Brooke Newhart

I applied for an emotional support cat fairly early last semester, in about September. I was able to get a doctor's note very quickly and submit my request, and within about 2 weeks it was approved by the campus disability office. However, I still needed to get permission from housing, and that is where the problems came.

As is policy, the on-campus housing department sent a message to everyone on the floor I live on, asking if anyone had competing disabilities. Having worked for on-campus housing for several years and witnessing other residents apply for ESAs in the past, I expected the process to be quick - if anyone had a competing disability, I would consider moving to a different floor or we would find out a solution. One girl with severe allergies did end up replying that she had a competing disability, and the Campus disability office invited her to meet with them and bring proof of her disability in some form. However, due to the busy schedule of the office, she was not able to meet with them for a couple weeks, and then when she forgot and missed her appointment, had to schedule a new meeting for several more weeks in the future. Since this appointment was not a priority for my neighbor, she kept forgetting and missing her appointments. When, months later, she finally followed up with the disability office to get her allergies verified, campus housing had to check the ventilation between our apartments to see if she would be affected by my ESA. By the time this process was complete, it was a week into December, and the semester was almost over.

I was finally able to bring my ESA to college at the start of winter semester, in January. Also at the start of January, for unrelated reasons, the girl with allergies had moved out. It was very frustrating to see a simple process get stretched out over months because a third party was uncommitted in doing her part. While getting an ESA was a priority for me to help my mental health, it definitely was not for this other girl, and it felt like it wasn't a priority for the Campus Disability Office either, since they didn't follow up diligently with the other girl and let the process take an entire semester. I wish, even without proper verification of the other girl's allergies, campus housing could have gone ahead to check to ventilation system in advance. That way, even if the other girl never met with the Disability Office, they could have known that my cat's presence wouldn't affect her. It was a very frustrating experience.