Opinion: Emotional support animals benefit college students



300 dpi Chris Ware illustration of dog in Halloween costume. Lexington Herald-Leader 2012

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How great would it be to bring your pet to stay with you on campus?

For many students, it is hard leaving a pet behind when going to college because of the emotional comfort pets bring us. At most universities, pets are not allowed to stay with their owners, but there are exceptions.

Emotional support animals are pets that can stay on college campuses and be brought into stores with their owners, because they provide a calming service that helps their owners in times of need.

Students who require emotional support often go through low mental stages such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Emotional support animals are also beneficial for people with more serious illnesses like seizures or chronic pain. It is one thing to talk to a therapist or counselor about your mental health challenges, but it is another to have your pet physically there with you, providing serenity and comfort.

Since pets can’t speak, they can’t judge like a neighbor would. Writer James Harriot says, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” I agree with him.

I believe that animals understand the pain their owners go through. Pets can help restore a person’s mood with unconditional love and care. I never thought about pets being necessary until I came to college.

College is filled with things that cause stress. Multiple classes, endless homework, trying to maintain a social life and staying healthy are all things that make it harder for students to stay mentally stable. I’ve learned that some people do need pets in order to live normal, productive lives. We all go through hard times in life, but peace and happiness is the most important goal.

I agree with the students who need their support animals on campus with them. Students who don’t need that emotional support should not be allowed to bring their pets on campus, because it takes away the privilege for students who desperately need their emotional support animal.

I’ve seen “Snakes on the Plane” and because of this, I am horribly afraid of snakes. I believe the appropriate kinds of pets to bring on campus would be dogs, cats, birds and hamsters. My resident assistant (RA) has a cute little puppy assistant of his own who lives with him in the dorms. I appreciate animals more because of how happy he is when bonding with his pet. His dog helps to decrease his anxiety and any depressive thoughts he may go through.

I thought pets weren’t allowed on campus, that is, until I met my RA and his beautiful, black puppy. Because I am aware of the conditions he is under,  so the rare barking down the hall doesn’t bother me.

Sometimes I wish I could join in the fun with them.

Although it is a privilege to bring a pet on campus, it should not be abused by those who don’t need the emotional support. Remember, it is important to treat your pets as if they were human. They need love, affection and care just as much as we do.