Catalina Biesman-Simons ‘18
As a transfer I was not entirely shocked to discover ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) scampering around the Claremont campuses--I was acquainted with another student’s emotional support hedgehog at the previous college I attended. What did catch my attention, however, was the surprising number of them.
For those of us desperately missing pets from home, or just hoping to occasionally enjoy the company of a furry friend without any of the accompanying responsibility, this is a fabulous development. However, I cannot help but wonder at the quantity of students suddenly qualified to have their critters on campus.
“Obviously it’s great for the people who actually need them, but I feel like half of those kids just pay a doctor to write that letter,” one Scripps sophomore said. Others raised concerns about students with allergies, but most seemed unperturbed by the latest increase in the 5Cs four-legged population. “I think that people should have animals if they need or want them,” Finn Williams (PZ) said. “I don’t think it’s a problem...as long as people treat [the animals] the way that they should,” said Gina Robertson.
“I hate when people just assume I’m gaming the system,” a Scripps student said. “I really appreciate having my dog to come home to, and I have a real certification — not one of those Internet things.” I was intrigued by how one can certify a pet, so I decided to investigate “one of those Internet things.”
A little Googling revealed a thriving industry of questionable online doctors willing to certify your pet for a fee of anywhere between $60 and $250. All I had to do was take a personal quiz, and the doctor would send me my very own letter of certification. What’s more, it would only take two business days! I completed my questionnaire on CertaPet.com in under five minutes, and was informed that my pet and I are good candidates for ESA status. I called their hotline number with a few clarifying questions, just to be thorough. It turns out that even though I do not have my own mental health care provider they can match me with one over the phone. There are also no restrictions as to the type of animal eligible to become an ESA. As long as they do not pose a threat to others and do not fall under the category of outlawed exotic creatures, most critters seem to be fair game. The representative was unsure when I asked about the possibility of retaining multiple ESAs. However, he seemed to think it might be possible to certify both my (imaginary) miniature horse Bernie and (also fictional) duck Donald.
Satisfied that Bernie and Donald could accompany me anywhere for the right price, I asked about the financial cost of this endeavor. Prices directly correlated to a sliding scale of where I might beallowed to go with my animal companions. A letter describing my rights under the Fair Housing Act would allow my pet to live with me, while a letter also covering my right to fly with Donald as per the Air Carrier Access Act would cost more. Bernie th miniature horse, however, would not be allowed to fly with me given his large size. Airlines ask that your pet reside in your lap or under your seat, and despite his small stature Bernie just is not a lap pony.
Confident that Bernie, Donald and I were on the right path to spending all of our time together, Idecided to meet with the Disability Resource Center in Tranquada to find out more. Sadly I have already missed the deadline for housing accommodations this year, but if I arm myself with ESA documentation from CertaPet and fill out two forms provided online about my unique situation I can apply for next year. A committee will review my application and pass judgment over the summer.
Ideally, Bernie, Donald and I would like to reside in Toll or New Hall so that we might be close to big lawns for grazing. However, Res Life at Scripps works hard to arrange housing to accommodate both students with pets, and those with allergies or other concerns. Before an animal can move in, the housing team checks with neighbors and roommates to ensure that everyone is okay with the arrangement. Some roomsare set aside as no pet zones. Clark Hall, for example, has a few “ESA Free” spaces for this purpose.
“All requests are balanced with the overall need for the safety of the entire Scripps residential community, as well as the need to prevent disruptions to the community potentially caused by the animals,” Charlotte Johnson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Scripps said. “Any student with concerns should contact a member of the Scripps Res Life team.”
Although I will not be pursuing ESA status for Bernie and Donald anytime soon, I’m glad to know that this resource is available at the 5Cs. As long as no cat-dog fights break out on the Wood steps, I feel that ESA pets are a friendly addition to our community.