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Emotional Support Animal


Thank you for asking about an emotional support animal.  Our quick short answer is that we do not provide documents for students seeking an emotional support animal (ESA).  We do value the emotional support that pets provide; however, we do not believe it is ethically responsible for us to predict that a pet will provide sufficient support for anxiety or depression.

 

If your anxiety or depression is severe enough to be a disability, you can work with the SARC (Student Accessibility Resource Center) staff to receive accommodations. The purpose of the SARC is to coordinate services and accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Accommodations are official forms of support, assistance, etc. to help students benefit from being at the university despite their disability.  [Complete the SARC Registration process by submitting an online request and documentation for a licensed care provider. You will also need to make a request with Housing and Residence Life.]  An emotional support animal (ESA) is an accommodation because pets are generally not allowed in residence halls or apartments.  An emotional support animal (ESA) is basically a pet that you are allowed to have where pets are typically not allowed.  Our center does not provide documentation so a student can get around a policy preventing pets.  We would only recommend an emotional support animal (ESA) if we have proof that the student can significantly reduce their distress when interacting with the pet. And even then, we would want to help the student be able to reduce distress without the use of an animal. 

 

The data is not clear, at this time, that an emotional support animal (ESA) will work to reduce anxiety or depression.  We believe we would need several months of counseling before we could recommend an emotional support animal as an accommodation for a disability to see if an emotional support animal will cause a reduction of anxiety or depression. 

 

There are, however, many techniques that we can share with you that are known to reduce anxiety or depression and we would be happy to share these with you in counseling sessions.  So, in short, until we know more about how people reduce anxiety or depression by interacting with pets we do not feel it is responsible or professional to recommend an emotional support animal (ESA) as an accommodation for a disability. 

 

Questions about this policy may be directed to the Counseling Center.

 

Dr. Peggy Crowe, Director

Dr. Karl Laves, Associate Director, Licensed Counseling Psychologist

 

(270-745-3159)

counseling.center@wku.edu


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 Last Modified 10/14/21