Jump to content
MettaSutta

Emotional Support Animals in Graduate Housing?

Recommended Posts

I'll be entering Columbia GSAS in fall 2019.  I have a psychiatric disability and would like to request to have an emotional support cat(s) in graduate housing, even though ordinarily pets are not allowed.  Has anyone else been through the process of making such a request?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At my PhD school, the official policy is no pets at all in graduate student housing. The official reason is to keep apartments free of allergens etc. for all student tenants (also most grad housing is shared).

However, the less known policy is that some single occupancy units are indeed "marked" to allow pets (i.e. they would only put someone who doesn't have those issues there). The number of available units is very low though. And, the cost for single occupancy is a lot higher than the typical grad housing (which is either 2 bedroom or 4 bedroom apartments with shared living spaces). Because of the higher cost, these units are sometimes less desirable so if you require a unit suitable for pets and you are willing to pay the premium price for a single occupancy unit, then you have a decent chance of getting what you want if you were at my school.

Of course, every school would be different. But just pointing out that despite what the official rules say, it doesn't hurt to ask to see what would happen. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, TakeruK said:

At my PhD school, the official policy is no pets at all in graduate student housing. The official reason is to keep apartments free of allergens etc. for all student tenants (also most grad housing is shared).

Interesting.  I thought that the Americans with Disabilities Act would mandate that ESAs be allowed freely, but I guess student housing is legally a grey area?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, Bodhicaryavatara said:

Interesting.  I thought that the Americans with Disabilities Act would mandate that ESAs be allowed freely, but I guess student housing is legally a grey area?

My understanding from working with students to help them get their ESAs in student housing is that the ESAs are not considered service animals covered by the ADA (source: https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet)

However, it sounds like many schools will still try to accommodate such requests. While working on the grad student government and helping students gain access to ESAs and pets in student housing, we looked up policies at other schools and found many schools with wording such as "consider requests on a case-by-case basis" and "subject to availability of housing". (To be clear, I'm not defending these practices or saying that they are right, I'm just providing information based on previous work!)

I suppose there may be differences from state to state in terms of rental agreements. In one (Canadian) province I lived in, there is actually a no no-pets clause (i.e. any rental properties must allow tenants to have pets with only few exceptions). I think student housing often falls under the same rules are state laws for renters, so the state may have some jurisdiction over the schools in this sense. My school was in CA and there are no restrictions on landlords forbidding pets in housing there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, TakeruK said:

While working on the grad student government and helping students gain access to ESAs and pets in student housing

In one (Canadian) province I lived in, there is actually a no no-pets clause (i.e. any rental properties must allow tenants to have pets with only few exceptions). I think student housing often falls under the same rules are state laws for renters, so the state may have some jurisdiction over the schools in this sense. My school was in CA and there are no restrictions on landlords forbidding pets in housing there.

This is on topic but not addressing the OP's question.

First, I'm curious about your advocacy because the research evidence for the benefits of emotional support animals is lacking. Much like learning styles, people think they're helpful but it's hard to objectively say that they are (and thus justify intruding on others' rights such as landlords' property rights or the rights of people with allergies). I don't have a problem if landlords want to allow ESAs of their own free will, but get uncomfortable when they're forced to based on dubious evidence. (I feel similarly when children are exempted from mandatory public school vaccinations based on b.s. pseudoscientific objections.)

Second, I'll quibble slightly with "rental properties must allow tenants to have pets" if you're referring to Ontario. The legislation technically says that no pets clauses are null and void, but a landlord would be perfectly free to deny the application of a potential tenant on the basis of them having a pet. I think it's a recipe for having people lie about their pets until after they have a signed lease, but that's how it's set up. And in any case, it's moot because on campus student housing is exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act in ON.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, lewin said:

First, I'm curious about your advocacy because the research evidence for the benefits of emotional support animals is lacking. Much like learning styles, people think they're helpful but it's hard to objectively say that they are (and thus justify intruding on others' rights such as landlords' property rights or the rights of people with allergies). I don't have a problem if landlords want to allow ESAs of their own free will, but get uncomfortable when they're forced to based on dubious evidence. (I feel similarly when children are exempted from mandatory public school vaccinations based on b.s. pseudoscientific objections.)

Sorry if I was unclear: in the role as an advocate for students through the grad student government, it was our mission to help students advocate for their needs. It was not our place to decide whether or not their needs are objectively necessary/founded/etc. To be more clear, in this role, my main advocacy was to talk to students who had an issue in order to learn about their situation and then use our knowledge of the available resources and/or the people we knew in the administration that would be sympathetic to the student's request. Or, in the above case, we might help them look up information to make their case (e.g. searching for policies at similar schools). We would pass on this information or make introductions as necessary, but ultimately the request for a special consideration was the responsibility of the individual student. Sometimes the student comes back to us with updates or shares good/bad news, so I sometimes know what happens, but sometimes not! However, in these cases, we aren't representing all graduate students and we don't directly interact with the Administration as the "Grad Student Government". We simply empower students to be their own advocates.

(Through the grad student government, we do sometimes directly interact with the Administration as the official "Government". These cases are much fewer and when we do so, there is a lot of background work like what you have listed here because now we are indeed representing the entire student body and we need to ensure we are advocating for something that is a overall good for the community and does not cause any undue hardship on any other parts of the community. As you can imagine, this things are much more slow moving and projects like this have timelines of months or even 1+ years. Sometimes they are easy to support [e.g. a campaign to increase everyone's stipends] while others require careful consideration to earn student body approval [e.g. increase health insurance coverage for certain things that greatly reduces financial burden of a few people while increasing the cost of insurance by a few dollars to everyone else]).

