Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Jayne Fraley-Burgett

Second Advisor

Michele McGrady


This research pertains to Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) on university campuses. It explores the need for ESAs (specifically for college students), differentiates between types of support animals, and discusses benefits and controversies that come along with ESAs on campus. Following this, it sets up a research study that can be used at Western Michigan University relating to student experience with ESA utilization and approval. The study, if performed, would give insight to student experiences, and help the University in supporting the maximum number of students. Emotional support animals have many benefits for college students, including but not limited to, a comforting presence, social integration, emotional regulation, and motivation. In the present, more college students are struggling with mental health challenges than ever. This led to an increase in demand for ESAs around the country. Since ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act, they are entitled to living within University housing. Despite this increasing demand, many universities nationwide were found to be underprepared through their policies and plans to handle support animal requests. It is important to discuss the importance of qualifying student access to ESAs, for both legal and personal reasons. They make campuses accessible for more students, and access to an ESA when qualified is essential to student success in and out of the classroom. Research shows a multitude of benefits from the human-animal bond, the main benefit of an ESA. Both qualitative and quantitative data relating to this was studied throughout the project. University policies nationwide were also analyzed, as well as university counselor perceptions of ESAs on campus. Suggestions for university policies are also included. It was found that there is still much progress to make within universities when it comes to support animal requests and procedures. There are also a variety of potential challenges that college campuses must prepare for when it comes to animals in housing. However, ESAs are essential to those who qualify, and the benefits are discussed within this analysis.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

presentation.pdf (1377 kB)