Recognizing emotional support animals and their responsibilities

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When Makenna Mavity, a junior psychology major, feels her anxiety beginning to surround her, her emotional support dog, Clancy, is there to help. Clancy is trained to sit on her chest when she has an attack, or lick her face and palms when she passes out. He can also sense when she is about to have an anxiety attack, or when something triggers her. Mavity, who is diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety and has overcome a suicide ideation, is certified to have an emotional support animal on the Boise State campus.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are a way to ease mental illness. Students living on campus can be certified to have an emotional support animal. ESAs are allowed to be in classes, the library, or anywhere their humans need to go.

“We do not have a fee associated with having an emotional support animal on campus,” said Amy Soutar, customer service representative of Boise State Housing and Residence Life. Once the student is approved by the Education Access Center, we are sent their approval, along with the student having to send us the following information: a photograph, name breed, weight, type, color, vaccination record, and license record.”

Mavity stressed the importance of recognizing what emotional support animals do.

“If there is one thing I always try to include in conversation when talking about Clancy is that just because he isn’t a service dogs doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a job,” Mavity said. “ESAs aren’t pets. People who have and truly need them don’t make up stories, and what my ESA does or anybody else’s should be respected.”

Brittany Picker, a junior biology and pre-veterinary medicine major and president of the Bronco Dogs Club on campus spoke about the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal.

“Service dogs are trained to complete a specific task or meet a specific need of someone with a disability,” Picker said. “This can be anything from a seeing eye dog, a medical alert dog, a dog for the deaf, or a balance assistance dog. An emotional support dog, on the other hand, has no specific training and it’s sole purpose is to be a companion for its owner.”

Picker, along with the Bronco Dogs Club, focuses more on service dog training, instead of emotional support training. ESAs are not considered service animals under both federal and state laws.

“Emotional support dogs are not a bad idea, however the concept is very easily abused. While it may be fun to have your dog with you, please don’t claim them as an ESA unless you really truly need them,” Picker said.

Emotional support animals don’t have to be just dogs–they can be cats, a pig or whatever animal could help relieve any pain one might have. They can be important for those with a mental illness and they should be appreciated and recognized, although their usage should not abused.

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