Scholarship News

Support Pets Prompt College Policy Re-evaluation


September 20, 2016
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
Emotional support animals are able to attend select colleges with their owners, as schools are re-evaluating their campus policies when it comes to accommodating students with mental-health issues. Higher education institutions are also debating whether suicide-prone students should be given campus leave, in order to recover. Administrators are fighting to make decisions in the best interest of all students meanwhile discerning the troubled adolescent from a homesick student who just really wants a puppy.

Emotional support animals are able to attend select colleges with their owners, as schools are re-evaluating their campus policies when it comes to accommodating students with mental-health issues. Higher education institutions are also debating whether suicide-prone students should be given campus leave, in order to recover. Administrators are fighting to make decisions in the best interest of all students meanwhile discerning the troubled adolescent from a homesick student who just really wants a puppy.

About ten years ago, many colleges and universities told students to leave their support pets at home. After legal settlements at several institutions, the Justice Department allowed students to bring their support animals to campus. Felines and canines used to be the norm for support animals. Schools are now seeing applications for tarantulas, ferrets, and pigs. Studies show that support animals can help students suffering from anxiety or depression, but college disability officers are aware that online therapists are willing to write "accommodation letters" to "just about anyone" for an average fee of $150. Nonetheless, with recent legal settlements, colleges aren't prying when students show up to campus with animal and accommodation letter in hand.

This year 66 students have emotional-support animals at Oklahoma State and the university is considering building a pet-friendly dorm to "reduce complaints from other students about allergies and phobias." At Northern Arizona University, 85 students requested special accommodation but "half the requests dropped when students learned that documentation is required."

Colleges are also facing another dilemma: how to handle students at risk of committing suicide. In 2015, a survey revealed 36 percent of undergraduates "had felt so depressed it was difficult to function," with 10 percent of students having "seriously considered committing suicide." In the past, colleges were allowed to remove students from campus when they posed a "direct threat" to others or themselves. Some administrators believe that campus leave allows suffering students to "recover under close supervision...without the social and academic stresses of college life." Students, however, feel like they are being "punished," which sends them into a "deeper spiral."

In your opinion, should students be allowed to bring support animals to campus? Should suicide-prone students be given campus leave? Share your thoughts with us.

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Annemarie J  on  10/24/2016 11:19:30 AM commented:

I definitely think students should be allowed to bring support animals to campus. As long as they take responsibility of it, which if they can't take care of a small animal then they probably aren't ready for college, then they should absolutely bring it for emotional support. College is stressful even for the most organized and studious people. An animal is a great stress reliever and a trustworthy, loyal friend.

Kailee H.  on  10/22/2016 1:17:40 PM commented:

Service animals have been around for a long time. And they're used to help people with many things such as blindness, deafness, diabetes, seizures, and many other things. Animals are capable of sensing fear and support animals can help people with depression and anxiety. Animals should be allowed on campus to help with illness or disabilities, especially when the people in those situations are in stressful environments with more added stress due to mental illness. Animals provide an escape and help those in need and decrease the risks of anxiety and depression in some cases. Students should not be taken off campus for the thoughts of committing suicide, because they will go into a deeper spiral for depression and it could potentially make things worse.

G.M  on  10/18/2016 1:53:30 PM commented:

I believe that students with special disabilities should be allowed to bring support animals to class simply because they provide for the help they need in the emotional aspects of their lives. However, there should be more requirements in order to get the permission needed to have a support animal on campus. On the other hand, students with suicidal thoughts should not be allowed to leave the campus because then they will engage in depression and only decrease their interest in attending school.

Marie F  on  10/12/2016 3:52:38 PM commented:

As a person who knows many others with service animals for blindness, deafness, and seizures I have seen first-hand how these service animals have vastly improved the lives of people around them. Thanks to the help of various service animals such as dogs, cats, ponies, etc people can live their lives the way they want as independently as possible. However, it does get really annoying when people who don't actually need a service animal use fake documents to find an excuse on why they should bring their pets on campus. Service animals are not your typical pets and the people who rely on their animal's service should not have to be punished for the stupidity and selfishness of others trying to take advantage of the system. Documents for service animal ownership should be validized as well as a phone interview with a certified doctor. As for sending suicidal students on leave perhaps they should stay in school if they choose and look towards a service animal for guidance. The suicidal students can become roommates with a person who has a service animal so they can recieve comfort when the animal is off-duty. These animal interaction will benefit both parties making everyone satisfied.

