We believe that the article “ESA Epidemic” in the Nov. 3 issue of The Lawrentian had some information that could have been misleading to readers. Initially, the word “epidemic” poses some issues due to the negative connotation it carries. Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide crucial support for students who have them. We are fortunate that Lawrence recognizes the benefits that ESAs can provide and that students feel comfortable taking advantage of this resource.
From our point of view, students with ESAs have done a great job of following the rules put in place by Lawrence when it comes to their animals. Fake service dog vests, while a national problem, are not a current issue on campus. To clarify: many people who use fake service dog vests put them on family pets, not just ESAs. In addition, people use the vests are not always aware of the differences between their dog and a service dog. They may believe that the vest alone qualifies their dog as a service dog. While certainly harmful for working service dogs, it is important to understand that this is not always a malicious act.
Additionally, the rules in place are reinforced by the Lawrence administration, who handle any issues that might come up. This applies for all dogs on campus, including our own service dogs. This is because the ESA and service dog programs were expanded at the same time. While ESAs (that are dogs) and service dogs are different, they can share a lot of the same skills and provide their handler with similar support, such as compression therapy. The only difference is that service dogs are required to be trained to assist someone with a specific task catered to their disability and pass a public access test, while ESAs can be trained as much or as little as the owner prefers.
Having dogs on campus ourselves, we want to make sure that the community is informed about the positive impact of ESAs. We support those with ESAs and are happy about their presence on campus.
Service Dog Trainers at LU: Madison Murray, Rachel Taber and Alexis Dalebroux