Looking into Marist's Service Animal Policy

For Marist College student Marisa Prezioso, a four-legged friend is more than just a furry face that fetches tennis balls and kisses cheeks. She looks to them to help her carry out basic, day to day functions.

The junior Psychology and Criminal Justice double major was diagnosed with a mild anxiety. To help combat her condition, she adopted Luke, a six month old Plott Hound/Labrador Mix rescue from Alabama. Prezioso stated Luke helps her with her anxiety by lowering her blood pressure and bringing comfort to her in high stress situations such as exam periods.

 Marisa Prezioso pictured with her dog, Luke

Marisa Prezioso pictured with her dog, Luke

Prezioso and Luke reside in Fox Run housing, located only a few minutes away from the main campus. According to Prezioso, Fox Run has a very considerate and welcoming stance on the emotional support animals that are housed alongside their owners.

The only thing Fox Run required from Prezioso was that she presented a letter from her psychiatrist verifying that Luke was a service dog.

“Fox Run is really nice about [accommodating these service animals],” said Prezioso. “It was really nice of them to do that.”

And Prezioso isn’t the only resident with a service dog. Student Alec Hill tells the story of Fox Run residents Brian Rackliffe and Rein Whitelaw and their emotional support dogs Breezy and Clout. Prezioso also notes the presence of doggy bag stations spotted around the complex.

The college allows these animals to live on campus under two categories: service animals, and assistance, or emotional support, animals.

Service animals are defined as, “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability,” according to the Marist Service and Support Animal Policy. The policy continues to state, “Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.”

These dogs must be on leashes or in harnesses at all times, according to the college’s policy, and people who utilize these animal’s services are allowed to have their dog accompany them “in all areas of a private entity's facilities where members of the private, participants in services, programs or activities, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.”

In contrast, emotional support animals are not just limited to dogs; the policy defines them as any animal “that works, provides assistance, performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”

Another differentiation between assistance animals and service animals is that assistance animals are only allowed in residence halls. When outside, they must be in carriers or on leashes, and they are prohibited from going into any Marist facility aside from the dorm their owner lives in.

Before considering living at Fox Run, Prezioso inquired about registering Luke as an assistance animal with the college. However, upon first glance at the process, she described it as though the college was “trying to make it impossible to have [these animals] on campus.”

Prezioso recounted a lengthy, 11 to 12 page form she needed to fill out in order to register Luke as an assistance animal. Additionally, she also recalled the application needing to be approved by an unidentified campus figure.

“I don’t think that’s really right,” she said. “If someone who really needs an emotional support animal wants [one], they should have one.”

Other colleges, such as Ramapo College in New Jersey and Brown University in Rhode Island, have adopted similar rules concerning emotional support animals in terms of being open to any species of animal and the animal’s presence being limited to the student’s on-campus residence.

Meredith Mackowicz, a student writer for St. Mary’s University’s chapter of HerCampus and owner of an emotional support cat, listed that the pros of having an emotional support animal with her at college include having something always there for her; having something to give her productivity and accountability in terms of taking care of the pet; having something to make her laugh; and having something that knows what to do when she has an anxiety attack.

“It’s nice to have a companion there,” reflected Prezioso. “It’s nice to have something to hold, something to have at the end of the day to be there for you.”

Alexandria WattsComment