Are pets necessary on campus?

Gillian Mazur, Editor in Chief

Just like the majority of campus, I love animals whether it be my own pets, my friends’ animals or even the ones found in nature. As an avid pet lover, however, I have one bone to pick with my fellow peers in the Mercyhurst community that goes against my nature of wanting to see fluffy friends around campus- and that is dorm/ apartment pets.

There is and should be a very clear distinction on the difference between an emotional support animal, a service animal and a comfort/ therapy animal. According to the ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) National Network, there is a stark difference between the three. An emotional support animal is any animal that provides companionship, relieves loneliness, and sometimes helps with things such as depression, anxiety and certain phobias but has no certain training. Emotional support animals have no special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.

Under Title II and Title II of the ADA, a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability whether it be physical, psychiatric, intellectual or another form of mental disability. Lastly, a comfort/therapy animal, typically a dog, is an animal that works in situations where stress levels are high. They offer a calming distraction to those in an active disaster or emergency and provide healing contact, typically in a clinical setting. These animals go through extensive training and may interact with all types of people but are not trained to do specific tasks for an individual with a disability.

According to the above definitions, it is safe to say that the majority of Mercyhurst’s campus pets belong to the emotional support animal category if they are registered with Res Life at all. While I enjoy the small serotonin boost every time I get to see and pet a dog being walked around campus or cuddle with a cat in a friend’s apartment or dorm room, I know that if I do not enjoy being trapped in a 10×10 box of space for long periods, I know the animals probably do not either. Two weeks ago, I was stuck in my Briggs apartment for a soft quarantine, and I lost my marbles with nowhere to go and nothing to do but homework. I am quite certain being holed up in an apartment is less than favorable in the eyes of our fluffy friends, even more so in a cramped one-room freshman dorm room.

Occasional walks between classes and potty breaks in front lawns are no replacement to a grassy yard that our pets deserve. While I believe that trained service dogs who work and perform tasks for humans and their safety are necessary, emotional support pets are not a need in college. Oftentimes, bad behavior and disruptiveness in public from emotional support pets with a fake vest can ruin opportunities for very needed trained service dogs and their humans. Bottom line, keeping an emotional support pet in a 10×10 box with you and three other roommates is inhumane and unfair to the animal. If you need an emotional support pet, try therapy or hitting the gym for your daily serotonin boost.