Columns / Discourse / May 15, 2019

Emotional support animals should be able to socialize

Recently the owners of emotional support animals, such as myself, received an email from the Disability Services Office saying that there had been some issues regarding a dog coming into the Caf and jumping on students. I agree, this is an issue, and it is clear that animals should not be allowed in the Caf, but what frustrated me about this email is what followed.

“Emotional Support Animals must stay within the assigned room at all times… ESA’s are allowed in the residence/dorms and not other buildings on campus unless otherwise approved. Dogs should not be left unattended outside of Dining Service areas nor can they enter into Dining Service areas. Dogs are not permitted within academic buildings on campus, without permission,” said Head of Disability Services Stephanie Grimes.

I agree that dogs and other emotional support animals should not be allowed in food areas such as the Caf, Gizmo and C-Store, but why should they not be allowed outside the area?

Having an emotional support animal, at least for me, meant that I was able to have a dog that would provide me support throughout my college experience. College is an extremely busy time and I am hardly ever given enough time to just relax in my room. I am involved in a handful of clubs and on the executive boards of most of them. If I am in clubs, meetings, rehearsals and studying all day, when do I have time to get support from my dog? What was the point of me going through the process of obtaining Archie (my emotional support dog) when I am only allowed to see him when I go home to go to sleep?

Not only that but if you have ever had a dog, you know that they need to go outside and exercise a decent amount. A lot of the dogs on campus (I am not sure if they are all emotional support animals) are only puppies. As a puppy, it is extremely important that they are regularly getting the right amount of exercise and socialization. If they are required to be inside the residential building at all times, they will not receive the proper routine they need.

I have noticed that the college isn’t very happy with the number of dogs that have come onto campus over the past year, and I understand this if the animal was not brought onto campus the proper way. What I do know is that on every tour that passes me and Archie, the visitors get so excited. Archie is a point of the tour, so much so that if the college tries to change the policy, people coming to the school in the future years will be misinformed on the animal policies.

This is a tough topic for the college since the rules are so flimsy in regards to emotional support animals. That being said, it is frustrating when people who do not have the approval with disability services have animals on campus. It causes ESA owners who received this email to wonder whether or not it was a dog that was approved to be here.

If it were up to me, I would say the campus should run with this idea of being dog-friendly. We have gotten to a point where it would be counterintuitive to ask for all the dogs to be removed from campus. The college needs to address that their dogs are extremely important to the owner’s health. If I didn’t have Archie this year, I don’t know where I would be. Yet I understand the issue that lies with allergies and trauma with dogs/animals and I advise the college to act cautiously.

Sitting outside the Caf and outside other food areas should not be a problem. Every building on this campus is basically an academic building, making it really difficult to have an animal when they aren’t allowed anywhere except where they are housed. I believe that students need to require approval before bringing them to classes, meetings, etc. but walking the halls and studying with a dog next to you should not require approval.

 

Sadie Cheney, Co-Mosaic Editor
Co-Mosaic Editor

Tags:  disability services esa Service Dog

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1 Comment

May 16, 2019

Welcome to the real world. ESAs are prescription pets. People abuse the system which makes it harder on people who have a legitimate need for ESAs. Colleges don’t have to allow ESAs and they can deny service dogs in some instances like in campus owned dorms. Outside of campus, ESAs are only allowed in non-pet friendly housing and air travel. They aren’t allowed in restaurants or movie theaters or anywhere that is not pet friendly. Why? They are pets. They provide comfort which is a huge deal for someone who truly needs them, but they are still pets. Service dogs go through countless hours of training. They learn specific tasks to mitigate their handler’s disabilities but they also go through rigorous real- life training and this is where most service dog candidates wash out. It takes a special dog to be able to handle the intensity of being in public. Going to meetings may be normal to you, but it can be insanely stressful for a dog. Rehearsals may seem easy going but look at it from a dog’s POV. They don’t understand that the loud sounds or costumes or set pieces aren’t anything to worry about. It’s scary for them. Some may even consider it abusive to force a dog into a situation it’s not comfortable with. Not only is it unfair to the animal, but the risks of someone being injured increase exponentially. A scared dog can lash out in a heartbeat and now you’ve not only caused someone physical harm, but you’ve given you dog a bite record that could easily end up in it being deemed dangerous and euthanized depending on how severe the incident was. There are severe consequences that land squarely on your shoulders if your dog distracts or attacks a legitimate service dog and the handler is injured or requires medical care. There is a reason service dog programs are only able to place a handful of dogs each year. Real world training is just as important as task training. They have to learn that loud music is okay. They need to understand that crowds of strangers is nothing to worry about. They are taught that high energy places with tons of stimuli is not a reason to be scared. Most dogs can’t handle going to the vet or to the pet store without getting anxious. The entire purpose of an ESA is to provide comfort and that’s it. This is why the ADA specifically states that ESAs are not considered service animals and cannot be in places that aren’t pet friendly. If you want your dog to socialize, go to a dog park or take it for a walk. You can socialize a dog a million different ways that don’t require breaking campus rules or federal law. You should be happy your school isn’t cracking down further on ESAs in campus areas. I suggest you do some intense reading on what the role of an ESA truly is because you’re going to be in for a rude awakening in the real world if you’re already complaining about your dog being restricted on campus. ESAs have a purpose but that purpose is at home.



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