By Sam Hardenbergh
University of Findlay’s 4 Paws presents new growth with 13 new service animals in training and over 100 club members to their roster.
UF provides a large population of service animals, service animals in training and emotional support animals on campus. This year, an increase of emotional support animals took place.
Abigail Thomas, President of 4 Paws for Ability, witnessed growth since the club started in 2019, with the past year welcoming more than 13 service dogs in training and over 100 club members on the roster.
“UF 4 Paws has grown every year since the club was started in 2019,” Thomas said. “So far this year, we have had 13 service dogs in training on campus and over 100 club members on our roster.”
Thomas believes the club will continue to grow each year.
“Yes, I think even now everyone is pretty used to seeing our pups on campus,” Thomas said. “I think the biggest thing that I would want people to know is that we encourage everyone to pet our pups.”
This club is funded based upon fundraisers, like the silent auction that takes place each spring.
“The service dogs in training are important to many aspects of campus life,” Thomas said. “These dogs provide comfort and support to students who may be struggling living in the college environment.”
Nicole Schneider, Director of Accommodation in the Academic Support Center, understands why the University has seen a growth of service animals on campus.
“We have a very large population of animal lovers on our campus: all our Animal Science, Pre-Vet, Equestrian English and Western students,” Schneider said. “When you take a campus of animal lovers, of course you’re going to have more students that want to have animals in their living spaces.”
About 600 out of 2,000 undergraduate students are animal science majors at UF, which makes it the largest undergraduate program, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Schnieder believes another contributing factor is the new dialogue around the world involving mental health and ways to help people deal with it.
“I think the second part of that is we are seeing mental health as a part of a nationwide and a worldwide conversation.” Schneider said. “It’s being talked about more, which means it’s being normalized more; which means students are reaching out more for the support and accommodations whereas they might not have reached out before.”
Junior nursing student Ali Craig brought her dog named Bentley to help her through the day-to-day. She got Bentley her senior year of high school after COVID-19 struck.
“Overall, I feel as though the professors have been very welcoming with service animals in their classes. Every class that I have brought Bentley to, the professors have always allowed him to join.” Craig said. “Similar to professors, I think that people are becoming very accepting of service animals. I never felt like I was being judged for having my dog.
Craig also contributes this welcoming atmosphere to the 4 Paws organization that is prevalent on campus.
“I think having the 4 Paws program at the University and bringing those pups to class helps everyone become more comfortable with the idea.” Craig said. “It really benefits the University by exposing not only the dogs to people but also people to the idea of service animals.”