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It’s Raining Cats, Dogs, Tears and Money

Things you should know about emotional support animals on campus.

When you see a dog in a dorm room, you probably have lower stress and lower blood pressure. Pets have lots of health benefits, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) specifically can have a comforting and therapeutic effect to students with mental health disabilities, according to the American Kennel Club.

There are differences between ESAs and service animals. Before registering your animal as an ESA, it’s important to understand the differences.

On UNG’s Website, “Section Seven – Service and Emotional Support Animals” states under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that a Service Animal is defined as a dog or miniature pony that is trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Emotional support animal from a finals week event. Photo by Faith Forrester

Section seven also states, “The Fair Housing Act (FHA) does not limit the rights of a person with a disability to the ADA definition of Service Animal, but instead identifies Comfort or Emotional Support Animals as an accommodation… To qualify for this accommodation, a student must meet the federal definition of a disability and provide supporting documentation, such as a letter, from a physician or other medical professional, stating that the student has a disability that the Comfort or Emotional Support Animal provides a benefit for the Individual with the disability.”

The AKC says that while ESAs are important to the well-being of a person with emotional conditions, some people do not have a disability and abuse the ESA system to obtain special accommodation, and that undermines ESAs importance.

Students say registering an animal as an ESA is relatively easy.

John Hyatt, a sophomore political science major, has a teacup mini goldendoodle named Ursa. He registered her because “she’s a sweet dog that I felt could do a lot of good in this world. I feel supported by her, especially after a long day, and sometimes she’s my only friend around.”

Teacup Golden-Doodle Ursa
Ursa, an ESA at UNG. Photo by John Hyatt

Hyatt says, “I didn’t have difficulty registering Ursa. It was pretty easy online. All I had to do was pay a fee, which is less than what I usually would pay for regular housing, and I got my certificate kind of fast. Also, I pay rent but that’s standard for all animals.”

While, in the dorms, animals aren’t generally allowed (unless they are fish, registered Service Animal or an ESA), nearby off-campus apartments allow them but require nonrefundable fees and security deposits. 

For example, HawksNest requires a total fee of $550, $350 of which is non-refundable, plus an additional $10 monthly. Bellamy apartments require the same thing fees. University Heights requires a $300 non-refundable pet fee and an additional $35 each month. 

For some students, another option is paying $89.98 for an online ESA registration.

There are also no government regulations on the registration of emotional support animals. says, “An ESA letter must be written for you specifically and include your diagnosis and a recommendation for an emotional support animal. Any licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can write one, but they must evaluate your condition in a “live” environment: an in-person consultation or telehealth appointment.”

It also states on, “In Georgia, state laws adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide additional protections for service dogs. However, psychiatric service dogs are not explicitly mentioned in Georgia’s service dog law. In this case, individuals with psychiatric service dogs abide by the set of laws that gives them the most protection; in Georgia, this is the ADA.”

This does not cover public access rights like service animals though, this is under the FHA for housing without pet fees.

The bottom line is: understand the laws before you bring your dog to school.


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