Talen L  on  10/9/2016 11:05:51 PM commented:

As a pet owner, I've grown an emotional attachment to my pet. Having a furry friend that stays by your side, is one of the best relationships you could ever have. Students currently in college have several things to focuse on while trying to be successful. Students become stressed with responsibility and work. Parents aren't allowed and leaving campus isn't always allowed but having your pet on campus can solve those issues. Knowing that someone is by your side, helps you accomplish more rather than giving up. I think that pets should be allowed on campus with students with rules following that huge responsibility.

Autumn o  on  9/30/2016 7:53:51 PM commented:

I feel if these students struggle with illnesses like this, then they should have a support animal. They are known to help people in rough situations. Support animals are able to help the student cope with how they are feeling or doing. If that student has a a horrible day then that animal can help them feel better. Those that are suicide-prone should see a counselor but if they can't then yes they should be allowed to leave. A parent might be able to talk to them and releave them of any pressure or thoughts they might have.

Celeste M  on  9/30/2016 6:05:07 PM commented:

I think that support animals are a great thing for thise who have serious mental illnesses, and I don't think they should have the animals be left home. It'd also be a good idea if school maybe had their own support animals for mentally ill students to visit at a center when they are in tense situation. Now regarding the suicide-prone students being sent on leave, I think it still is helpful since it would give them a chance to calm and seek help (like going to therapy) and they'd have a chance to be away from the stresses of school and exams.

SebastianS  on  9/30/2016 10:19:12 AM commented:

I think it would help the students. the support of animals will help students with depression immensely but will also effect other students without those problems that also presents problems such as 'special' treatment I see no negatives other than possible allergy issues and animal attacks which is a minor problem. taking the students off campus could prove to be dangerous as the reason for their depression could be home issues or you could be taking them from the only positive influence they have.

Brittany P  on  9/30/2016 6:16:47 AM commented:

Being a high school student who has suffered from mental illness, I feel that support animals are a good idea for certain college students. Their support animal(s) will help keep the person calm & can sense if a situation arises. I also think suicide-prone students should be given campus leave to prevent a potential suicide from happening. They should try & speak to a guidance counselor at 1st & then faculty should base their decision on that professional opinion. I do know from my personal experiences that sometimes people with a mental illness need a little time to deal with the issues & stresses that haunt them everyday.

Delaney C.  on  9/23/2016 10:00:55 AM commented:

Animals have been known to help people with emotional distress and illnesses. Support animals should be allowed everywhere, especially in the high-stressed world of college. It is a person's right to have a support animal to help him/her throughout his/her life. These animals can aide to provide a better life for a suffering person, colleges should not have the ability to place a ban on a person's health. Suicide-prone students should be given campus leave. To deal with one's problems, a person needs space and time. Pushing through loads of homework while suffering with depression only threatens a person's life even more. Colleges take so much money, time, and energy away from students. Campus leave and support animals should be open opportunities for students following those qualifications.

Sherise P  on  9/23/2016 7:38:56 AM commented:

Suffering from mental health issues is more than you may think. Some people need a little extra guidance, they want to feel loved. Being hurt by loved ones and other makes one feel unwanted, thats until they share a loving connection with a pet. All pets love their owners and they get so close that they start to feel lover again.

Pj  on  9/23/2016 3:08:33 AM commented:

I feel that support animals should be allowed on college campuses because it brings comfort to a student knowing that they have someone they know by their side looking out for them even if it is just a dog. Suicidal prone students shouldn't be given campus leave because the interaction with others on the campus and dorm can help a student with their problems. Also having counseling offices on campus can help a person talk about their issues.

Amanda H  on  9/22/2016 10:33:44 PM commented:

I believe that students should be allowed to bring support animals in order to help them cope and survive through college. Students with mental issues suffer greatly, especially when they are far away from home alone. If they could bring support animals it would help them get through the day and calm them down because they would have them to be there for them. I also believe that pet friendly dorm is a great idea due to the fact that many have allergies. This idea benefits both people who need auooort animals and those who have allergies. I also believe that students who are suicide prone should be allowed campus leave because college can get stressful at times and it can build up a lot of emotions that can lead to suicidal thoughts. Students who are depressed and suicidal should be allowed to leave so they can focus on bettering themselves and becoming healthier. Many might not think depression is a true illness but many have suffer and have taken their lives because of depression.

sariah L  on  9/22/2016 1:44:07 PM commented:

I have several animals in my home, and i am about to go off to college next year. My animals provide me with a calming feeling of mental support. i would not be able to make it through day to day life without them, and this is causing me to have second thoughts about really wanting to go to college or not. I own two guinea pigs, one dog, one cat, and a gerbil. they are the light to my day and comfort me in every way.

