By Abigail Frazier, Staff Writer –
For freshman and pre-nursing major Zoe Failey, UTC allowing her emotional support
animal to live with her on campus provides tremendous help emotionally and scholastically.
According to the UTC website, “Emotional Support Animals are defined as animals that alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”
UTC allows students with mental and emotional illnesses, disabilities or disorders to own
and house emotional support animals while living on campus. UTC Director of Housing, Valara Sample said that less there are less than 25 emotional support animals on campus.
Failey struggles with anxiety and depression and said her emotional support animal, an eight-year-old Chihuahua named Leela, helps her feel less depressed and anxious.
“Leela is a big help for my anxiety with school by just having her present. I have random
moments when I get super lonely and depressed and she has helped with that by comforting me,” she explained.
When Failey moved from Columbia, Tennessee to Chattanooga for school, she wanted to
bring Leela for emotional support. Leela had been providing emotional support for her for almost three years when she decided to move, so having Leela with her was extremely important.
In order for students to attain and be allowed to house an ESA, there are multiple
guidelines to follow and forms to sign. Sample explained the process students must undergo.
“The student must request permission to have an ESA from the Disability Resource
Center and provide current documentation of a disability from a physician, psychiatrist,
psychologist, or other mental health professional,” she said.
The overall process Failey had to undergo consisted of getting permission from Housing and Residence Life and filling out documents to ensure that she could keep Leela on campus. The process took about two weeks.
Even though the process took some time, Failey said, “UTC housing has definitely made
it easy to have Leela while living on campus.”
While living in Lockmiller with her ESA, Failey explained that living there causes less
issues than living in a suite style dorm. Not only has housing made taking care of Leela easier, but she said that already having formed that relationship with her ESA and having a supportive roommate makes taking care of her animal that much easier.
Failey takes full responsibility of Leela as all students with ESAs are required to do. Not
only are students with ESAs required to take full responsibility for their animal, but they are required to give the name of an alternate care-giver in case they are no longer able to care for their ESA. Addiotionally, ESA owners are required to keep annual evaluations from a veterinarian as well as license tags with a rabies vaccination tag for their animal.
Unlike service animals, ESAs are not allowed in public places like the UTC library, University Center, Crossroads, classes or any other indoor campus facility. However, ESAs are allowed to personally assist a student on an emotional level, which does not require them to be with their owner at all time. The ESA can tend to their owner in their dorms, anywhere on campus that’s outdoors and any other place where animals are allowed.
According to the UTC guidelines, if the animal poses a threat to the health or safety of
others, creates multiple property damages, makes fundamental alterations to the University, disturbs the university community or the owner does not comply with the responsibilities of the animal, then UTC can grant for removal of the ESA.
Students like Failey who are eligible and responsible enough for an ESA are encouraged to talk to UTC housing about undergoing the process of receiving permission for an emotional support animal.
UTC’s impact of student’s lives through something like an ESA affects their
overall experience at this university.
In the words of Failey, “I am very grateful to UTC for allowing me to have Leela here
with me because it has made a huge impact in my college life.”