Emotional Support Animals becoming more common on campus
David Long relies on his 11-week-old German Shepard to provide structure and consistency as he adjusts to civilian life after six years of military service, but establishing a routine will have to wait.
Long is in the process of registering Schön, his puppy, as an emotional support animal so she can live with him in his Court Street apartment. Due to a strict no-pet policy imposed by his landlord, Schön must stay with a friend until the registration process is complete.
“She gives me structure, a routine, something that’s embedded in the military that you kind of lose when you get back to civilian life,” Long said. “For people that have PTSD, anxiety and are transitioning back to being a civilian, it helps out a lot. It just makes sense.”
The Fair Housing Act requires a landlord to afford a person with a disability “equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” even if the property has a no-pet policy, according to disabilityrightsohio.org. Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, but not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unlike service animals trained to help people with physical disabilities.
Schön will need to be potty trained, obedient, and pass a certification test before she will be recognized by the USA Service Animal registry, Long said. He will also need to fill out an application for his landlord and provide a note from his doctor to validate the need for an emotional support animal.
To keep an emotional support animal in OU’s residence halls, students must meet similar requirements and file a request with Student Accessibility Services.
“A student interested in making a request would follow the process of applying for accommodations just as any student with a disability,” Carey Busch, assistant dean for student accessibility said in an email. “The documentation would be dependent somewhat on the nature of the disability, but in general must come from a healthcare practitioner who is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition.”
After Student Accessibility Services receives documentation from the student and healthcare practitioner, it typically takes seven to 14 days to complete the registration process and receive approval, Busch said.
An emotional support animal approved by Student Activities Services is able to live in any OU residence hall. There are no specific restrictions on the species of emotional support animal, Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Residential Housing said in an email.
A total of eight emotional support animals are living in residence halls this year, including a dog, several cats, a hamster and a hedgehog, Trentacoste said.
“There are a few more than last year but I wouldn’t say the increase is significant,” he said. “Currently, we have a total of 8 students that have an ESA out of our 8,100 plus students living on campus.”
For students living off campus, there are some housing options that are pet-friendly.
The Summit at Coates Run does allow pets, but requires pet owners to abide by an addendum in their lease, and does not permit animals in the fitness center or•pool area. An occupant with a service animal is not charged any additional fees, but The Summit will ask what work or task the animal has been trained to perform if it is not obvious what a service animal provides, Carl Franz, The Summit’s assistant manager said in an email.
Long hopes to overcome the lack of understanding surrounding emotional support animals that provide assistance for disabilities that aren’t obvious physical impairments by explaining the purpose Schön’s work serves.
“She’s not there just to be cute and fluffy,” he said. “She gives me the opportunity to be responsible for something, and make sure I have balance in my life. By taking care of her, I’m taking care of myself, in a sense. “