The following post appeared on the Wesleyan Parents Talk page, with the title “Support Animal” question:
My son is living in a program house this year and was just informed that a new housemate will be bringing a cat as a “support animal”. My son is allergic to cats so this was quite a surprise to him. The Residential Office asked the house members to agree to help control the cat, keeping control of it if work was being done on the house for example, but did not ask house members whether they could comfortably live with this animal. He has told the residential office about his allergies and his worry about the cat being in the common areas of the house.Does anyone have experience with the University’s “support animal” policy? Apparently students go through an application process to bring an animal for emotional support. We are baffled by this.RobynP ’14,’16
Dear Parent of My Future Housemate,
These are my issues with your post:
1. Putting “support animal” in quotes (as I just demonstrated) is an attempt to delegitimize the term, despite the fact that it is the official term used by the university.
2.You said that a “new housemate” would be bringing the animal. I am not a new housemate, in the sense that I lived in the house last year. That makes me a “returning housemate” while your son is the “new housemate.”
3. It is entirely inappropriate for a parent to attack someone else’s child on the internet. Official channels (an email to the director of Residential Life, for example) were provided for you to respond to my request, and instead you chose to attack me in a public forum without having heard my side of the story or reasons for requesting a support animal. Your son, on the other hand, replied in an appropriate way and expressed his concerns.
4. According to a number of studies, having a pet improves the health and happiness of the pet owner. It can improve depression. Wesleyan requires students to live on campus for all four years (I suspect that this is for financial reasons, since room & board cost around $15,000 per year), and by banning animals from campus housing for all four years (other than in the case of the support animal), they remove the possibility of a health-and-welfare-improving animal for four years of our lives.
5. Only students with a documented disability can apply for a support animal, and they must provide a doctor’s note which states that having a pet is the appropriate course of treatment (often combined with other things, such as medication) for the student’s condition.
6. Speaking of which, I have MS. MS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the myelin in the body. MS causes depression, often due to structural brain degradation, in at least 50% of patients. It has come to my attention that a number of parents act as though all college students are healthy. In fact, many conditions, including MS, diabetes, cancer, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, cystic fibrosis, migraines, and depression, strike young people. I think it is naive of you to assume that the request for a support animal is illegitimate. Your son’s cat allergy is not the worst condition that can occur in young people.
7. Which brings me to my final point: All you actually had to say was that your son has a cat allergy. He lives on my floor, approximately two rooms away, we share a bathroom and a hallway, so this information alone would have prompted me to not bring the cat. Now that I know that your son is allergic to cats, I have informed ResLife that I am not bringing the cat after all.
I hope that this has helped you to understand the university’s support animal policy,