All Paws on Deck: Emotional Support Animals

Getting through college and securing a degree is by no means an easy task. It often brings an abundance of stress onto students regardless of their major or program. In many ways, students look for helpful methods to relieve stress through therapy and numerous different activities, but there is another way that students decompress after classes and work. It is common for students to adopt Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) to help them cope with daily stressors. 

ESAs are animals that serve the purpose of helping individuals who are struggling with their mental health. This often takes the form of comforting their owners and supporting them in times of distress as a faithful and loving companion. However, these animals are not officially recognized as service animals and are treated as ordinary pets. In some cases regarding living situations, pet fees will be waived with a doctor’s or therapist’s note stating that the individual needs this animal to live with them as a form of treatment. 

One student, Carly Kuhlman, has found consolation in her own ESA named Kitty, a female black cat that has been a big part of her life since she was just a child. Kuhlman is a psychology student here at Minnesota State who is living off-campus in an apartment with her ESA. When the two first met, Kitty was a bit aggressive and shy, but eventually started warming up to Kuhlman once she started reading to the cat. The two have been inseparable ever since. Kitty gives Kuhlman a sense of purpose, which helps her have the motivation to do her best every day.

“I get stressed out a lot and it’s nice to take a break,” Kuhlman said. “I struggle with severe depression and so even taking care of myself is hard, but then I have to take care of my cat so that at least gets me up and out of my bed.”

While many view owning a pet as a challenging responsibility, Kuhlman expressed that owning a cat is fairly easy.

“I have classes once a day,” said Kuhlman. “I come home and she has an automatic feeder, and then I give her her wet food at about 3 p.m., and then I clean her litter box every other day. It’s not too hard.”

School of Nursing student, Meghan Botsford, also has an ESA named Luna, a female yorkie/poodle/terrier mix, who has also been part of her life for many years. The Botsford Family adopted her as a rescue, and her love and devotion toward her forever family has been unwavering ever since. Luna is about 13-years-old but is as lively as a puppy. Botsford has a close bond with her dog, evident in the way Luna listens to her and supports her through difficult times. Botsford expressed that being in college with an ESA is much easier than being in college without one. 

“I don’t know what I would do without her,” Botsford said. “Every day I come home she’s so excited. My stress just melts away and it’s so much nicer having her. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have that reassurance every day.”

Botsford also expressed that having an animal in college is difficult. 

“There’s a lot of upkeep and care that goes into it and you can’t just wake up five minutes before class and run to class because you need to stop and feed your animal while giving them lots of love and attention,” Botsford said. 

Despite the work that goes into owning an animal while in college, Botsford does not regret her decision. 

“The work of keeping her happy is worth it because she does that for me ten times as much,” said Botsford.

Write to Grace Anderson at andersongrace117@gmail.com

Header Photo: An emotional support animal is an animal that provides relief to people with psychiatric disability through companionship. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.