Angles: How should Augustana handle emotional support animals?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are pets that provide comfort and support through the decrease of depression, anxiety, loneliness or other challenges that may compromise a person’s life, according to the American Kennel Club. Any animal can be an ESA, and ESAs are not legally required to have specific training, unlike service animals and psychiatric service animals.

According to Augustana’s Emotional Support Animal Policy, the university makes an exception to its “no pets allowed in campus housing” rule for service animals and ESAs that satisfy the accommodation process. ESAs are only permitted in the owner’s assigned residence hall or apartment and the outdoor spaces adjacent to the building.

To have an ESA on campus, Augie students must provide documentation showing an identifiable relationship between their disability and the assistance provided by the ESA, according to the policy. ESAs must also be registered with Campus Life before they are permitted at the university.

Students with ESAs must follow the procedures outlined in the Campus Life guidelines for ESAs. If at any time the guidelines are not met, Augustana reserves the legal right to ask the student to remove the ESA from the residence hall.

The guidelines include keeping the ESA in only the student’s place of residence; maintaining the pet’s health and providing an annual clean bill of health from a vet; ensuring the pet is wearing a collar and tags at all times; taking care of the animal; and managing the pet while in the Augie community.

The policy further states that the university can remove an ESA if the animal isn’t taken care of or poses a threat to the owner or other residents.

Guidelines are needed for pet and owner safety

Chelsea Felton

Cute critters have a place in our hearts, but sometimes not in our dorms. Although dogs are great for improving our mental health, owners need to consider pets’ own well-being when allowing them on campus.

With the growing awareness around mental health, emotional support animals (ESAs) seem like a good way to keep anxieties at bay in college. But keeping a big, high-energy dog in a tiny dorm is unfair to the animal and isolates them from their environment.

There are differences between ESAs and service dogs. Service dogs offer great abilities when helping those with health conditions and go through at least six months of training. They are more adapted to live on campus and usually are there to assist owners all day, giving them plenty of time to walk around.

Since an ESA doesn’t need to have special training to be certified to live in dorms, students should be cautious when considering which animal they’d like to pair with.

Dogs like Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and Huskies thrive in a high-energy environment, so unless the dog can be taken out multiple times a day, they shouldn’t be living in a dorm. 

Dogs like the ones listed above should not always be bound on a leash, and Augustana doesn’t have a place for them to roam free. Dog parks and doggy daycares are great places to send pets to play with other dogs.

Remember, taking the dog out might be easy in the summer months, but once colder weather approaches, owners would rather stay inside.

Also, a busy school schedule can limit the time an owner spends with a dog. Keeping a dog in the dorm all day without bathroom breaks is negligent.

ESAs are not limited to just dogs. Cats, rabbits and hamsters usually qualify as ESAs, but because dogs are loyal, compassionate companions, they are a popular pick. But highly consider how much goes into taking care of a dog before making it your new roommate. 

A cat isn’t in need of constant attention and doesn’t need to be let out to live happily. Cats also manage to clean themselves and aren’t codependent on their owner. 

Finding the right animal should also be done ethically. Find pets from shelters and not ones bred in a puppy mill. 

Older dogs and mutts are less likely to be adopted, so it may be better to adopt a pet that needs you just as much as you need it.

ESAs are not a cure-all for one’s mental health but only a step toward getting better. Owners of ESAs should also seek assistance when trying to feel better. Thankfully Augustana offers free therapy to students via Sioux Falls Psychological Services.

In no way should Augustana make it harder for those who want an ESA to have one, butthose looking need to respect the life of the animal they are getting. 

Guidelines for ESAs should be taught to those seeking pets to maintain happy and healthy students and critters.

Support animals decrease stress

Anna Sorenson

College is stressful. Pets can decrease stress. Therefore, some students may benefit from having  emotional support animals (ESAs) with them on campus. ESAs should continue to be allowed on Augustana’s campus to properly accommodate students who benefit from ESAs and create a welcoming environment for stressed students.

According to “Counseling Today,” a publication of the American Counseling Association, the benefits of having a positive social interaction with a pet include calming, relaxing, lowering anxiety, alleviating loneliness, enhancing social engagement and interaction, reducing stress and reducing depression. 

College students live in an environment that can induce high levels of stress, anxiety and sometimes loneliness. Students can be overwhelmed with homework, anxious from the pressure to do well and lonesome living far from hometown family and friends. 

Having a certified ESA at Augustana can alleviate some of that stress, allowing students to better acclimate to Augie and do well in their academic pursuits.

Although ESAs do not have to be trained to perform certain tasks or behave a certain way, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says on its website that it requires ESA owners to get a recommendation from a trained professional, saying they would emotionally benefit from a support animal. 

Therefore, there is a process in place to ensure that both the individual and the animal are being properly cared for.

The HUD also stipulates that housing providers are not required to provide accommodations if an animal is destructive, poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or interferes with the ability of a facility to perform its intended purpose. 

If an animal were damaging a dorm room, negatively affecting the well-being of others living in the dorm or somehow keeping the dorm from functioning, Augustana has the authority to intercede. With this in mind, those with ESAs can understand the expectations of living with an animal in the dorms.

It should be acknowledged that small dorm rooms are not always the ideal place to house large or high-energy animals, such as certain dog breeds. 

Yes, ESAs should be allowed on campus, but students need to consider the well-being of the animal, as well. Both the student and the pet should be taken care of while living on campus.

Finally, allowing ESAs on campus contributes to the larger idea of providing a welcoming experience at Augustana. The campus should do what it can to ensure students have the best experience while attending, which includes providing resources for their mental health. 

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