On Nov. 10, an e-mail was sent out to all Keene State College (KSC) faculty and staff regarding KSC’s pet policy.
The e-mail sent out by the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Gail Zimmerman stated, “Our challenge arises when students with approved Emotional Support Animals [ESAs] meet faculty and staff who have brought their pets to campus in their offices and classrooms. This sets up an inequality in how our policy is enforced. While I know it is comforting to have our pets near us and that there may be times when a veterinary emergency requires that they are in our offices for a short period of a day, I again ask for your help in creating an equitable environment for our students and to honor the College’s pet policy.”
Keene State College sophomore safety major Katie Walsh is among the few students at KSC that will soon have a service animal, as her service dog Diesel is still in the training stage.
“He will be a psychiatric service dog, as well as a mobility support dog. [His training] has been very intensive. I got him over the summer and it was 24/7, and here on campus it’s like having a full-time job,” Walsh said.
The Pet Policy page on the KSC website states “This policy differentiates ‘service animals’ from ‘pets.’ A service animal, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is ‘any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability’”
While it can be difficult for a student to not be allowed have animals on campus, knowing the difference between a service animal and a pet is important.
“It brings its challenges because logistically, campuses are not designed for dogs so there have been moments where we have had to get creative, but Res Life itself has been great. Even before [the] upperclassmen lottery, we worked out for next year what would be the best living situation, but other than that it hasn’t been as worrisome as I thought it was going to be because if any of my neighbors have issues with him, they’re very willing to talk to me and I talk to them and things get worked out pretty easily,” Walsh said.
There are professors and students who enjoy bringing their animals to campus and the college is asking for this to be stopped unless it an approved ESA, which also means that the animal is not allowed in any facility unless it is approved housing.
Associate Dean of Student and Director of Residential Life Kent Drake-Deese said “As much as we love our animal friends, just the nature of residence hall living, community living and campus environment, it’s not particularly practical to do.”
While pets aren’t allowed, there are several opportunities for students to spend some time with animals and dogs in events put on by Residence Hall Organization such as Paws for Play where therapy dogs are brought into residence halls in hopes that this will be a good opportunity for students to alleviate the stress of not having an animal or pet on campus.
However, the presence of a service animal is sometimes an absolute necessity. “I definitely wouldn’t be able to be here if I didn’t have him,” Walsh said.
Mary Curtin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org