Dixie State University modified its assistant animal accommodation procedure and guidelines pertaining to the animal policy two years ago after recognizing seemingly unreasonable rules set by the student housing staff.
DSU policy defines a service animal as any trained animal that does work for the benefit of an individual with a disability; an emotional support animal is an animal prescribed by a mental health physician to support an individual through the treatment process.
The current policy states that students in need of an assistant animal are required to submit the correct medical/clinical documentation to the Disability Resource Center. The documentation is needed to confirm the applicant’s disability.
Emotional support animals must be approved by the DRC and the housing and resident life department; service animals only need to be approved by the DRC.
Seth Gubler, the director of housing and resident life, said the original rule required the applicant to obtain their documentation through the DSU Health and Counseling Center. Now, applicants can attain a medical statement through their own health provider and the Health and Counseling Center is simply another option.
The applicant must also schedule an appointment with Gubler to discuss the statement of understanding. They discuss the expectations of the animal’s care, which includes: the animal must be licensed with St. George, contained when outside, be house trained, the owner must ensure the animal will not be a disruption to other tenants and if the animal causes any damage the owner is held responsible.
A rule that used to be outlined in the expectations is when having an emotional support animal, the resident was responsible for a mattress replacement fee.
“[By having the resident pay the fee] we are not out of cost [when replacing the mattresses], and the following residents who have allergies [are also protected],” Gubler said.
However, housing and urban development told housing staff they were not allowed to charge the resident with this fee. Now, the staff keeps track of what rooms have had animals and makes sure to keep residents with allergies out of those specific rooms.
The applicants also used to be required to renew the process each semester or school year because the animal is looked at as medication to the resident, and therefore the DRC wanted to ensure there was still a need for the animal, Gubler said. The resident now only has to go through the process once and they can decide with their health care provider when they no longer need the assistance.
Gubler said he and the student housing staff can easily monitor for unauthorized pets by having resident assistants, students who watch over the residents and their dorms, report any sign of an animal to the staff and the staff can handle it from there.
However, there have been several instances over the past few years of students bringing pets to their campus housing without approval, Dean of Students Del Beatty said.
“[Students would] claim they are emotional support animals, but they do not have the appropriate documentation and they did not follow the procedure to get their animal approved,” Beatty said.
As mentioned in a previous article, service and emotional support animals are not just normal pets — they are accepted on campus for a legitimate reason.
DRC Director Baako Wahabu said there is no need for pets to be on campus because it is an educational institution that needs to maintain good security and environment.
“If pets were allowed, it would be a fundamental disruption and if the pets are in the classroom, [but] not trained, it would cause inconvenience on campus,” Wahabu said.