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Documented and Undocumented Animals at Briar Cliff

November 15, 2019 | by Dylan Speer

College campuses are melting pots for people from all over the country and world, at Briar Cliff University, pets have made their way into this mix.

In the BCU Student Handbook, there is a policy in the Residence Hall and Housing Contract that states, “Except non-threatening fish in aquariums, no pets are allowed in a residence hall.” There is an exception for service and support animals.

These animals have a wide range of responsibilities and duties they perform. They can be of assistance for people with a disability or people who have anxiety and just need to be comforted in rough times. Dave Arens, director of housing, works with the department of disabilities to determine whether an animal meets the appropriate qualifications. To have an animal on campus, Arens says, “that person would have to have a diagnosis from a physician that they need that animal.”

Senior, Darion Helle has a support cat in her dorm, BoBo. BoBo comforts Helle on tough days and serves as a source for relief and joy. She says it was easy to register BoBo with the school, “My doctor simply wrote me a note saying I had anxiety and the school was very accepting.”

Unfortunately, animals do not benefit everybody on campus. BCU nurse and Director of Health Services, Jo Morgan, says animals can cause allergic reactions for some people, “We do get a lot of students who come here for help with animal related allergy problems.”

Senior softball player, Summer Williams, has a severe cat allergy that has sent her to seek medical assistance multiple times. Williams’ dorm room was previously occupied by someone who had a cat on campus and her neighbor currently has a cat. She has sought assistance from the school but has been told all they can do is move her to a different floor. Williams has figured out a workable situation but wishes there was an easier process for people who have a hard time living around animals[1] , “It’s a lot better now,” says Williams, “but it’s the fact that I had to go through all the steps to get to this.”

The suggestion to have a section of dorms specifically designed to accommodate service or emotional support animals, has been made by some. But as Arens explains, that is not a possibility, “That is against the law. Support animals and service animals, they are all protected by Fair Housing.” Fair Housing laws give everybody an equal opportunity to choose where they want to live.

When the rules are followed, it is easier for the school to monitor housing situations and give those who have issues with animals a safer option. But there are cases of students having undocumented animals living with them. This leads the school to house students in rooms that might previously have hosted an animal that they could be allergic to. Also, it could make a neighbor uncomfortable or worse.

When issues arise, it tends not to be the fault of animals who are legally registered with the school. “I have never gotten complaints about my cat,” says Helle, “She stays in my room for the most part.” The animals who serve a medical or assistance purpose are often not a part of the problem. It’s those pets that go unregistered.

Service and emotional support animals make an impact on the lives of those they serve.

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