For students with disabilities, the simplest activities can prove challenging; with help from service and emotional support animals, students are able to take full advantage of the college experience.
The Disability Resource Center on campus helps accommodate students with learning, physical and emotional disabilities. They can pick students up from classes, offer a private room in the Testing Center for testing, and assist in the process of acquiring a service dog.
“Things have changed,” DRC assist Beverly Clark said. “Unfortunately, we did have a few [students] who I think wanted to bring their pet from home, and unfortunately that is going to make it a bit harder.”
Clark explained the process of acquiring a service or emotional support animal begins with a letter from a qualified physician based on the need for an emotional support animal and service animal which can be acquired through the Health and Wellness Center.
“We have [students] go to the Health and Wellness [Center] and let [the physicians] go through and have them determine if it would be beneficial or if there’s just some skills that maybe [the students] can work with because a lot of times it’s maybe with anxiety or things like that,” Clark said.
The DRC offers guidelines and definitions for service animals, emotional support animals, and pets to help prospective owners understand the differences and their rights in regards to each.
A service animal, for example, is trained to help a specific individual with everyday tasks like picking things up or helping guide an individual who is visually impaired, Clark said. An emotional support animal must be prescribed by a mental health physician and can be approved by the DRC if the individual’s disability is deemed reasonable by set standards.
Dixie State University allows for both emotional support and service animals to be present in student housing or on campus with the proper documentation and training.
The process can be quick based on the recommendation, said Lindsey Hope, a junior English secondary education major from West Jordan and Campus View Suites resident assistant. Hope has an emotional support cat named Calypso.
“It was a good two or three weeks between getting the doctor’s note,” Hope said.
Hope said most of the paperwork from the housing office was to ensure any property that may be damaged by the animal will be covered by the resident. The housing office also added an extra fee for those who wish to have an emotional support animal to cover the cost of the mattress, but this fee does not exist for those with service animals.
“For an emotional support animal, here is [a fee],” said Seth Gubler, Director of Housing and Resident Life. “There is a mattress and cleaning fee so [the students] basically buy their mattress.”
By establishing this fee, the housing office hopes to make those with acute allergies to animals safer, Gubler said.
Gubler also explained that while service animals are able to be with the owner at all times, an emotional support animal must stay in the owner’s room and can only be carried from outside of the building to the room. Emotional support animals cannot be in classrooms and are not allowed to walk around buildings on or off leashes.
Emotional support animals and service animals are not just pets, Hope said. They have a job.
“When I start to feel down, I start to really feel kind of isolated, and I just have a hard time reaching out to people,” Hope said. “It’s really helpful to have [Calypso] here so it’s like ‘oh you’re not alone.’”