Emotional Support Animals Provide Therapy to Students — Not Just Cute Animals



There could be a lot more emotional support animals around MTSU’s campus in the upcoming years, as students are becoming increasingly more interested in them. Middle Tennessee State University student Morgan Gonzalez wants an emotional support animal. Vincent Bress, another MTSU student, is in the process of certifying his cat as an emotional support animal.


According to The Official Emotional Support Animal Registration website, emotional support animals, also known as ESAs, are animals that provide therapy to their owners through companionship and affection.


“Having my cat Matsa around is like having a constant in my life to keep me grounded when I get into manic stages and want to do things that I know I shouldn’t do,” said Bress, who has been diagnosed as bipolar.


As more of a constant, ESAs are not just pets to keep around because one thinks that they are cute. Gonzalez says that having a cat around would help her when she doesn’t want to be alone, but doesn’t want to be around people due to her mental illness.


These animals are providing a therapy that humans cannot to these people. These pets in Gonzalez and Bress’s case are giving them wanted company and responsibility.


“When I go to my dorm to be alone, I wouldn’t be alone, and I need that. I need an animal to be a comfort to me and help me. That’s what emotional support animals are there for,” Gonzalez said.


ESAs have been under fire lately due with some people using them just for benefits.


“It definitely happens. But I don’t think it is as high as people percieve,” Bress said. “There is still a big stigma behind mental health and things of that nature.”


Both these students, however, show that not all emotional support animal owners are like that. Bress said that he is training his cat how to be calm and collected in public settings. He doesn’t want his cat to be a “menace” and disturb people.


The process of being able to have an ESA on campus assures that fraud isn’t prevalent. Bress said that there is paperwork that has to be sent from doctors as well as him and the housing department.


MTSU Housing Director Michelle Safewright said that there needs to be a documented disability, and evidence that the pet is needed for the owner’s health from a doctor. Also the pet needs to be up to date with shots and the student needs to have written permission from the school health care provider to finally allow the pet to live on campus.


Safewright brought up concerns of if the animals are fit for living in dorms. This also may cause students with allergies and fears of animals to get upset. However, Bress and Gonzalez are fully aware of this.


Bress lives in an on campus apartment, and Gonzalez is planning to live in an on campus apartment before she goes into the process of getting an ESA.