Benefits of emotional support animals for college students

Photo courtesy of Good News for Pets | Student interacting with an emotional support animal.

Information and resources on support animals is given and why they are beneficial to college students.

A service animal is an animal that is trained and certified to assist the animal handler in some shape or form, however, emotional support animals are pets and not service animals. Dogs and cats are most commonly used as emotional support animals because of their pet-friendly nature. 

Although emotional support animals are technically pets, they are required to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. The most common way college students get their pets approved as an emotional support animal is by requesting their licensed mental health specialist to officially prescribe their pet as a necessary function to their mental health. Again, emotional support animals are not the same as service animals so they are not guaranteed to be allowed in public places like college campuses, restaurants and shopping centers. 

Emotional support animals are known to comfort their owners when the owner experiences anxiety attacks, panic attacks, signs of depression, signs of extreme sadness and even motions of social anxiety. 

According to a 2018-2019 study done by the American College Health Association, 40% of college students suffer severely from dysfunctional depression and 60% of students felt “overwhelming anxiety.”

Due to recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice movements, and recent political conflicts, some may assume those numbers have increased.

“The University has a general ‘no pets’ policy in all of its buildings,” says the UW website, “Including University Housing. However, Service Animals are allowed to accompany their handlers while on campus and in their residence and Emotional Support/Assistance Animals may be requested as an accommodation in housing through Disability Resources for Students.”

Graduate Abigail Brown, who cares for three emotional support dogs, was available for comment.

“My animals comfort me through my everyday emotions,” says Brown, “Every time I need a pick-me-up or if I am having a really bad day, I know I have something to look forward to, waiting for me with unconditional love and support. I can’t imagine having it any other way. I honestly have no idea how I would have made it through college without my emotional support animals by my side.”

By having the emotional support dogs, Abby has been able to achieve high grades while maintaining a healthy mental health state. 

“My dogs not only help my mental health, they motivate me to do better in school and they have taught me to remain calm when dealing with stressful assignments and projects,” says Brown.

Brown argues that her grade point average would have suffered without the companionship of her emotional support dogs.

Local institutions like the Tacoma Humane Society and Cascade Animal Protection Society offer adoptable pets students can take home today.

If you are interested in getting prescribed for an emotional support animal or would like to get your current pet approved as an emotional support animal, contact someone from UWT’s Disability Resources for Students page on the UWT website or ask your licensed mental health professional. For more information about disability resources on campus, please visit www.tacoma.uw.edu/drs.

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