Some students at Gonzaga University in Spokane have been caught with “unneeded” emotional support ‘therapy’ animals.
According to The Gonzaga Bulletin, ongoing reports of misuse of Emotional Support Animals, or ESAs, has caused the school’s Residential Life Office to take added precautions surrounding permissions for therapy animals.
“We have received reports that people have abused the process and gotten animals in the room that they didn’t actually need on the basis of disability,” said Jason Varnado, the associate director of disability access at Gonzaga.
Varnado said students would bring animals into their dorms, then claim to their RAs that the animals were authorized by the administration.
But, when some RAs have checked their residents’ claims, they’ve found many are harboring animals under the auspices of disability, without actually having documentation or official authorization from the administration to do so.
“I get phone calls every couple of weeks from dorm directors saying ‘Can you tell us if this student has an accommodation for an ESA?’” Varnado said.
Because students have been caught abusing the system so often, the process to obtain and keep a therapy animal on campus has become more stringent. Students now have to have documentation that their support animal was authorized by the administration handy during the weekends, so that students can no longer falsely claim to RAs that they have an approved ESA, when in reality, they don’t.
Moreover, students can also no longer use certifications they receive over the internet from health care providers as official documentation.
Every year, approximately 12 students are caught having an animal that hasn’t been approved, according to Stuart Davis, the associate director of housing operations.