By Alyssa Weston
The policy on service animals, service-in-training animals and emotional support animals on campus was recently revised by representatives from the Youngstown State University Division of Student Experience, Disability Services and the Office of Human Resources.
Students and staff were made aware of these changes by a campuswide email on Jan. 13 from the YSU Division of Student Experience.
Similar to federal and state laws, students, employees and visitors with documented disabilities are allowed the use of service animals on university grounds.
Students in university housing are allowed to use emotional support animals if approved by the Office of Housing and Residence Life and Disability Services.
Eddie Howard, vice president for student affairs, said the newly revised policy eliminates the gray area between service animals and emotional support animals.
“The policy really clarifies the difference,” he said. “If people have issues, that will be listed [within the policy] for you to read and fully understand what the guidelines and a policy set.”
Sally Frederick, a sophomore individualized curriculum major in the College of Health and Human Services, uses her medical alert dog to aid in dizzy spells that result from an undiagnosed vertigo condition.
“One second, I’m standing. The next second, I’m on the ground. She will let me know when I have to sit down,” Frederick said. “If she continues to alert when I’m in a chair, that’s when I know it’s going to be bad and I need to be on the floor. Then she’ll sit there and eventually get up and let me know I can get up.”
In Frederick’s opinion, there are basic guidelines the general public should know about service animals.
“Don’t talk to the dog. Don’t touch the dog. The dog is working. Even if you just go, ‘Oh my God, a dog,’ that distracts her for a split second, and it’s enough that she can miss key points that would save me from falling,” she said.
After spending five years unable to leave her house, she invested in a service dog and decided to pursue a career that would help disabled people gain access and information on service dogs.
Frederick said without her service dog, she wouldn’t be able to attend YSU.
“I want to make a difference for people who don’t know how to get a service dog and weren’t sure where to start to get the knowledge to train their own,” she said.
According to servicedogcertifications.org, service animals can cost upward of $25,000 and aren’t always covered by insurance.
With her individualized degree, Frederick hopes to make service animals more accessible to those who need them.
She said YSU Disability Services has been a great resource for her and helps inform professors of the situation.
Megan Cutlip, a senior criminal justice major, said her therapist saw a need for her to have an emotional support dog to help with stress and anxiety after she was hit by a car four months ago.
Unlike service animals, Cutlip said her emotional support animal is not allowed to attend classes with her. Instead, the dog stays at her on-campus apartment.
“I think a lot of people don’t know that [emotional support animals] can be very helpful, and even though it’s a very long process to get an emotional support animal, I feel like it is very beneficial for you, especially if you’re struggling,” Cutlip said.
For Cutlip, her emotional support dog eases her stress and anxiety.
“When I come home to her, she gets, like, all excited and runs up to me at the door. It just makes a bad day turn to a good day,” she said.