Staff Editorial: ESA Epidemic

Here at Lawrence, stress is unfortunately very present in our lives. Due to Lawrence’s intensive term system, students often have a hard time striking a balance between their classes, extracurriculars, social lives and self care. It is easy to let self care slip through the cracks when everything else demands immediate attention, which can easily lead to a decline in mental health. While Lawrence emphasizes wellness, sometimes counseling just does not cut it and students need more support during their time at Lawrence.

Some have elected to get emotional support animals, otherwise known as ESAs. Lawrence allows students to bring animals on campus as a form of support. Students have to go through an in-depth application process. The student typically has to provide a doctor’s note stating the student’s need for an ESA. Students have reported that their ESAs help reduce anxiety and allow them to function better at Lawrence. As of now, over 15 Lawrence students have ESAs on campus, and more than ten of those are dogs. While this is an excellent program, students must be careful to respect the rest of campus. There are a lot of responsibilities that come along with having a dog at Lawrence; students with ESAs are accepting the responsibility to take care of, clean up after and control their animal. Sometimes it is difficult to follow the rules set out for ESA owners—for example, ESAs are not allowed in public spaces. Sometimes this rule is broken when students bring their ESA into Warch or academic building. Some students have even purchased fake service dog vests for their companion so they can bring them into buildings or are even let off leash, causing a whole slew of other problems.

There are some official service animals on campus who are affected by these problems, which often interfere with their work. A couple, Aero and Nyx, are currently being trained. Service dogs go through months of rigorous training in order to obtain their service dog status. Slipping a fake vest onto a dog who has not gone through rigorous training may result in a negative association with service dogs when the dog misbehaves in public spaces.

People who need service dogs sometimes have to fight for their right to bring dogs into public spaces even though they legally have the right to do so. Putting a fake service vest on a dog that is not a certified service animal is wrong and unfair to those who need service dogs. Additionally, when dogs are off leash on campus, they may run up to a service dog and disrupt training. If a dog runs up to students, other issues may arise—many people are afraid of dogs, and such an interaction could be scary, others are allergic and could have a reaction. Worst case scenario, a student could be bitten by a dog that is not properly trained.

ESAs are undoubtedly wonderful and help to improve the lives of many Lawrence students. However, students with ESAs must be willing to follow the rules and responsibilities that come along with owning one, especially a dog, on campus. Everyone’s well being must be taken into account.