Emotional Service Animals helping some students cope

By Emma Sunderman

Leila, one of the ESAs who live on campus. She is a young, spunky Miniature Pinscher/ Jack Russell Terrier mix who brings joy to her owner and other students on campus.
Leila, one of the ESAs who live on campus. She is a young, spunky Miniature Pinscher/ Jack Russell Terrier mix who brings joy to her owner and other students on campus.

New College is dedicated to helping students with disabilities succeed on campus. For students with certain emotional disabilities, living in campus housing can be stressful or even debilitating.

Some doctors and therapists have found that an Emotional Support Animal can ease the stress for some patients. To that end, Student Disability Services has a process in place to allow students to be able to have a support animal with them on campus.

“We want to be clear there is a difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal,” that aids with physical and certain mental disabilities, said Ruthann Daniel-Harteis, assistant director of Student Disability Services.

To be allowed to have an Emotional Support Animal on campus, Daniel-Harteis says the the student must have diagnosed condition that rises to the level of disability which means, according to the The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, ” mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” and have an ongoing relationship with an appropriate physician who approves the need for the animal. “It’s part of a treatment plan for their disability,” she said.

In order to bring an ESA to New College, you must apply for one with the Student Disability Services office in HCL 3. You will have to complete a survey about your disability and answer as to why you think an ESA would benefit you. After the survey is turned in, Disability Services representatives will schedule a meeting with you to go over the survey. During this meeting, you will be asked to provide a letter from your personal physician (psychologist, doctor, nurse practitioner) detailing their assessment of your mental state.

There is also an annual review process in place to be sure any animal would continue to provide benefits to a student’s health.

There are about 20 students currently enrolled that can have support animals on campus, Daniel-Harteis said.

While application’s can be turned in at any point of the semester, the process will be much faster and smoother if you apply during the semester or summer before you intend to bring an ESA to campus. Finally, if your application is accepted, you will be asked to sign a contract regarding your conduct and the conduct of the animal.

“Technically, any animal could be an Emotional Support Animal,” Daniel-Harteis added, saying there are practical limits. “We would not allow an animal that could be a danger to others; a poisonous snake, for example. Any specific animal that has shown aggressive behavior, or would carry diseases, would also be rejected, she explained.

Students report that having an ESA:

  • Has made them more social. Some of the ESAs on campus have become playmates which has strengthened the ESA community. Also, people you don’t even know will approach you and start a conversation while they steal some hugs from your dog. This is any easy way to meet new people and form new relationships.
  • Has made them more motivated to do schoolwork. When you have an animal snuggle up to you and keep you company while you’re writing an essay, you are likely to be more productive.
  • Makes the housing process easier. ESAs are only permitted in Pei, Dort/Gold, and Z Dorm. Housing and Disability Services works hard to accommodate you and your animals. In some cases, they will offer you the opportunity to bring another student when transferring dorms.
  • Has made them feel more relaxed and confident. One student noted, “It’s really nice to come home from a bad day and be greeted by someone who loves you unconditionally. They depend on you and it makes you feel like you have a purpose.”

– Emma Sunderman is a student intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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