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How Emotional Support Animals Are Helping College Students to Strive?

Published on April 18, 2024 by Darren Jorgensen
College life can be stressful at times. Changing academics and friends, moving to a new place, and many other things may take a toll on the individual’s mind. Thus, there is an increasing demand for emotional support animals among college students. Emotional support animals provide comfort, companionship, and unconditional love to their handlers and alleviate disability-related symptoms. These furry companions ensure that you never get down the path that causes you a mental block in your happiness. Considering the benefits an ESA provides and their essential role in the individual’s life, the Fair Housing Act protects them, allowing them to accommodate their handler into any rental accommodation without discrimination. FHA also directs schools and colleges to make reasonable accommodations for students seeking the companionship of emotional support animals relating to their disability. Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. While service animals are trained to perform tasks related to the individual’s disabilities, emotional support animals offer companionship and support to individuals with emotional and mental health conditions.
college students

How Emotional Support Animals Are Benefitting The College Students?

  1. Stress Reduction: Interacting with an ESA can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Spending time with a pet has been shown to lower cortisol (a hormone related to stress) and increase the release of oxytocin, which refers to bonding and well-being.
  2. Reduction of Loneliness: College life can frequently feel solitary for students adapting to a new environment or living far from home. ESAs can lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness by offering constant companionship.
  3. Improved Mood and Emotional Health: An ESA can boost mood and emotional well-being. Their unconditional love and affectionate nature can provide comfort during times of sadness, anxiety, or depression.
  4. More Physical Activity: Regular physical activity has multiple mental and physical health benefits. Owning a pet encourages physical activity, as students can take their emotional support animals for walks, play with them, or engage in other forms of exercise.
  5. Routine And Structure: An emotional support animal involves establishing and maintaining a routine, which can contribute to a sense of structure and stability in the ESA owner’s daily life. That can be very beneficial for those lacking a sense of motivation.
  6. Socialization: Having an Emotional Support Animal can facilitate socialization. You can interact with other pet owners. Studies demonstrate that people love interacting with individuals with pets. Therefore, having an ESA fosters community, benefiting individuals struggling with loneliness.
  7. Accommodation Perks: The Fair Housing Act protects emotional support animals (ESAs) by permitting them to accompany their handler in any rental accommodation and college dorms. Accommodation providers cannot discriminate against those with ESAs.

How To Obtain An Emotional Support Animal?

Consulting a licensed professional

The first and foremost step for getting an emotional support animal is to consult with a licensed mental health professional in your state. During the consultation, you must be honest about your mental and emotional condition, as this will help the medical professional understand the situation and decide if an emotional support animal is suited for your mental well-being.

Diagnosis of the disorder

The mental health professional will diagnose your condition and recommend an emotional support animal if needed for your mental well-being. Therefore, you must openly communicate your feelings and experiences so the LMHP can correctly assess your need for an ESA.

Receiving the letter

If the LMHP finds the need for an ESA for your mental well-being, they will write an ESA letter. The emotional support animal letter must contain the contact information, license number, and signature of the licensed mental health professional to validate its authenticity.

What You Need To Consider While Getting An Emotional Support Animal For College?

Laws and Policies

The next thing to do is to learn about one’s legal rights and housing policies. College students must understand their legal rights regarding ESAs under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). However, there is no overarching law for ESAs at college, so students should familiarize themselves with their college’s policies regarding ESAs in campus housing and classrooms. One significant misunderstanding is that ESAs are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so they are not allowed to be in other parts of the college, like the cafeteria, halls, library, etc.

Choose Wisely

When choosing an ESA, students should consider their living situation, lifestyle, and preferences. While dogs and cats are the most common emotional support animals, other animals, such as birds, rabbits, or even reptiles, may also provide companionship and support. Some breeds need more exercise and companionship than others, and some can be either more aggressive or protective of people and things.

Professional Care and Training

If one is simply trying to have an existing pet “converted” to an ESA designation, they probably already have some routines and good care nailed down. They must learn to provide proper care, including regular veterinary check-ups, grooming, and exercise. Additionally, students should ensure that their ESAs are well-behaved and trained to behave appropriately in various settings. Reddit users, while describing their experience of ESA at college, said that one calls them a comforting partner and others emphasize the need to get them trained in basic etiquette. ESAs can be very beneficial in promoting college students’ mental and emotional health. Pets provide a variety of advantages, such as lowering stress and loneliness, elevating mood, encouraging physical activity, and more. Students can enjoy the benefits of having an emotional support animal if they know the procedures for getting and caring for emotional support animals.
Posted in: News

About the Author

Patricia Thompson
Darren Jorgensen
Darren M. Jorgensen has a fondness for all animals, though dogs especially, have a huge home in his heart. He enjoys quilting, making handcrafted soap and bodyworks and anything that produces practical products. Jorgensen lives with his own service dog who doubles as an Emotional Support Animal. He gets it.

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