Students aren’t the only ones living on campus this semester. Twenty-four service, therapy and emotional support animals are staged in dorms across WVU’s campuses.
These support and service animals can range from dogs to miniature horses.
Although each animal offers support in its own way, there are many differences between service and emotional support animals.
Service animals help people with physical disabilities, while emotional support and therapy animals provide people with mental health and psychological support.
WVU provides students with the opportunity to have these types of animals in the dorms, but it isn’t easy to get one. The school restricts pets in every form possible on campus, and in order to get a service animal, one must contact the school and apply for it and have an emotional support animal letter for ESA’s.
“A student can’t just bring any random pet that they choose when they move in. Freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, doesn’t matter who,” said Chris MacDonald, executive director of university housing. “So, we do not allow pets. We do allow service animals and emotional support animals.”
The University has multiple guidelines if a student has an animal living with them in a dorm. Emotional support animals are not allowed in any other university buildings, but service animals are permitted anywhere on campus as well as therapy animals.
Through all the requirements to have a service, therapy or emotional support animal living on campus, WVU works to make sure that help is there for the students who need it. Some colleges and schools within WVU have therapy dogs to help students, such as the Reed College of Media’s Omega and the Davis College of Agriculture’s Ryder.
“The best thing is going to get the service and the support that they need in order to be successful navigating, whether it be in the residence halls or the rest of campus,” MacDonald said. “That’s the best thing that they have, a great relationship with your animal, the animal does exactly what it needs them to do, whether that be in service to help them with, you know, an illness or some other issue that would likely inhibit them from actively engaging in our community and being successful on campus.”
While an animal is in a dorm, they must be under complete control of the owner at all times, not be a threat to people or property, secured to a leash at all times and not to be left unattended. Any violation to the campus guidelines can result in removal of the animal.
Although having animals in the dorms can help students, the university keeps a close eye on the downfalls of them. Emotional support animals are typically not as highly trained as service animals, therefore, sometimes it’s harder for emotional support animals to navigate their way through living in a community environment.
MacDonald said his only worry of having emotional support animals in the dorm is issues with the community, but the housing department works well with the students and maintains their animals so issues like these never occur.
“They don’t necessarily, at times, navigate a community living environment very well, and so I always believe the thing I ever worried about is if there were to be challenges in the community or living space with an emotional support animal,” said MacDonald
In order for a student to have an animal on campus residence, they must contact WVU and work with them through getting the best animal that fits their needs but also fitting all the criteria for being able to have an animal in a dorm.
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