Residence Halls Should Expand Animal Policies

Article by Charlotte Mobley, staff writer

The policy for animals on campus varies by campus residence. In The Village and The Circle apartments, you may have 10-gallon fish tanks, Service Animals/Emotional Support Animals (ESA), cats and some dog breeds. These animals are permitted under the conditions of a pet application, along with approval from housing authorities, documentation and a $200 deposit. In all other on-campus residences, only 10-gallon fish tanks and Service Animals/ESAs are allowed. 

All students who wish to have an ESA or Service Animal with them on campus must be registered with Access and Accommodation Services. A Service Animal is an animal that has been specially trained to react to the needs of certain disabilities (such as allergies or epilepsy). An ESA is an animal whose role is to provide comfort and support to a person with a diagnosed neurodivergency (such as autism, PTSD or anxiety). There is a need for disabled students to have access to animals that will aid them in their needs. 

Why are Service Animals and ESAs allowed, but other pets are not allowed in the majority of residencies? I believe that all on campus residences should allow pets under the same policies as The Village and The Circle apartments. 

Any damage or disruption caused by a cat or dog could be equivalent to that caused by an ESA. ESAs are untrained animals. Unlike Service Animals, there is no behavioral coaching required for an animal to be registered as an ESA. The only thing that separates a regular pet from an Emotional Support Animal is the condition of the owner. For the university, no extra risk is incurred from a regular pet. In fact, if all residences adopted the policies of The Village and The Circle apartments it would also increase revenue (from the $200 deposit). 

Of course, a change in animal policy could raise the concern of the residences being overrun with animals in nearly every room. It is not known how many service animals/ESAs there are on campus – I could personally only count two in University Hall. I do not think that allowing animals would change these numbers dramatically, as the $200 fee will likely deter most students from trying to have an animal approved on campus. 

It is worth noting that sometimes people need comfort and support even if they do not have a diagnosed need. Especially for first-year students, the transition to college life can be incredibly hard. I believe that everyone deserves to have the opportunity to have a pet, a reminder of home and safety, to support them. I do not say this in any way to diminish the role of service animals or ESAs, I only say this to make a point of how I see no harm in expanding the policy. Service Animals and ESAs play a vital role in the lives of those who need them — there is no denying that. But, does expanding the animal policies in other residence halls do any more harm than the good it could do?

Chester, an ESA from University Hall.

Categories: Opinion

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