ESA’s are the cat’s pajamas!

Maddie Urness, Columnist

Justice Vue

If you live on campus, you are probably aware of the residence policy that says “THE ONLY PETS ALLOWED ARE FISH.” 

You are also probably aware that some people living on campus have animals that are most definitely not fish. I’m here to tell you how that’s possible. You see, these non-fish animals are Emotional Support Animals, or ESA’s.  

Before you try to tell me “I don’t have the time to train an animal!”, emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. There are no qualification requirements for determining whether a specific pet is appropriate to serve as an emotional support animal. 

So basically, an emotional support animal is a person’s pet that lives with that person and provides emotional support. However, you need recommendation from a licensed professional saying that an ESA would be beneficial to you, so don’t think just anyone can get their pet approved. 

If college has taught me anything, it’s that I have depression, and I have heard a lot of people can relate to this. In fact, up to 44% of college students have symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. If you are part of this 44%, you’re in luck (aside from the whole “being depressed” part) because you may be eligible for an ESA. You are also eligible if you have any other qualifying mental health or psychiatric disabilities. 

No matter what type of pet you have, there are many advantages and disadvantages to owning an ESA, and speaking from experience, you will definitely want to consider every one. Let’s look at some pros and cons.



Happiness: I think this one’s a given, it’s in the name! The ability to have your four-legged friend with you at campus to give you emotional support and joy is so fulfilling.

Responsibility: Another benefit to owning an ESA is the new responsibility that you now have. You now need to wake up at a consistent time every day and stick to schedules for your pet, and my room has also been pretty clean since getting a cat just saying. 

Friendship: Not only do you have a companion, you have a mini friend who has to listen to everything you say, and they can’t tell anybody your secrets! 


Money: Now that you have an ESA, the biggest thing you have to worry about is potential vet bills and the overall cost of taking care of your pet. I think I spend an average of about $60/month on food, toys and litter for my cat, and the vet bills are even more expensive. 

Energy: You also have to keep in mind that you need to stick to a schedule of feeding and taking care of your ESA even when you are busy, tired or sick. This includes cleaning up after them, making sure they aren’t bored, taking them on walks (if applicable), keeping them off the counters and tables, etc. 

Responsibility: I know I listed this as a pro, but sometimes, the responsibility can be overwhelming. If you get an ESA you have to build your schedule around them, and traveling can be difficult when you need to bring your pet.

Bullying: I don’t know about other animals, but if you have a cat, they will scratch and bite you and everything in sight…and steal your food and yell at you. 

Annoying: Just trust me on this one. 

Death: There is also the inevitable possibility of your ESA dying, but let’s just hope that doesn’t happen during your time at Hamline. If it does, you can work with ResLife to see if you can get a new ESA.


If you’ve read all of these factors and still think that an ESA is right for you, then you can start to go through the process. Whether you have a cat, lizard, toad, hedgehog, rat or any other animal, the process to get them approved for dorm life is virtually the same. 

The first thing you need to do before you can bring your pet to campus is obtain a letter from your therapist or doctor saying that an ESA would be beneficial for you and your mental and/or physical disabilities. This can be the most difficult part of the process (or at least will probably take the longest unless you already have a doctor or therapist here in the cities). Once you get the letter, the rest is fairly easy. 


If you’re looking to certify your family pet, or you adopted a friend that already has their shots, then you are all good to go to the next step. But if your pet can get a rabies shot (cats and dogs) and is not vaccinated for rabies: DO THAT IMMEDIATELY! You cannot bring your animal onto campus until they have this shot, so schedule it RIGHT NOW. 


Next up: get Hamline’s approval. This is a two-part process that is super easy as long as you have your ESA letter and your pet’s vaccination documentation. First, you’ll meet with Steve Anderson the director of Disability Resources. He will tell you if your letter looks good, and then send you a couple of forms to fill out. 

Then, he will contact Residential Life informing them that you are eligible and ready for part two: more forms! Yolanda Hansen, (formerly Armstrong- she just got married!) the director of ResLife, will send you a form where you can add your vet documents, emergency contact and other information about your animal. 

Then after it’s looked over, you will get an email saying you are 100% approved. Only after you have a meeting with Steve and you get an email from Residential Life approving your ESA, can you bring your animal on campus. 

Once on campus, dogs get a little bit of a grace period for a couple weeks while they adjust to dorm life, and all animals that aren’t cats need to be in a kennel or cage of some sort when you aren’t in the room. 


Getting an ESA for your dorm can be a lot of work. It takes a lot of responsibility to take care of another life on top of turning in your school assignments, but it’s worth it at the end of the day to come back to your room and see your pet sitting by the door waiting for you.