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The hiss of a cockroach, bark of a dog, purr of a cat, all of these are sounds that you wouldn’t think you’d hear in a university residential hall. However, that is not the case at Arizona State University.
According to the Director of the Disability Resource Center at ASU, Chad Price, there are about 180 registered emotional support animals across the four ASU campus locations. Arizona State University approved Student Services Manual 701-07 on July 20, 2015 officially allowing emotional support animals at the residential halls across their four campus locations. Emotional support animals are more than pets, they are animals that have been approved by the university and deemed able to provide support to their owners in times of need. Emotional support animals are approved for those who have proven that they suffer from mental health issues or a disability, they are not just for anyone who feels like they need a pet in their dorm room.
According to a study done by UC Davis, dogs have been proven to help people with mental health issues. The study also stated that sometimes these mental health issues are known as “invisible disabilities.”
“The intention of an emotional support animal, as the name implies, is emotional support or comfort due to a disability,” said Price. “During a stressful episode or situation, they can be beneficial in that they can provide comfort.”
Animals that are allowed are not limited to just dogs. Cats are a common emotional support animal. University Housing at the downtown Phoenix campus reported that animals such as rats, snakes, hedgehogs and even hissing cockroaches are amongst some of the animals that are approved each academic year.
Maryn Weeks, a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has an emotional support animal. Weeks lives at Taylor Place, the only residential hall located at the downtown Phoenix campus. Her cat, Calypso, provides her comfort when she is having an emotional or depressive episode.
“When I feel like things are getting out of hand or kind of spiraling out of control, I can just sit down with her and pet her or play with her until I become grounded again,” said Weeks. “Having her here has helped me mentally and has allowed me to take on the stress that comes with college.”
Not all residents that register an emotional support animal have a pleasant experience. Emily Pederson, a sophomore at ASU, lived in Taylor Place during the 2017-18 academic year. Pederson had her golden retriever registered at the beginning of her second semester at ASU.
“Emotional support animals are meant to help out the owner with their mental disability, but as an owner, we have to not only worry about our well-being but worry about the well-being of a dog,” said Pederson, “because no matter what service a dog is giving the owner, the dog still deserves to live a good and healthy life.”
Pederson said that she had her dog come with her, all the way from Texas, because she had struggled her first semester in college. It was hard for her to adjust with the new people around her and having to balance the coursework.
University Housing staff at Taylor Place, the ASU downtown Phoenix residential hall, have to deal with the brunt of issues surrounding emotional support animals on the campus. Shelby Meek is an assistant community director at the dorms. Meek believes that emotional support animals can be beneficial for those who truly do need their assistance. However, some students try to register animals just to have a pet.
“More often than not, we do have students who try to just register any animal from home,” said Meek. “Mostly because they just want a pet here with them, but that is not what an emotional support animal is.”
Emotional support animals at residential halls across the four ASU campuses have become more prevalent in the recent years. These animals are allowed to live in the dorms because they aid or service their owners in some way.
Don’t be surprised if you walk through a residence hall and hear something that doesn’t sound human. Not only are they home to hundreds of students, they house the animals that support these humans as well.