July 7, 2020

Bringing Emotional Support Animals to Campus

Emilee Claffey ‘22 - Staff Reporter

Honeydew (left) and Mochi (right)

Kaitlyn Wulf, a Senior Art and Sociology double major, has an emotional support cat named Mochi with her on campus. Her family took Mochi in because she was in need of a loving home. Wulf  later visited her doctor to inquire about the process of making Mochi her official emotional support animal. 

Emotional support animals are employed for many different purposes, including depression, PTSD, Autism, etc. After a licensed professional prescribes an ESA for any of the above reasons, there is an optional registration process but the only thing required is proof of an ESA letter. Emotional support animals are prescribed in order to alleviate symptoms and ultimately raise the quality of life for the individual in question. 

As to the process of bringing Mochi to Gordon as an already established ESA, Wulf admitted it was difficult for her. And she’s worried that it will be difficult “for those who most need it, because the people who need emotional support animals are already struggling.” 

The initial information and paperwork were close to impossible for her to find on the website. Many aspects of the process were a mystery, but after finally corresponding with the correct people, her application was approved. 

After jumping through all of the necessary hoops, Wulf believes many aspects of the process are flawed, such as a deadline for eligible applications and the need to renew your application after a certain amount of time. 

“For something that is an accommodation for accessibility,” Wulf said. “There is no information accessible, which is not okay.”

 In light of the previous statement, she acknowledged the requirement to limit both the amount of emotional support animals allowed on campus and the reasons behind why one might be needed for any given individual. 

People could be tempted to bring their pets to school which would devalue the importance of the system. There is a difference between pets and emotional support animals in both their function and in the way they are perceived. There is also a distinction between service animals who are trained for a specific purpose and emotional support animals who are meant to help their owner cope with everyday life. 

Brie Owen, a junior psychology major, has an emotional support rabbit with her on campus named Honeydew. She had a very different experience to Wulf. 

Owen said she went back and forth as to whether to pursue this path. However, when harder days come around, she is able to snuggle with her bunny and that provides her comfort. 

At the outset of the process, she was directed to Terry Charek, dean of Student Care, who gave her the necessary forms and outlined the details of the process. A referral from a doctor or a therapist was required. Once that was completed she could move forward with the process of a formal application. 

Because of her communication with Terry Charek, she found the process easier than she expected. 

When asked about people she might have encountered who did not understand the necessity of an emotional support animal, she said “I am very blessed to not have encountered anyone like that yet, even though I anticipated it a lot more.” 

If she were to respond to anyone who’d think having an emotional support animal was unnecessary, Owen proposed the following response: “all of us function better the more our dorms look and feel like home.” And as the interview was coming to an end, she freely gave a piece of advice for anyone thinking about an emotional support animal, Owen said:“ they should go for it.”

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