Service animals need better accommodation at NSU


Kelsie Campbell

The dorms we do have are nice, and affordable for most, but there’s one issue: Emotional support animals. The dorms we do have are not necessarily made to support ESAs should a student need to house one.

In an article published by the Natchitoches Parish Journal on June 3, 2022, the first plans for the use of the school grant money allocated to Northwestern State University of Louisiana were revealed.

In the series of bills brought by the Louisiana house members, the most important, “House Bill No. 2” divides a “comprehensive Capital Outlay budget” signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. This budget allocated over 55 million dollars to NSU for the uses they then stated.

In short, NSU plans to use this money, respectively, for a new health performance center, using approximately nine million dollars. Another 10 million dollars is going to the renovation of Roy Hall, an outdated building used for many different things over the years, located next to the Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center (WRAC).

Finally, 38 million dollars worth of the capital budget is going towards a brand new building to replace John S. Kyser Hall. Many plans and blueprints have been released for this construction project, and many people are excited about this project specifically. We all know Kyser Hall needs some serious advancements, but as for the rest of the projects, I’m not so sure how I feel.

Aside from the ever-pressing need to renovate the older buildings like Roy Hall and Caddo Hall, some of which are currently being worked on, everyone knows the Natatorium is the black sheep of the mix. Everyone acknowledges its history but no one trying to deal with the dilapidated building. But the issue here lies in what to make of these empty lots of misuse.

Well, I say NSU is growing. We have a general increased turnout of more freshmen every year it seems, with an increase in people coming to live on campus as well. NSU can always use more dorms. The dorms we do have are nice and affordable for most, but there’s one issue: emotional support animals. The dorms we do have are not necessarily made to support ESAs should a student need to house one.

Now, that’s to say the dorms don’t have carpet or anything non-pet-friendly. NSU also has plenty of outdoor space. NSU is sprawling with updated dormitories and furniture with plenty of communal areas and courtyards for the students living on campus, but having dorms specially allocated to the management of emotional support animals of all types would be amazing.

The website titled ‘ESA Doctors’ proclaims its mission is to help people understand what an emotional support animal is and when and why they are needed. It has been extremely helpful during my research process. The website also has a portal that can also help you register and start the process of getting your pet acknowledged as your ESA should one be so interested.

On their website, they say “to designate your pet as a legal emotional support animal, you must qualify for an official ESA letter.” You get a letter through a qualified mental health professional who can then procure an official ESA letter should they decide that the animals will genuinely help your overall well-being and mental health. This letter will allow you many liberties, including, “landlords must reasonably accommodate them without charging monthly fees or pet deposits, even in buildings that ban pets.”

So yes, you can bring your ESA to college. But emotional support animals come in all shapes and sizes, and no single species is going to need the same things another would.

Cats and dogs can be simple, but the more unique sorts can get tricky. Certain animals need constant power supplied to their habitats, so power outages can be disastrous. In this case, a backup generator would be necessary. Some pets need certain food requirements with certain storage necessities, like a fridge large enough to fit some of the foods.

Pricing of such dorms can be tricky but having them available would be so much better than not. The overall need for proper dorms to accommodate the growing crowd of students bringing their ESA and service animals to university is pressing.

I think the need for such living arrangements is more important than some of the projects that NSU has so far deemed worthy of capital funding. But until that day comes, I will continue to push for better service animal accommodations beyond just the place of residency, but also in public areas as well.