a college campus. The FHA similarly to the ADA promotes the equality for housing and condemns the discrimination against anyone searching for housing, this law however was put in place in 1968. Both of these laws require people with disabilities to have the same rights, this means that allowing them to have their service pet is required through law. Both of these laws require that not only Loras, but all schools allow for service pets to be and live on campuses.  At Loras, a student inquiring about having an Emotional Support Animal on campus must go through a process, one of the biggest factors in obtaining an ESA is having all of the proper paperwork and documentation.

“Information about personal insurance, licensing, vaccinations, pet temperament, and more must be provided”stated Molly Burrow Schumacher, the Assistant Dean of Students at Loras. This information is just one step in the process, medical documentation is also included in the process.

Many different factors, both pros and cons are involved in the process of a student having an ESA on campus.

Loras has seen an increasing number of students looking into the option for ESAs. Currently, on campus there are around a dozen service pets living on campus with students. With the Fair Housing Act in place, these pets live in a variety of places on campus including residence halls, houses, and apartments. Having these support animals on campus can have multiple different effects for those students who also live on campus.

“Some provide support and assistance for those beyond the owner (many students leave pets at home, so animals on campus can be therapeutic for students who may have left a pet at home with family” explained Schumacher.

While the presents of ESAs on campus may be overwhelmingly positive, there are still some negatives that the Loras staff have to help the students work through. These things can include the issue of noise and allergies, to other students these ESAs may be seen as a nuisance on campus.

Loras works to promote an environment in which all people are able to thrive. Through the laws put in place by the government, people are able to have Emotional Support Animals living on campus with them. While there are some negatives involved with animals living in campus housing, the response to them on campus is extremely positive. The process for those at Loras is made an simple as possible, making it easier for those who need them. ESAs for the people living with a mental or emotional disability can make the world of a difference in their lives, especially as students.

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