Kayla S  on  9/22/2016 1:05:30 PM commented:

I am someone that has mental health issues. The day that I got admitted into the hospital, after explaining issues that had been going on at home, the Children's Advocacy center brought in a dog and let me have the dog by my side all throughout my session of having to explain in details the incidents that occurred. Let me tell you, I would have never gotten through that session without the dog by my side. Mental Health is a much larger issue than anyone ever realizes, and we need to do as much as we can to help those with this disease, even if it's just giving them a pet, because remember, pets are always loyal, humans are not.

Lauren C  on  9/21/2016 3:38:14 PM commented:

I feel that support animals should be allowed on college campuses because it brings comfort to a student knowing that they have someone they know by their side looking out for them even if it is just a dog. Suicidal prone students shouldn't be given campus leave because the interaction with others on the campus and dorm can help a student with their problems. Also having counseling offices on campus can help a person talk about their issues.

Kristine D  on  9/21/2016 1:42:47 PM commented:

With emotions, you'll never know what people may do. They could damage themselves, other people around them, or both. Support animals should be allowed to keep a person's emotions intact. We don't want people or the person to get hurt doing something because of emotions. Emotional support animals are the number one solution, especially if they don't want to talk to anyone about their emotions.

Kendra S./B.  on  9/21/2016 11:26:35 AM commented:

I believe students should be allowed to bring their emotional-support animals, but the pet-friendly dorms would be an excellent addition to this cause. My animals are my family and I love them to death, and as I'd loved to bring them everywhere I also have allergies. I see this being very beneficial, especially due to suicide rates increasing. Suicidal students should also be taken the option to leave because as a current freshman in college, it's a lot of anxiety and stress. Especially for those who can't have a car on campus or haven't left home for a long period of time. Even if you don't have serious mental issues, a companion helps everything.

Brooklyn G  on  9/21/2016 10:38:13 AM commented:

I do think students should be allowed to bring support animals on campus. I believe animals give people joy in life. Simply just petting an animal can enlighten your mood. I also believe suicide-prone students should get campus leave because all lives matter and we should do as much as we can to save them

Brightyn M.  on  9/21/2016 10:34:58 AM commented:

Students should be allowed to bring support pets to school, they help with many many health conditions like people with seizures or people with diabetes. They help and sense when their owner needs help. This animals are well behaved and are not a distraction. People who are suicidial should be on campus leave, they need to get help with what's happening to them and need to see professional help.

KD  on  9/21/2016 10:23:05 AM commented:

Pet friendly does would be beneficial. Proper documentation should be required. Students debating suicide should have the option to take leave, but not mandatory.

Jakai T.  on  9/21/2016 10:22:12 AM commented:

Pets are usually a lot more influential than a person could be to some people, me included. Somebody being reunited with their beloved pet after/while suffering in school could be so happy that their suicidal thoughts reduce significantly. I definitely think they should be allowed. I wish I could take my dog with me. :(

Jackalyn B  on  9/21/2016 10:18:27 AM commented:

I feel like students should be able to bring pets to campus. I do not have any serious mental health issues but I decided to stay off campus so that I could bring my pet cat. It is a really big transition for all students, so if there is a way to help students dealing with these serious problems I think they should embrace it and help encourage a better tomorrow. As for suicide prone students, I think it presents a risk keeping them in such a stressful environment even with special supervision. I think it should be handled on a case by case basis. Because University's have a do it yourself policy and when fighting such hard battles that need help, I don't think it is good idea to keep them in such a stressful environment.

Casey P  on  9/21/2016 10:18:27 AM commented:

Having multiple anxiety disorders, I feel that it would be highly beneficial to have a pet friendly dorm for students. Some days when I come home, I just want to cuddle with my cat and dogs and let them be my "safe place". My mother is afraid to allow me to move away to college due to my severe separation anxiety. Also, even a student without a mental disability could benefit from a pet friendly dorm. Pets can boost happiness in people who love animals and even just seeing other people play with a pet can cause an increase of happiness and relaxation to a stressed college student's day.

Ellie D  on  9/21/2016 9:41:42 AM commented:

Support pets are wonderful. I know someone here at Pittsburg state university who acquired one after a deployment. His support pet is now a symbol of his fraternity. I think the attention may help with negative thoughts and you have something to be proud of and something that loves and relies on you.

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