Emotional Support Animals: not just a pet

By Brooke DeSnyder, DeSnyderB@Findlay.edu

When it comes to Emotional Support Animals, or as most people know them as ESA’s, many don’t realize it takes a lot of work, since they just want a pet. However, an ESA isn’t a pet; students with an ESA on campus undergo work to keep them at the University of Findlay.

The first step a student must take for their ESA to be approved to live on campus is fill out all the paperwork. Sophomore Meredith Seaton lives in dorms with her ESA cat, where she must complete paperwork to apply every year.

“It was a lot of paperwork,” Seaton said. “That’s for sure.”

Paperwork includes signing the ESA policy, completing the Housing Accommodation Request form, roommates must fill out the consent form if the student has a roommate, documentation from the student’s treating healthcare or mental health professional, animal vet and licensing records, color photo of the animal, animal behavior history and an emergency contact for the care of the animal that must live off campus. Without these things, the ESA will be denied.

Director of Accommodations and Academic Support Center Nicole Schneider sets up the processes of applying for an ESA and coordinates with the assistance animals committee that reviews ESA applications. One of the main reasons why an application may get denied is due to the documentation from the healthcare or mental health professional.

“What we are truly asking is a two-fold question,” Schneider said. “One, is there a disability? Two, is there a disability-related need for the animal?”

If those two question aren’t answered by the professional documentation, the application will be denied due to the lack of information .

Seaton’s cat was denied at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. She then sent in an appeal to approve her cat.

“I had to send a two-sentence appeal of not understanding why she (her cat) was denied because all the paperwork was exactly the same as last year,” Seaton said. “All I had to do was send in that two-sentence appeal for her to get accepted.”

Being denied is not the end-all-be-all, as students can appeal the decision. Schneider also mentioned that students can talk with the Office of Accommodations on how to better their application.

Since Seaton lives in a single-room dorm, she didn’t need to have roommates accept her ESA. Elizabeth Burns is a Resident’s Assistant for some of the houses and apartments on campus.

“Honestly the biggest issue that I see with ESA’s is housemates rejecting them,” Burns said.

There are reasons why the housemates or roommates must approve of the animal first.

“They have an equal right to enjoy their own space too,” Schneider said. “We would not want to put a dog in a room with someone who is petrified of dogs or a cat in a room where someone has an anaphylactic reaction to the cat.”

When the ESA is approved to live on campus, it is then up to the student to properly care for the ESA and avoid any possible violations.

“The most common violations are either the noise or your ESA is supposed to be in its crate when you are not around and a lot of the times, that is not the case,” Burns said.

ESA are to remain in a crate when the student is not in the room for the safety of any staff members who may enter the room and to prevent the ESA from getting loose on accident. Other students may also complain about any noise the animal makes if they are too loud.

“I am worried that she is meowing constantly and other people are hearing her,” Seaton said.