Rob Shimshock, DCNF
A Yale University disability policy allows students to own emotional support animals, and the campus has 14 times as many in 2018 as it did in 2017.
The campus boasted one emotional support animal, a cat named Sawa, in 2017, but there are now emotional support dogs and even a hedgehog, reported The College Fix.
Yale’s University Policy 4400 permits students to possess emotional support animals in on-campus housing “on a case-by-case basis in a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability.” But scientific research does not seem to prove the effectiveness of such animals. Their effect does not vary much from that of regular pets, according to Rebecca A. Clay of the American Psychological Association.
“There isn’t research that speaks directly to emotional support animals,” Yale psychology doctoral student Molly Crossman told Yale Daily News. “There’s little directly on that that I’m aware of … Although we generally agree that science informs policy, often it just doesn’t work out like that.”
But university policy is not the only legislation facilitating the keeping of the animals by students. The Fair Housing Act explicitly mentions emotional support animals and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prevents discriminating against those with disabilities.
“Those two laws are basically the reason we weren’t inspired to create the program,” Yale Resource Office on Disabilities director Sarah Chang said. “We were mandated to create the program. All universities have to follow those laws.”
Any animal “that provide[s] therapeutic benefits to their owner through affection and companionship” can be acquired as an emotional support animal, according to Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Registration of America.
While one Yale student has a hedgehog support animal, other colleges offer various peculiar creatures for the collective comfort of students. Radford University, the University of South Florida and the University of California, Berkeley have all offered therapy llamas to help relieve students of stress during exams.
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