By Alexander Mousa, Staff Writer
Emotional support animals have become increasingly popular among college students in the last few years. The idea of having a pet as means of emotional support, and helping someone get through something, has become more common in recent years.
As of 2019, there were 200,000 emotional support animals in the United States, many of which are dogs. This number is up exponentially since 2014, when there were only 2,400. They are classified as service dogs, since they are used to assist people with their mental health.
When a puppy is trained to be an emotional support animal, the training can take anywhere from 14 to 24 months.
Certain emotional support animals, classified as psychiatric service dogs, can only be obtained by individuals who fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
However, any other person can obtain a regular pet that can double as their emotional support animal.
“An emotional support animal to me is a pet that comforts you through your trials and tribulations. Emotional support animals help with academic stress, as well as depression and anxiety that comes from coursework throughout the semester,” junior theatre arts major Gabriella Beckman said.
Many college students feel anxiety and elevated stress throughout their semesters, and feel that emotional support animals could help.
Post currently allows students to have emotional support animals. According to liu.edu, “It is LIU’s policy to permit Service Animals, as defined below by the Americans with Disabilities Act, in all approved campus areas; and it may permit Emotional Support Animals (Support Animals), as a reasonable accommodation, in the residence halls for students with a documented disability.”
“They help with stress, anxiety, and just managing emotions,” sophomore nutrition and dietetics major Amanda Battista said.
Emotional support animals can be a tool for anyone who has a psychological disorder and needs an emotional companion, as well as just the average person looking to have a stress reliever in their life.
“I feel as though an emotional support animal could help me tremendously. Whether it be the support animal sensing an anxiety attack, or just taking a break from life to just be with your support animal, it would help,” Beckman said.
Beckman and others agree that emotional support animals should be allowed in college dorms because of the support and aid they can give students.
“I love them. I would say that they should be allowed as long as they are specifically trained to be an emotional support animal,” Batista said. “They would have to go through special training where they are taught to understand human emotions, as well as not bark and disrupt other students in the dorms. I think there should be a separate dorm section for them, and that some sort of doctor’s note should be used as well.”
In today’s age of mental health awareness, emotional support animals are being touted as a tool to help not only the depressed, but also the average person.
“Honestly, the campus should have emotional support animals for everyone. It’s proven that they help people control their emotions and just relax,” Battista said.
With the popularity of emotional support animals continuing to rise, many questions arise, such as how schools will react to and accommodate an influx of students bringing emotional support animals to college with them.
Many also wonder how other institutions will react to people having emotional support animals.
The U.S. Army does not allow emotional support animals on military bases because they are not classified as service animals. However, if a soldier lives in their own apartment, they can have any type of pet they want.
Many questions will arise in the following years about how accessible emotional support animals should be to the public, as well as where they should be allowed. It is up to institutions to decide how these animals should be accepted.