Emotional Support Animals in College Dorms

Adjusting to the college lifestyle can be difficult. Pressure with classes and tests can take a toll. Not to mention being away from home -- friends, family, and your furry companion who've you had for years.

Can I take my Emotional Support Animal to school?

Although many schools have relaxed policies on pet bans in recent years, many remain adamant about allowing students to bring animals on campus. Contrast to those in the mental health care business who have been advocating for the benefits provided by an emotional support animal.

Comfort Animals in College.

Emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits that alleviate one or more identified effects or symptoms of an individual’s disability, or emotional support to a disabled individual who has a disability-related need.

An emotional support animal may be a dog, a cat, or many other kinds of animal.

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Comfort Animals in Residence Halls.

Under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, individuals with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal.

The housing board must allow emotional support animals access to provide therapy for people through affection and companionship as a form of reasonable accommodation.

"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States … shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…" 29 U.S.C. § 794.

Also, the Fair Housing Act states: "it shall be unlawful to … discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap…"42 U.S.C. § 3604.

Okay, this is excellent news, but it's not as easy as just bringing Fluffy, your 135 lb. Great Dane, from home.

The rules are the rules. And what are those rules, and my rights?

What Are My Rights?

So, while Federal Law is on your side, many colleges may not be aware of your legal rights.

Federal law provides those suffering from a mental illness or an anxiety-related issue the right to an emotional support animal.

Housing providers can refuse to accommodate animals that pose a direct threat to the safety and health of others or have the tendency to be destructive of property. These refusals should be based on objective evidence about the actual conduct of the specific animal, not on the animal’s size, weight or breed. Exclusion of ESA’s cannot be made based on fear or mere speculation on the part of the housing providers.%%CTA2%%

What Disabilities Are Included?

Disability has been broadly defined as a mental or physical impairment that limits one or more of a person’s major activities. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the laws regarding accommodation of emotional support animals extend to dwellings associated with places of education.

Disabilities include:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic/Anxiety Disorders
  • Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Personality Disorders

Once you're diagnosed with an emotional disability, it may behoove you to request an Emotional Support Animal letter of recommendation from your healthcare professional, which will allow your ESA to live with you in no-pets-allowed housing (aka your dorm room).

According to the HUD: the housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.

Is an ESA like a Service Animal?

It's very important to note an ESA isn't a service animal, in fact, they are vastly different.

ESAs require no formal training, though they are required to be well-behaved in public.

And while Service Animals have nearly unfettered access to the public space, Federal Laws governing ESAs just provides them access to no-pet-allowed housing and airline amenities.

That's it. Housing and air travel. Nothing else.

You can't bring your ESA to the restaurant, mall, or the like. In fact, many states (including Florida) have criminalized the act of falsely portraying your pet as a service animal.

Registering My ESA.

Don't. Just don't.

There's no Federal registry, no official agency, no guidelines or regulations covering ESA registration.

It's all a fraud, so save your time and money.

How Can I Get an ESA letter from ESADoggy.

If you are suffering from a mental or emotional disability, don’t live another moment in seclusion and despair.

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