Emotional Support Animals benefiting students mental health

The risks and rewards of approving ESA’s for students living on campus

Sami Geiger

More stories from Sami Geiger

The support of a dog or cat. The reward of having an emotional support animal

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The support of a dog or cat. The reward of having an emotional support animal

You probably wouldn’t believe me if I said that at one time, my family and I had four cats, a dog, a gecko and a handful of fish. As you can probably tell, I come from a family who loves and respects all types of animals.

Allow me to introduce you to our zoo.

Starting with the four cats from youngest to oldest: Harley, Romeo, Starla and Chopper. 

Now onto our dog, Ace. I know what you guys are thinking: cats and dogs don’t get along. Well I am here to say that isn’t always true. Ace and our cats get along very well.

Next we have our reptile department: Yeti the gecko. He is very friendly. 

Then you have our fish. This seems terrible but they don’t have names.

Sadly, I had to leave our zoo to come back up to school. As you can probably imagine, it was very hard leaving all my furry and scaly friends behind.

So, I applied for an emotional support animal, also referred to as an ESA. While others question why I would need or want one, they don’t know I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

Back at home, my anxiety wasn’t unstable because I was surrounded by not only the love of my family but also the love from my animals.

While I am here at school, my anxiety tends to be on the unstable side of the spectrum. I am away from family, friends and my animals. 

The love and support an animal can bring one person is flabbergasting to me.

I have seen the way an animal can bring so much joy and stability. For example, when UW-Eau Claire used to bring dogs to campus during finals week, smiles grew on student’s faces when they got to spend a little time with a dog. 

All universities have strict no animal policies in dormitories. Unless you have an ESA, which bends the rules a little bit.

I understand the no animals policy in freshman dormitories because of how small the rooms are, but what about the apartment style dormitories where students have their own rooms and a shared common area and kitchen?

Services for Students with Disabilities should be more lenient with approving students for ESAs if they live in an apartment style dormitory. If the student can prove they are responsible enough to care for an animal and respect university rules, they should be allowed to have an ESA.

There are always negatives to every positive. The biggest worry with having an ESA are allergies, barking and disrespecting the university’s rules.

It only takes one person to ruin it for everyone else, but it also takes one person to start something new and bring joy to everybody. 

Animals bring joy, comfort, support, love and so much more.

I care about my mental health and the mental health of all students. I believe my mental health and stress would tremendously improve if I were allowed an ESA and I have a feeling it would be the same for other students.

Now imagine with me: you are finally getting home at 6 p.m. after having a stressful day of classes. You have another six hours of homework ahead of you.

You unlock your apartment door and are immediately greeted by your dog or cat. You sit down on your bed to relax for five minutes before starting homework. The dog or cat jumps up on the bed by you and lays their head on your chest, sensing you had a long, stressful day.

After five minutes of lying there, you start to feel better — so, you get up and start your homework. Your dog or cat follows you to your desk and sits right beside you the whole night to comfort you and provide support while you do homework. 

Imagine that. 

Geiger can be reached at [email protected]