Also referred to as comfort animals, emotional support animals are pets that offer comfort and support to those individuals experiencing emotional and mental disabilities by being their constant companions and giving them unconditional love. Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals, and are therefore not required to carry out certain tasks for their owners/handlers and are neither expected to be trained. They are only meant to provide emotional stability and comfort as well as offer some therapeutic benefits that will help alleviate the symptoms of the disability.
At present day, an increasing number of Americans are finding solace and happiness in pets, whether they are at home, in school, or at work. And an increasing number of academic institutions and workplaces are realizing the importance of an emotional support animal, and thus allowing them access. These animals help their owners/handlers cope with their daily struggles better, many of them include students, especially those who have been diagnosed with mental health problems like anxiety, depression, panic attacks and fears.
With all the social and academic pressure a student goes through during college life, pets in the form of emotional support animals can be a valuable source for restoring the emotional balance in troubled individuals.
In general, colleges are not mandated to allow emotional support animals by the higher law. However, many colleges are breaking the mold and merging student life with pet life. These colleges realize how effective emotional support animals can be when it comes to making the students feel healthier and happier.
For a lot of students, leaving the comforts of their home and moving to college for the first time can be a difficult transition. The idea of leaving the family and friends behind can bring up feelings of discomfort and fear, however, at some schools, students can bring along a piece of home along to ease the transition. Examples of well-known colleges that are ESA-friendly include the University of California Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stetson University, among others.
Although a lot of schools and colleges have relaxed their policies regarding ESA ban in the last few years, there is still the majority of colleges that are adamant about not allowing pets or emotional support animals on campus.
It should be noted that disability is a broad term that defines both mental and physical impairment that affects an individual’s quality of life. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the rules regarding ESA accommodation are relevant to a range of both private and public housing, which also includes colleges and universities.
Since emotional support animals are not granted access to public places, colleges or universities by federal law, college housing providers can very well refuse to accommodate any ESA if they find that the animal directly threatens the safety or health of other residents or if it will be damaging to the property.
However, these refusals don’t happen out of thin air and will need to be backed up by a legit reason as well as evidence regarding the ESA’s breed, weight or size. ESAs can be excluded based solely on fear or speculation of the accommodators. So to avoid your emotional support animal from getting rejected by the college housing department, it is important that you make sure its behavior is friendly and non-threatening.