by Celina Simmons
The rule on campus in regards to having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is that you must have the animal approved by the school, with a note from your doctor stating why you need the animal. This seems pretty reasonable until you realize your animal doesn’t actually need to be a registered ESA.
In this doctor’s note, they must answer questions pertaining to the required documentation for a support animal. This document has 9 points that need to be evident
in the doctor’s note. So, if someone has the proper documentation, how can they not get approved from the school?
I am aware of students on campus who have a registered ESA and they did not get approval from the school to keep their ESA in the dorms. This is disheartening to hear. If somebody has an ESA, whether registered or not, there is a reason behind it. Is it really the school’s business, or choice, if you need an ESA?
Despite popular opinion, I see depression and anxiety on a spectrum. In our generation and society, it’s hard to come across someone that has not dealt with some sort of anxiety or depression. A person could be dealing with tendencies that go hand-in-hand with these illnesses, and not “technically” be considered depressed. If having a pet to keep as a companion gets them through the day, why do they need an outsider’s approval?
The process of getting this paperwork figured out can take a long time. Some students have had to wait three months or longer to have their ESA approved. That is three whole months without the emotional support that student needs. For someone who desperately needs one, this wait period can feel a lot longer than just three months.
Regardless of the owner’s conditions, let’s start thinking about the animal itself. Moving from home to home, even temporarily, has drastic impacts on a pet. Pets enjoy predictability. To live without their owner for three or more months, can change that animal in a way that could be for the worse. The animal can become untrusting of their owner or untrusting of people in general and act out on these feelings.
If a dorming student doesn’t have a home to go to or a home to watch their ESA while the paperwork gets figured out, they have to scramble to find someone trustworthy enough to take care of their best friend. This can lead down many negative paths that I do not want to talk about.
There is an undoubtedly strong relationship that grows between a pet and their owner. To break this relationship apart for some “paperwork” seems a tad bit unethical.
No matter the reason, people have pets for a reason and that reason is none of the school’s business. In my opinion, it is unethical for the school to acquire personal information for a student’s need of an ESA, and to separate them from their animal for the amount of time it may take for the logistics to be taken care of. If a person has a pet for their own personal and private reasons, the school should understand where that pet needs to live – which is with their owner.