23 minutes ago, lewin said:

Second, I'll quibble slightly with "rental properties must allow tenants to have pets" if you're referring to Ontario. The legislation technically says that no pets clauses are null and void, but a landlord would be perfectly free to deny the application of a potential tenant on the basis of them having a pet. I think it's a recipe for having people lie about their pets until after they have a signed lease, but that's how it's set up. And in any case, it's moot because on campus student housing is exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act in ON.

Yes, I was referring to Ontario. And yes, you are right that the system does set it up so that people lie. In addition, it also probably sets it up so that landlords can secretly take action against a tenant due to a pet but hide it under some other reasoning. However, I think the fact that a no no-pets-clause exists means people are more open to having pets in their rental units. Maybe my experience was biased, but when we visited many rental places in Ontario, we noticed a lot more places that includes pets compared to California, where the leases all have restrictions for pets and pet sizes. There were even places that charge extra rent for pets.

Another clarification: in my above post, when trying to connect state/provincial laws with University housing, I was thinking of University-owned off-campus lease properties rather than on-campus housing. I don't know how it works everywhere, but I do know that some of the off-campus lease properties from my PhD school had policies that were driven by local/state laws. For example, there was an apartment complex that is meant for (and advertised as) family housing. However, state laws forbids landlords from using family status as a reason to rent to someone. So, there were students without families living there too. State laws did allow for setting a minimum and maximum number of tenants per bedroom (but not on the ages of tenants) so the most they could do is stipulate at least 1 person per bedroom. All of the units were 2 or more bedrooms, so you wouldn't have a single person renting a 2-bedroom there (at half the market rate) so it would mostly be couples/families or people who found roommates to share with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I realize this link is for the Teacher's College, but I imagine the policies are the same.  https://www.tc.columbia.edu/policylibrary/associate-provost-enrollment-services/animals-on-campus-including-service-and-assistance-animals/

 

Section III.  Procedures for Assistance Animals in Campus Housing

Owners planning to bring Assistance Animals to reside in campus housing are required to follow these steps:  

1. Owners seeking permission to keep an Assistance Animal in college housing must first register with OASID and provide the appropriate documentation.

2. Documentation of the need for an Assistance Animal should follow OASID’s guidelines for documentation of disability as outlined on the OASID website. Documentation should be current -- dated within the last 6 months -- and should generally include the following information:

a. Verification of the individual’s disability from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional,

b. Description of how the animal serves as an accommodation for the verified disability, and 

c. Description of how the need for the animal relates to the individual’s ability to use and enjoy the living arrangements provided by the College.

 

3. Owners approved to house an Assistance Animal must meet with OASID to review requirements and responsibilities within one week of receiving approval.  Owners are required to schedule this meeting.   

 

4. Owners whose request for an Assistance Animal through this process is not granted may appeal that decision to the Section 504 Compliance Officer and will be provided with procedures to do so. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@lewin Interesting, I thought there was ample, peer-reviewed evidence supporting the idea that animals like cats and dogs can reduce depression, trauma and anxiety in people?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Bodhicaryavatara I think the best thing at this point might be to go directly to the disability services office, or whatever they call it, itself. As you can see from the answers, different schools and places have different policies, and people have different opinions and experiences about policies as well.

For example, myself. I didn't know about the vast types of accommodation that was available to me until I asked. My official documentation had an extensive diagnosis and test results but the recommendations were quite general. The office staff sat down with me to go over other options available based on the diagnosis and functional limitations and also my own personality (e.g., coping mechanisms). I do recognise that I don't have a condition requiring and/or aided by a service animal or emotional support animal, however, so your situation might be entirely different.

Columbia's office should be able to tell you their policies, documentations needed, and how to go about the system. In fact, somebody might even do it for you if they had such a staff member (e.g., campus liaison). However, you won't know until you ask. If the staff don't know, there might a student advocacy group on campus that might also be able to help.

Also, congratulations on your acceptance to Columbia, and good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/18/2018 at 9:24 AM, Bodhicaryavatara said:

@lewin Interesting, I thought there was ample, peer-reviewed evidence supporting the idea that animals like cats and dogs can reduce depression, trauma and anxiety in people?

According to the researcher interviewed in the article I linked, who had just published a large scale systematic review, this is not the case. Washington Post coverage of the same. The US Veterans Administration concluded something similar.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

rising_star makes a good point about single-occupancy apartments, but I want to add that based on my experiences at Columbia, it is not the case that single-occupancy apartments (studios or one-bedrooms) are less desirable. It is exactly the opposite: these apartments are in high demand, and the university chooses to award them first to married/domestically partnered couples and families. It is very difficult to get a single-occupancy apartment space unless you are partnered and/or have children. (However, an assistance animal may change things.)

From a more practical perspective, pets are prohibited in UAH apartments but I knew lots of students who had dogs and cats. They were not supposed to, but *shrug* they did. My building was completely owned by UAH and we had tons of dogs and cats in the building. I lived there part-time after I graduated (my husband was still finishing and i was splitting my time between PA and NY) and brought the dog we adopted in PA there a lot; the doormen loved her and never said anything.

You should definitely register with disability services, though, because it is a reason that someone could kick you out. You can find the liaison for your program here: https://health.columbia.edu/content/disability-services-liaisons

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.