Lovable companions increase on campus


Abram Carter

Katt Snyder’s emotional support animal Smaug, lays on a bed.

Abram Carter, [email protected], News writer

 UNC Asheville sees a large increase in Emotional Support Animals as students come to grips with the pandemic era. Support animals are all over the UNCA campus and are usually friendly and ready to comfort their owners anyway they can. 

Those with animals said they can really help those who need a companion and are lonely while navigating  the pandemic or everyday situations like mood changes, depression and happiness. 

“My cat really keeps me grounded for when I am about to slip into a sad spell, but if I have my cat with me it becomes more of a comfy experience,” said Katt Snyder, a freshman at UNCA. 

There are a lot of questions that are brought up during the process of getting an emotional support animal, and one of the most frequent questions posed to students by school officials is whether the animal will be comfortable living in a college dorm environment and if it is enough space for them to live in. 

For many, it seems the animals who currently live on campus don’t have too much of a problem with the environment and easily get along with everyone, causing minimal problems. 

“I am surprised at how well my cat does here. He was really nervous for the first couple of days,” Snyder said. 

Animals are required to have full documentation and owners must go through a long process in order to have the animal around them and in residence halls. This process requires students to email the office of Accessibility Services and set up meetings, sign papers, have documentation from a therapist and make sure rooms are in good condition. 

“I filled out a bunch of forms for the school and there are five mainly huge forms. Afterward, I emailed the ESA office and told them that I was finished. Once all my papers were sent in, I had a meeting with the ESA staff in the bottom floor of the library,” Snyder said.

Students are advised to have documentation for themselves as well, with some bringing  in doctor and therapist recommendations. 

“I had to get a new therapist here in Asheville, and after around a month of going, they wrote me a letter saying I should have an emotional support cat in my room,” Snyder said. 

Erin Cunningham, a resident assistant and student with a support animal, said the process of getting a licensed therapist and their approval for the animal proved beneficial. 

“In my experience, you have to have all your paperwork done before the deadline, which is about three months in advance,” Cunningham said. “And people need to make sure that they have a professional and licensed therapist for the school to know about.” 

RA’s have some of the most responsibility when it comes to support animals, as they are required to have a sheet with the number of every room that has an animal living in it.  

They must also make sure the owners follow protocols and keep everything in line in case of emergencies. 

“I am an RA in Governors Hall, and the owners with animals have to have a double room. This reason is for animal space,” Cunningham said. 

In the case of emergency measures like fire drills, it is especially important for RA’s to know where a support animal is staying and the contact information for the owner and suitemates. 

“We used to have to inform people with an ESA about fire drills, but now we have to use carriers for the animals. Personally I like to cover mine in a blanket for safety. Animals should be in the owner’s room or in a cage just in case so that RAs can find the animal in emergency situations,” Cunningham said. 

There are plenty of pros to having a support animal, the main being a benefit to the owner, but some said those benefits extend to room and suitemates that share the room with the animal. 

Grace Mejia, a resident who shares a suite with a support animal after moving at the start of the semester, said life with an animal is different than living without one, she has also said that her experiences living with one have been good so far. 

“Living with an ESA really depends on the animal’s behavior and how responsible the owner is,” said Mejia

Even though Snyder, Mejia and Cunningham said they believe living with a support animal can be therapeutic and help the room be less stressful, there are also many responsibilities that come with owning one.

“It’s actually comforting to have an animal in the dorm,” Mejia said. “Overall, I find it really important to note that everyone in the living environment is affected by the presence of an ESA.”