St. Kate’s and emotional support animals

Every student with a pet at home wishes they could bring their pet  to college. However, St. Kate’s housing allows only fish in residential halls dorms. Much to the relief of these animal lovers, some exceptions are made.

For Jade Rundquist, ASL Interpreting ‘18, having an animal on campus is more than just having a pet live with them. Rundquist’s dog Lola is a therapy animal, who helps Rundquist with anxiety and  insomnia.

Rundquist's support dog, Lola.

Rundquist’s support dog, Lola.

“I have had anxiety since seventh grade, and with that anxiety comes severe insomnia. Last year I believe that the insomnia affected my academic performance since I’d be up half the night. I slept in late, did not pay a lot of attention in class from being tired all the time,” Rundquist said.

The conditions for needing an emotional support animal vary, but typically it is either an psychological or emotional condition that rise to the level of a disability. If the disability makes it hard for a student to either use or enjoy campus housing, an emotional support animal can help. For Rundquist, her anxiety made it hard for her to use on campus housing, which affected her academic life. This year, she has Lola.

“I realized that my dogs at home really helped me through high school and that once I came to St. Kate’s and didn’t have them around anymore, my anxiety problems became worse,” Rundquist said.

Rundquist was just one out of five students who requested to have a housing accommodation for her emotional support animal during the 2014-2015 school year. Recently the numbers are beginning to rise.

“St. Kate’s, along with other colleges and universities, have seen an increase in requesting an emotional support animal. This school year, it was five students who requested accommodations, but for next school year we’ve already had 11 requests,” Jody Hoffman, Assistant Director of Disability Resources said.

Disability Services, located in the basement of the CDC, works with students who may need an emotional support animal.

Disability Services, located in the basement of the CDC, works with students who may need an emotional support animal.

Using animals to relieve stress is not a radical idea. A lot of universities, including St. Kate’s, use animals to help their students relax during finals week. Some elementary schools and libraries have programs where beginner readers read to dogs to help relieve the stress of reading. The first recorded instance of using animals as a mean of emotional support goes back to the late 18 century, with patients using support animals at the York Retreat.

In 1988, the American government added to the Fair Housing Act that discrimination against disability or familial status was to be prohibited. In 1990, the Americans with Disability Act was passed to further enforce the amendment made to the Fair Housing Act. Under title II of the Americans with Disability Act, land and property owners must allow service animals on their property, as well as not refuse housing to a person who needs a service animal. St. Kate’s falls under this law, as they allow their students to live on campus.

“We go by St. Paul’s city’s ordinances on which animals are allowed on campus. Really we go by a case by case status,” Heidi Anderson-Isaacson, Director of Res Life said.

Res Life also thinks about the other students living in the dorms.

“The one thing we’re truly struggling with is that there are some students who are afraid of animals, who are allergic, who for religious reasons can’t be around animals. So it’s really been a struggle to try and balance all of that,” Anderson-Isaacson said.

For students thinking of using the Service Animal legislation as a way to bring their pets to college, they should know that it can be a hard, and sometimes long process to get approval.

“My doctor had to write a note saying he believed that getting a therapy animal would help with my anxiety. After that, I had to have a meeting with disability services at St. Kate’s where they had to decide if I had enough anxiety to need a therapy animal,” Rundquist said. “From there, I had to have a meeting with Res Life and go over the rules and regulations that come with having a service animal.”

“Even though it’s really on a case by case situation, we still try to work with the student if they’re not approved for an accommodation. We’ll look at on or off campus resources, such as counseling to help the student. We want to be supported, but we still have to evaluate to make sure the student really needs an emotional support animal.” Hoffman said.

Lola also attended obedience classes, gained proof of vaccination and gained the compliance of roommates before she became accepted on campus.  Rundquist believes it was worth it.

“She helps me a lot. I think school would have been more of a struggle, like last year, if I didn’t have her.” Rundquist said.

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