Assistance animals become more common on campus
TNE Editor
/ Categories: Feature, Campus

Assistance animals become more common on campus

Published 12/6/18

Jordan Gogo

TNE Writer

As time goes on, the American population continues to become more educated. With more people attending college than ever, there has been an increase in students with disabilities pursuing their degree. However, many of these students cannot complete everyday functions by themselves and rely on assistance from service animals.

“When you’re in public school, everything is done for you by your parents and the administration,” said Donna Agee, Student Disability Services coordinator. “When you get to higher education, because it is not required for anyone to go to college, what NSU provides is not as much as public schools. To receive [additional] services, you must register through my office.”

Assistance animals are a common solution for many students seeking help. These animals are split into two categories: service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals are specifically trained and certified to provide assistance to students with disabilities. Emotional support animals are usually not trained, but are recommended by a doctor to help students suffering from anxiety, depression or any other kind of emotional disorder. Each type of animal provides a different method of support, so they require different regulations regarding their presence on campus. The university has one service animal and six emotional support animals living on campus.

“A service animal is allowed to go anywhere they want to on campus as long as it doesn’t require a sterile atmosphere,” said Agee. “An emotional support animal is extremely restricted. They can walk around campus as long as they’re on a leash, but are restricted on which buildings they can enter.”

Many students who own emotional support animals choose to live on campus. After registering with Agee in Student Disability Services, they must meet the qualifications set by the Housing & Residential Life department to allow their animals to live in the dorms.

“Donna documents the students, I essentially document the animals,” said Whitney Arbaugh, Residential Life Administration assistant director. “I get a color photo of the animal, a copy of their most recent health records and a copy of their shots records. After that, I’ll meet with the student individually and have them bring their animal with them to go through the initial application that they filled out. They learn rules on how to clean up after the animal, what to do if they have roommates or suitemates and what to do if maintenance comes in when we do pest control.”

While service animals can accompany their owner anywhere on campus, emotional support animals are required to stay in their owners’ dorm rooms. Indy Hicks, Tahlequah sophomore, works at PetSense and takes particular interest in caring for animals. He is concerned that emotional support animals may not always be the best choice for students.

“For me personally, I think people should think in the interest of the animal,” said Hicks. “What if they’re in their dorm and the dog needs attention? It might cause them more stress. If you have a bigger living quarter then it’s probably better, but in a place like Leoser is too small.”

Both Student Disability Services and Housing & Residential Life echo this concern.

“Before deciding to bring the animal to campus students should really think, can they take care of themselves and take care of another creature?” said Arbaugh. “Is that really something they can do with working, going to class and being involved? If they think they can, their first step is to go to Donna to see if this really is the right fit for them.”

For more information on assistance animal eligibility, call Student Disability Services at 918-444-2042. For more information on residential animals, call Housing & Residential Life at 918-444-4700.

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