New policy for animals on campus
This is the first year that the university has made changes to its emotional support animal and service animal policies. The Board of Regents recently outlined the new rules and procedures. The policy describes what defines a service animal versus an emotional support animal, and lists the requirements for bringing both on campus.
The primary differences between an emotional support animal and a service animal are that a service animal is specifically trained to do certain tasks for an individual, and they are allowed to go anywhere with them.
“Emotional support animals are there for therapy, comfort and companionship. They are not considered service animals under the ADA. So I think that they have their role in the extent that they support students, and that’s great, but there are differences between emotional support animals and service animals in what they do and where they go.”
Emotional support animals, or ESA’s, are only allowed in the residence halls and other public areas, but not inside any of the other buildings. In addition, getting an emotional support animal on campus is a longer process than that of having a service animal.
When it comes to service animals, the considerations made are if the animal is trained and if it is required because of a disability.
These distinctions separate them from ESA’s because they are not required to perform specific tasks.
According to the Board of Regents, they said they felt it was important to make a note about getting an animal’s ESA certification online.
“A significant amount of misinformation regarding ESAs exists online. ESA verification services purchased online may not be sufficiently reliable to verify an individual’s disability and the disability-related need for an ESA. Many services claiming to provide registration or certification are not legitimate as they convey no legal protections for the animal or the Handler. Individuals with questions regarding what constitutes a licensed medical practitioner should contact Disability Services or its equivalent for more information,” stated the Board of Regents.
The Board of Regents has a section about what happens if there is an issue with an individual’s animal, and what kind of issues there might be for students and their resident advisors.
“Me personally, I don’t have a problem with it, it’s only when it becomes an issue for other people in the room. You have to respect everyone else in the room. While it is your room, it is also a shared space, and you have to respect everyone in the room’s wishes,” said resident advisor Tahj MitchellWestberry, a junior.
Mary Xatse, the Programming and Outreach Graduate Intern who facilitates pet therapy, talked about the impact that animals have on people.
“We see so much that it does for the students,” said Xatse. “It is a stress reliever, and a lot of students either live far away from home or don’t get to see their pets as often, so seeing a dog on campus is a great sight for them.”
Photo credit: Tamonda Griffiths