By: C.A. Printup
There is a pig on campus—a kitty named Piglet to be exact. She lives with me in my dorm at River Crossing Student Housing and is incredibly fat in a good and adorable way.
I have an invisible disability—one that requires constant medication, therapy and work. Pet therapy has been a vital part of my treatment since I was 13.
As many know, animals are not allowed on campus, so when I moved from four hours away to live at IU South Bend and did not have access to a car to go to shelters, I was without a vital part of my therapy.
Not long after I had an “episode” on campus was I pointed to the Disability Services Center. I am not going to lie; I had major reservations about going there for help. I had had a special plan at my high school because I was technically seen as a special needs student and was terrified of the stigma that it might bring me in college as it had in high school.
That turned out not to be the case. Just because I went there did not mean I was going to be outed to my professors unless I wanted to because my disability does not directly affect my performance at school. What I did learn was that I could bring Piggy on campus—though her name did cause a problem because they thought I literally wanted to bring a pig on campus. They told me about emotional support animals (ESA).
According to director of disability services, Jim Hasse, an ESA is “an animal that provides that type of emotional support for a person. It may be for anxiety related reasons or whatever, but it fulfills that type of role. It is distinguished from a service animal, however.”
There are several steps to go through to receive permission to keep an emotional support animal.
First, students need to live on campus. Emotional support animals are not allowed on the actual campus and are purely for the student’s living area.
Second, they need to register with the Disability Office. This part, at least for me, required no further documentation. It was when I wanted to register Piggy that I needed documentation from my therapist and psychiatrist stating what my disability was and how my animal would help with my therapy.
That was the part that took so long for me, not because the school was slow, but because there was some miscommunication between me, my doctor and therapist. I then had to turn that documentation in to Hasse, and he sent it on to Indiana University’s legal department to get everything processed there.
By August, I had heard that my support animal had been approved. From there, there was even more paper work. I had to get Piggy updated on her vaccinations. I had to get written permission from my roommates and on the physical contract as well.
There are several specifications that have to be met listed by housing, such as Piggy cannot have any fleas or else I have to pay a special charge from housing to remove them from the apartment, her litter box must be in my room and not the communal bathroom and she must be in my room when I am not in the apartment as my roommates will not be held accountable if she tears up something.
Not to mention that her title is no longer a pet, but an emotional support animal. Due to the amount of paperwork and requirements that need to be met, it is no wonder that there are only three to four ESA’s in housing, according to Hasse.
I was a little scared when I was approved. There is so much to the housing contract that I thought I was going to faint. But Piggy has been an angel, and my roommates love her. She has not tried to murder their fish yet (those are allowed in the apartment and do not need any special permission) and only begs to be petted when I let her out when I am home. Sure, it was tough getting her here, but it was so worth it for my health and ease of my mind.