Have you ever heard the term “puppies are the best medicine?” Many Americans are taking that to heart and registering their pets as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).
An ESA is a companion animal that provides emotional or therapeutic benefit to individuals who suffer from a mental or psychiatric disability. They can include a wide range of animals, from dogs to pythons, and everything in between.
This trend is making especial headway on college campuses. As the stress levels of college and on-campus life continue to escalate as the years go by, according to the Washington Times, the need for mental health assistance and therapy has only increased.
For many students, having a furry (or scaly or feathery) friend to come back from class to is exactly what they need to alleviate some of the stress levels borne from finals and homework.
UC Berkeley has begun to allow students to register pets as ESAs as well as live with the students in on-campus housing, according to the UC Berkeley Alumni page.
Students wanting to register an Emotional Support Animal “require a diagnosis (from a qualified professional) of [their] condition and documentation establishing that it would be difficult for [the student] to live in a stable and comfortable fashion in the residencies without your animal,” Aaron Cohen, Berkeley staff psychologist said.
There is worry from faculty and students in colleges allowing live-in ESAs that the animals’ behavior may become a nuisance, or there may be allergy conflicts. At Berkeley, when the animal’s presence becomes a problem the student is contacted to “help mitigate the community impact,” Adam Ratliff, Berkeley critical communications manager said.
For the most part, students registering their animals for therapeutic purposes has been received positively. Many faculty and students agree that if having an animal companion truly solves issues with stress and anxiety then the animals should be allowed.
Other schools have taken a similar, albeit less permanent route by bringing therapeutic dogs to libraries and campuses during finals to help address some of the sweltering stress levels of study-soaked students.
Students tend to flock these events and post them all over social media. There is just something about petting a swarm of cuddly dogs that makes you forget your problems, even if only for a little bit.