Pets in the residence halls? Fredonia’s ‘emotional support animals’ policy

By Ana McCasland
By Ana McCasland

CONNOR HOFFMAN

Staff Writer

 

The New York Times recently ran an article on universities increasingly allowing the use of comfort animals in their dorms, and some of the concerns having these animals in the dorms has caused.

“Comfort animals, or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that, by being with an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability, provide a therapeutic benefit and help alleviate or mitigate symptoms of the disability,” said Adam Hino, the coordinator for Disability Services for Students, via email.

Usually these pets are animals such as dogs or cats, and are allowed for students who have mental disabilities such as anxiety or depression.

This raised the question — what is Fredonia’s policy towards comfort animals in the dormitories and on campus? It turns out that Fredonia actually has a policy that allows for qualified students to have comfort animals. Fredonia does not refer to them as “comfort animals,” however, but rather “emotional support animals.” Many of these supportive pet policies were a result of the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1986.

According to disabilityrights.org, the Fair Housing Act made it illegal for a person to refuse “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” Many universities then decided to follow this law, and create policies allowing for these pets.

Fredonia decided to implement a supportive emotional support pet policy as part of complying with the Fair Housing Act and after seeing how serious the issue is.

“Last year we did some research to look at different policies, both SUNY wide as well as private institutions, and what their policies were because it was becoming more and more popular,” said Kathy Forster, director of Residence Life. “For various reasons … therapy dog usage that has shown the level of success for people has increased. Some people who have a general anxiety disorder or some other sort of mental health concern … their therapists have essentially prescribed that it would benefit them to have an emotional support animal.”

Although Fredonia is supportive of emotional support animals, there are still concerns about letting pets in the residence halls.  

“Unfortunately in a residence hall setting, I don’t think it’s an ideal setting because of the fire alarms and the very loud noise,” said Forster. She also mentioned how the animals don’t have to have any kind of training, like a service or therapy animal has to have. Although they don’t need any kind of training, she mentioned they must be litter or potty trained for sanitation purposes.

Some feel that despite the sanitary concerns of these pets, the student should still be allowed to have the pet to help with their disorder.

“If it’s helping that student overcome whatever problem they have, in the end, it will help them. And if they have experience with these animals already, I bet you they know how to clean up after them pretty well,” said Andrew Richardson, a sophomore journalism major.

Some universities, however, are not so supportive of emotional support animals. The University of Nebraska just settled with the Justice Department to pay $140,000 to two students who were denied comfort animals, according to the New York Times.

Before lawsuits such as the University of Nebraska, it used to be easier for universities to deny some emotional support animal requests, but now, some universities have accepted crazy requests just to avoid lawsuits.

“Schools think it’s easier to say yes than no because property damage is cheaper than litigation,” said Michael R. Manister, a disability law expert at Nova Southeastern University in Florida in the New York Times.

Some schools have had requests for animals such as lizards, tarantulas, ferrets and rats. Washington State University even had a case where a student owned a pig in the residence halls.

The other students thought the pig was kind of cool, but less cool when it began to smell,” said Hannah Mitchell, the dorm’s director at the time, according to the New York Times. She mentioned how the animal couldn’t really bathe since the dorms hall weren’t equipped to bathe it. The pig even chewed up the carpenting and knocked off the closet doors.

Students must follow a vigirous set of rules when owning these pets. The student must keep the animal in appropriate conditions, such as a crate. Also, the student must always keep the animal on a leash when outside the residence halls. All of the animal’s waste must be disposed of properly.

According to a document on the ResLife website, students that want to apply for one of these animals must apply at the Office of Disability Services for Students (DSS). Students should include in their applications certificates of vaccination and a copy of the animal’s registration license. Also, the student must get the approval of his or her roommate.

Students interested in further detail on the university’s policy on emotional support animals should go to https://www.fredonia.edu/reslife/ESAPolicy.pdf, or talk to the Office of Disability Services for Students.

 

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