Emotional Support Animals Play Key Roles for Some Students

Caroline Hunt: Emotional support animals on the Spring Hill campus.
Emotional support animals on the Spring Hill campus.
Many students of Spring Hill College depend on service and assistance animals all around
campus. To the students who do not own the animal itself, it may just be a friendly furry face
around campus that brightens their day and reminds them of their pet back home. However, the
students who own these animals rely on them heavily and endured a detailed process to get them
approved to live on campus.

Anxiety and depression are widely talked about topics in college students. These feelings are
often met with the need for comfort and support, which often comes from animals.
“Animal therapy is primarily offered in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and long-term
care facilities, but increasingly are popping up in airports, schools, colleges and other
places where individuals may experience high stress or anxiety,” psychologist Carol
O’Saben told the website, Affordable Colleges Online, that there are many benefits to
animal-assisted therapy.

An Inside Higher Education article by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, published in May of this year, states that there has been a
rapid incline in the number of college students in the nation requesting emotional support
animals on college campuses. He goes on to explain that is its of many colleges’ concern that the
animals may not truly be needed for anything more than companionship.
This might explain why Spring Hill, along with many other colleges have such a detailed and
lengthy application and approval process for animals to live on campus. The major distinction in
these types of animals is in the clarification of what type of assistance the animal provides
The Spring Hill College student handbook highlights the definitions of a service animal, an
assistant animal and a pet and explains, in depth, what aspects qualify an animal to be approved
on campus. According to the school policy, service animal is approved for students with disabilities in which the animal may
conduct tasks that are directly related to the person’s disability. As stated in the student
handbook, some of these tasks may include, “reminding a person with a mental illness to take
prescribed medications,” or, “calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
during an anxiety attack.”

An assistance animal is similar to a service animal in that it provides assistance to one with a
disability. The difference is that an assistance animal does not provide help with day-to-day
activities such as a service animal does, but rather it provides emotional support in a way that
makes living easier by alleviating some of the symptoms of distress that one may be

Before bringing the animal onto campus, the student that is in need of the assistance or service
animal must fill out the application, complete an interview with superiors in the Office of Residence Life
and obtain records from a doctor that indicates that the student does, in fact, require the
assistance of their animal.
Once approved, the owner and animal enter into an agreement with Residence Life that this will be a mutually beneficial situation. Residence lLife agrees to help the
owner and animal in accommodating for certain residence halls that may be more beneficial to
the animal or person and their disability. With this, the student agrees to maintain their animal
and keep it on a leash at all times as well as cleaning up after it and making sure that it does not
interfere with the day to day lives of other students on campus.

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