By Holly Feola & Claire Crittendon- News Editor & Features Editor
Since 2015, Lasell has allowed qualifying students to have emotional support animals (ESAs) in the residence halls with them. Four years later, the process is still going strong.
Before bringing an ESA on campus, students must get permission from the Director of Disability Services & Conduct System Scott Lamphere. According to Lamphere, the option to have an ESA stemmed from the Fair Housing Act.
“We’re kind of in a unique situation in a college setting because we’re asking students to provide documentation for accommodations,” said Lamphere. “If a student wants an emotional support animal, our policy is to provide substantial documentation indicating your need for the emotional support animal.”
Lamphere explained Lasell is home to a variety of ESAs, some of which include dogs, cats, ball pythons, and sugar gliders. He also stressed the importance of thinking about how students would handle the pet during winter and summer breaks. “I try to encourage people to really think about if you have this animal, is it gonna make sense for you? Are you gonna be able to manage those transitions?” Lamphere said.
Last year, senior resident assistant (RA) Gabby Miller decided to get a dog for her ESA. Now she’s had her dog, Gracie, on campus for over a year. Gracie is a one-year-old havanese. When describing Gracie’s personality, Miller said, “she is just very loveable and playful. She always wants to hang out around people.”
Miller said she got Gracie because, “being an RA and living alone I got kind of lonely. I really wanted companionship after hard days with school and my different jobs and internships. I wanted to be able to come home to something exciting.”
Amanda Smolenski decided to get herself an ESA for similar reasons as Miller. “I think I noticed being alone, by myself, in my apartment on campus was just so lonely…After every time I went back to my parents house I was so much happier when I had the pets around so I knew I had to do something,” said Smolenski.
Her dog, Endi, is four-month-old rescue.
She’s had her a little over two months. Smolenski isn’t confident of Endi’s breed but believes she is a mix of an Australian Shepherd and a labrador. Smolenski said she plans on getting a DNA test for Endi to see what breeds she’s mixed with and what diseases she may be prone to. Endi is, “the most codependent dog I have ever met. She has to be on my heels everytime I’m home and will follow me around the house,” she said.
She can tell the difference Endi has made in her life.
“I just found myself held up in my apartment and not doing much. Once I got Endi, I was actually bringing her outside, going on walks and interacting with the other dogs on campus,” said Smolenski.
“For certain [people,] we really see the benefit of having the pet. We’ve had students that were struggling in all these different ways and not that the pet is ever the perfect answer,” Lamphere said, “but students that we didn’t think we’re gonna get through be- cause of their depression and those sort of things and the power of having this animal to take care of is sort of undeniable.”