Sometimes, the best therapy can be something fluffy and cute, and some students at Ohio State have taken steps to register their pets as emotional support animals.
According to the National Service Animal Registry, qualifying disabilities to have an emotional support animal, or an ESA, range from stress problems, to being emotionally overwhelmed or having separation anxiety, to dyslexia and depression.
But even though not all residences on or around campus will allow pets,support animals still may be able to cuddle up with their owners.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Fair Housing Act, however, allow people to keep emotional support animals — so long as the registered animal meets certain requirements.
While off-campus housing requirements can vary depending on the landlord — some students said their landlord required a note from a psychiatrist and other documentation, while other said they only needed to show the registration certificate — OSU has a list of regulations that must be passed before allowing emotional support animals in dorm rooms.
According to OSU policy, a student must provide University Housing with a short letter from his or her treating healthcare professional that identifies the student and states the qualified disability, describes the animal, affirms that having the animal described alleviates identified symptoms or effects of the disability and affirms that having the animal in residence is necessary.
Alternatively, a student might schedule an appointment with Disability Services directly.
“Emotional support animals are covered by the Fair Housing Act,” L. Scott Lissner, the ADA coordinator at OSU, said in an email. “Allowing them … a reasonable accommodation to OSU’s no-pets policy when a student discloses a disability and documents that the ESA (emotional support animal) is needed to engage in our residence life program.”
There are typically 10 to 15 emotional support animals or service animals in residence at any given time, he said.
A registered emotional support animal is allowed in housing, classrooms the Ohio Union and other public buildings, and even on airplanes. Not allowing them can be seen as discrimination under the ADA, according to the National Service Animal Registry.
Miraj Neve, a third-year in information systems, registered his dog West in December for emotional support at his East Maynard Avenue residence.
Neve said finding a house that is close to campus and within a reasonable price range is difficult enough. Finding a house that also allows pets is even more so.
“A lot of places around campus right now, they don’t allow you to have pets normally,” Neve said.
So far Neve has gone through several landlords, and each were skeptical of emotional support animals at first.
“The landlords were never happy about it, you know, since you’re forcing them into allowing a pet,” Neve said. “There’s always the concern whether the pet will cause damage.”
Neve’s current landlord, Pella Company, required him to provide proof of pet insurance, proof of ESA registration, a psychiatrist note and a roommate agreement, among other things.
So far, having West at his side has helped him emotionally, Neve said.
Abigail VanTyne, a third-year in agriscience education, did not have nearly as many paperwork requirements when she registered her and her boyfriend’s dog, Oscar.
VanTyne’s boyfriend, left for a teaching opportunity in Alaska. Without a home for Oscar and without many options, VanTyne registered Oscar as an emotional support animal and asked her landlord to make an exception to its no-pets policy. She said Oscar helped with separation anxiety.
“It was pretty easy,” VanTyne said. “I just explained the circumstances and told her that I needed him and told her that he was registered as an emotional support animal.”
Other than Oscar’s ESA identification card, VanTyne was not required to provide any additional documentation.
“I just showed her his card, put down a $100 security deposit, and that was that,” VanTyne said.