Quincy University students struggle with the process of acquiring emotional support animals

A orange and white cat sitting on a table in a dining area

At Quincy University, students are allowed to have service animals or emotional support animals on campus with approval from the office of student development.

In the QU Student Handbook for 2022-2023, there is a section that says students must demonstrate an “ongoing therapeutic relationship” as a part of the certification process.

Students have to rectify annually, show documentation that they have been continuing treatment, and complete a care plan form that includes vaccination and how the animal is cared for.

“Depending on your doctor and the type of animal the process is actually kind of difficult. The process was never explained to me when I was trying to get my cat approved. I think that students should have a resource they can go to to help them understand the process. Additionally, there should be a grace period for the students to allow them to get the proper documents because sometimes people don’t realize they need emotional support until they’re halfway through the semester and lacking emotional support. Getting through the process during the end of the year can be quite hard,” Chelsea Hooker said.

The handbook also determines that approved emotional support animals are only permitted in the residence hall that their owner lives in.

Additionally, animals that are considered dangerous under Illinois state law are not allowed on campus under any circumstances  For example, animals like big cats, wolves, jaguars, and poisonous reptiles. Luckily for most students, the emotional support animals of their choice are popular choices of cats, dogs, fish, and even rats.

“I had to get a letter from my therapist stating I would benefit from an emotional support animal. Since I was choosing to bring my pet rats, Dr. Tracy said I needed them to get their vaccinations and a note from the vet explaining that they need to live in pairs so that I could have them both. I know it can be hard for people already on campus to get an ESA letter because QMG is not allowed to write letters for QU students. However, the only counseling service that QU pays for their students is QMG. So to get a letter, you need to go to several appointments with a different therapist and continue seeing them after you get the letter, which is not possible for many students as the cost of therapy is so high,” Rebecca Griffith said.

Although there aren’t any guidelines in the QU Student handbook that suggest Quincy Medical Group can’t be used for Emotional Support Animal letters, students report having to use counseling from their home towns in order to acquire letters.

“I believe that emotional support animals are very helpful for residents throughout their stay here at the dorms away from home, especially during finals week which can get hectic and stressful. I hope that the process for getting an emotional support animal becomes easier,” Alyssa Vasquez said.

The QU Student Handbook can be found here.

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