Emotional support animals have been becoming more common on campus for the past three years.
Mike Miller, the assistant director of Residential Life, is in charge of overseeing all of the residential life programs and takes part in overseeing which ESAs are granted and which ones aren’t.
“Every year for the past three years, it has gone up, so like, 50 to 100,” Miller said.
ESAs are animals that provide emotional support and comfort for patients. They are commonly used to help treat and support people who have a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. Any student on campus is eligible for an ESA as long as the student can prove their need for the ESA.
According to ESA Doctors, ESAs can benefit people in numerous ways. Some of them being an increase in social skills, an increase in self-esteem and providing a sense of comfort in a new environment.
The Assistance Animal Policy, located on Northwest’s website, defines an assistance animal as an animal that is prescribed by a mental health professional in order to provide emotional support for the student.
The process of getting an ESA starts with the Accessibility and Accommodations Office. Students start by writing a request stating why they need the ESA and provide current documentation from their current healthcare provider.
After this, Accessibility and Accommodations will contact the student and review the paperwork while also being reviewed by the Learning Assistance Providers/Services Committee. If the accommodation is granted, the student is then directed to the area coordinator for Residential Life.
Residential Life is in charge of making sure all of the ESAs shots are taken care of, getting paperwork that proves the animal is flea and tick free and ensuring that the animal is registered as an ESA.
According to an article done by the Chicago Tribune, ESAs do help people as long as they’re trained to. If untrained, they can pose problems to others around them, especially in a dorm setting.
Mike Miller had some more insight on how the process goes.
“They (the student bringing in the ESA) let their roommate or roommates know that they are bringing an ESA, and those roommates have to let us know that they’re okay with it,” Miller said.
In an instance where the roommate isn’t okay with an ESA being in a room, both parties would meet with Residential Life to come to an arrangement that works for both.
Other students on the floor that could be affected by the ESA are responsible for bringing up any problems that they have with the person bringing in the ESA after it has moved in.
“They can always bring it up to us and we will always hear those situations out,” Miller said, “but that student’s requirement for having an ESA will be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”
The American Disability Act is a federal law that prohibits the discrimination towards someone for a disability. Since ESAs fall under this, if another student on the floor has a problem, it is recommended that they move rooms.
In a case where a student is allergic to the ESA, the ESA stays unless the student has filed the allergy with Accessibility and Accomadationstions.
According to the Real ESA Letter, dogs and cats are the most common ESAs to have. Northwest allows all dogs and cats as ESAs as long as they do not cause too much disturbance.
“When you’re thinking ESAs, cats and dogs are normal,” Miller said. “Rabbits are one that we’ve had. … I believe the conversation has arisen about a lizard.”
The only animals that Accessibility and Accomadationstions and Residential Life don’t approve of as ESAs are those considered dangerous and exotic.
Northwest has also recently added an age limit for ESAs. They can’t be young puppies, in order to avoid having conflicts with quiet hours and courtesy hours.