By Staff Writer Tighe Ratcliffe.
If you’re not familiar with the rules our campus has regarding pets on campus, allow me to refresh you. You aren’t allowed to have anything larger than a gold fish, and if you do you must have a legitimate note from your psychiatrist with a diagnosis that the animal is there to provide you relief from your symptoms.
This might make you a bit sad knowing that you can’t bring your cat or dog with you to school, and slightly jealous when you see someone walking around campus with their dog in a vest. But what if I told you that service dogs aren’t required to wear a vest? And that plenty of people abuse the system because people automatically assume that if a dog has a vest on it, it’s a service animal? Because this happens all the time.
Many people who do have a legitimate reason for having a service animal get discriminated against because people who actually don’t need them abuse the system of laws that protect these animals. This problem is only growing as people are “getting diagnosed” with disorders, and by “diagnosed” I mean they are able to get all the paperwork they need for a condition they don’t necessarily have.
This is a bigger issue than you might think, but in some places it causes unneeded trouble for those who actually need a service animal. Trust me, I wrote a paper on this exact issue last spring. We’re probably all familiar with the lady who tried bringing her “emotional support peacock” on a plane and was denied. It’s people like this that are making things hard for those who actually need these animals.
Now you might be asking yourself, what’s the difference between service and emotional support animals? In a paper written by Denise Silcox, she defines service animals as: “any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The distinct difference between service animals and emotional support animals (ESA’s) according to Silcox is that ESA’s don’t require formal training while service animals do.
Think about it this way, a service dog might be trained to detect an epileptic episode, or a diabetic low. An ESA’s sole job is to provide comfort. Another big difference between the two is that dogs and occasionally miniature horses are allowed to be service animals. Whereas any animal can be considered an ESA, as long as it provides comfort. This is where that whole peacock fiasco came into place.
Service animals are also protected by laws, whereas ESA’s are not. Those who have service animals are allowed to take them with them wherever they go, whereas ESA’s do not have that legal right. But anyone can get these “vests” that make it seem like their pet is a service animal.
Now, the real question is “should ALL pets be allowed on campus, not just service or ESA’s?” Personally, and as much as it pains me to say this, I say no.
Pets are expensive. Many college students are so focused on classes, and even if we have jobs, very few of us make enough to probably support keeping a pet on campus. And that’s not even taking into account the massive student loans we have.
Many pets require a large amount of space, whether it be the size of a tank, aquarium, or cage they need, or if they need space to run around and roam like dogs. There aren’t any living options on campus with enough space.
In addition to all that, you’re probably gone for most of the day dealing with class or extra-curricular activities. Now this might not be a big deal if you have something like a hamster, fish, or reptile which wouldn’t need much personal care. But if you had a dog or a cat, they require a lot more care, especially a dog. It wouldn’t be fare to them to be cooped up in a small area for such a long time without anyone to take care of or spend time with them.
Pets also are usually messy. Let’s say you have 8 hours of classes straight, and poor Fido can’t use the bathroom or gets anxious when you’re gone. He goes to the bathroom all over the dorm, and gets into everything, making a huge mess. This is not only unfair to your pet, but it’s also unfair to your dorm-mates who now have to help you clean up the mess.
As much as I would love to see everyone have a pet on campus, it’s just not practical. And for those who do have them on campus, they have a valid reason to do so.
In addition, they also have to accept the added responsibilities that having a pet requires. And let’s face it, half of us aren’t even responsible enough to take care of a cactus, let alone a pet.