Service animals on campus require approval

By: Kyley Wilhite

Associate Producer

Let’s be honest, having a dog on campus with you makes those hard tests and long days much more bearable. So, let’s talk about how hard it is to have an emotional support animal (ESA) or service animal (SA) on the Tarleton State University campus.

To get one thing straight, an ESA and SA are completely different. Many people mix up these two and support the fact that they are the same whenever they are completely different.

According to the American Humane Society, a service dog, also known as an assistance dog, is “trained to perform quantifiable tasks that directly ease the challenges associated with their owner’s physical, sensory, and/or developmental disability.”

People with service dogs have certain protections in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“The ADA protects the rights of people with disabilities to bring their service dogs with them into most public places, including restaurants, theaters, shops, hotels, government agencies and non-profit organizations,” the American Human Society said.

On the other hand, emotional support animals serve another purpose for individuals.

The American Humane Society describes emotional support animals as, “companion animals who help their owners cope with the challenges associated with emotional and mental health conditions (such as depression and anxiety) by providing comfort with their presence.”

In summary, a service animal must perform tasks and go through training associated with a specific disability, and emotional service dogs help with mental aspects.

According to Tarleton rules, it appears that having a service dog on campus, as far as paperwork goes, is easier than applying to have an ESA on campus.

For example, section 2.1.3 of the standard administrative procedure (SAP) under Service Animals said, “a university representative shall not require documentation of the student’s disability status or of the service animals training.”

Since I am a Tarleton student with a service dog, I can say from my experience that all I had to do was get his training done, vest ordered and submit my disability paperwork to disability services so they could make the university aware of my disability. 

Niko posing for a picture.
Photo by: Kyley Wilhite

There was no paperwork required for housing or my campus job.

Freshman ESA owner, Emma Gornik, says that having an ESA on campus seems harder, as far as paperwork goes, than having a Service Dog.

“I believe it may be the same, depending on how much your ESA is trained to emotionally support you. It could be harder for the service dog because they are working 24/7 whereas an ESA isn’t. An ESA is also not allowed in any campus buildings, so it could be harder on the ESA because they will not be exercised as much as a service dog,” Gornik said.

The SAP section 2.2.2 gives insight into student requirements for ESAs on campus. 

“Student’s requests for ESAs require a written document from a licensed health care professional in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development FHEO Notice: FHEO-2020-01,” the SAP said.

An ESA must also be approved through the housing portal before they are allowed on campus. This process takes about a month to a month and a half.

“I would ask the housing department to be careful of which dogs they let on campus and be more thorough with their application process to prevent future dog attacks,” Gornik said.

Another difference between ESAs and SAs on the Tarleton State University campus is ESAs must stay in the student’s residential area or living space, whereas service animals can go anywhere on campus with their owner as long as they are well behaved and doing their job correctly.

Gornik describes her position on ESAs and SAs compared to other animals on campus.

“If someone is trying to get their dog on campus, they need to understand that only service dogs and ESAs are allowed. My dog got attacked by someone else’s pet and it should not have happened, because an ESA or service dog wouldn’t have attacked another dog,” Gornik said.

If you are a student looking to have an ESA on campus, you can make a request through the DuckTrax portal under “accommodations requests.” 

If you already have a registered service animal and need assistance, you can contact disability services at (254) 968- 9400 or visit the Mathematics building in room 201.

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