Please Note: This is my personal experience and journey in regards to having an Emotional Support Animal. My journey will not match yours or even a stranger’s journey and will be nothing similar to a Service Animal journey. I simply wanted to share what I did to get Apple approved to live on Campus with me.
Hello, so as many of you may know, I began attending Queens University of Charlotte this past August. Which has honestly been the cause of my lack of updating this blog. Which is ridiculous because I feel like I have so much to share with you guys. But I’ve realized that I never explained the process of getting an Emotional Support Animal approved to live on Campus.
I knew from the beginning, during the college decision process that whatever school I decided to attend had to allow me to have Apple. Whether it was as a legitimate pet, I lived at home, or he was approved to be an ESA.
The first misconception that you should know about ESA’s: They do not have to receive a certification in order to be an ESA. Emotional Support Animals are exactly that- emotional support and they are very different from Service Animals. Websites like CertaPet and so much more can not guarantee that your pet will become an ESA.
My relationship with CertaPet is actually very weird. I had decided to start searching for routes to go that would allow me to bring Apple and I genuinely did believe that CertaPet could give you the ability to have an Emotional Support Animal on Campus. I ended up paying the absurd amount of money that they wanted after I took the test that told me that I qualified to have an Emotional Support Animal and I was set up with a meeting with one of the people that work for CertaPet and explained my situation.
Which I quickly learned that CertaPet doesn’t really work with colleges and institutions but with the help of the person that you’re set up with, will write a letter explaining your situation to apartment owners and other places that do not accept pets. Under certain laws, Emotional Support Animals are allowed to live with you as long as it is for a health reason. It is illegal not to allow you to live in an apartment simply because of your animal. However, it doesn’t work the same with Universities and Colleges and I was actually refunded by CertaPet due to this but I did start up an online correspondence with the Mental Health Professional that I was connected with.
She strongly believed that I qualified for an Emotional Support Animal and was willing to help me and explain the process to me in any way that she could.
A lot of this journey is directly related to Queens University. It may be different for every university but I emailed the head of the Disability Services and explained my situation. I had a meeting with him where he explained that I needed to provide documentation of my mental illness that also indicated that they believed I would be a good candidate for an emotional support animal.
The problem with this fact was that I had been diagnosed officially about a year ago with PTSD and a Generalized Anxiety Disorder that was brought on by PTSD. However, I no longer saw a Therapist as I struggled with communication during that time (and I am still apprehensive about it).
So when he asked for documentation, I emailed my past therapist and asked for my medical documents that indicated my official diagnosis and sent it to him.
His follow up question was asking if there was anyway that he could contact my therapist and talk to them. Under permission by the mental health professional that I met through CertaPet, I gave him my official Therapist’s name and number but that we no longer spoke and I no longer attended sessions and also gave him the name and number from CertaPet, explaining that they knew my situation better but that they were never an official therapist of mine.
After a few days, I received an email back that I had been approved for having an ESA.
The second misconception that you should know: ESA’s do not have to have official training to deal with your mental illness. They do not have to trained to notice and help you deal with your panic attacks or whatever other issue you have. They are simply meant to be an emotional crutch and do not require specialized training.
Apple actually does sense my panic attacks and knows to lay on my feet so that I can pick him up and allows me to hug him until I calm down. He has also been known to sense when I am about to have a panic attack. I believe it’s remarkable that he can do this but I imagine that it is because I have had issues with panic attacks since before I got him, and every time I was freaking out, I would grab him and hold him until I calmed down. I suppose he started notice signs when this was about to happen.
Something surprising? I was never asked if Apple was up to date on his rabies or ferret distemper shot. Right before I moved to Queens, I did go to the vet where he received both of these shots but I was surprised that I was never asked for documentation to prove this fact.
As for Apple’s life on Campus?
I try to take him out for daily walks unless it is raining or if I am too busy which allows him to meet and interact with a lot of the students on campus. He’s pretty popular and as I’m walking him, I often hear HIS name being called out from across campus. I think it’s safe to say that Apple’s pretty popular around here.
Misconception about Ferrets: Ferrets are capable of walking on a leash. Like all animals, they must be trained to do so and may not like it a whole lot due to the lack of freedom. But it is possible. However, they can not wear collars because if they’re head can fit through it then they can and collars don’t really work for them so you have to find a ferret harness which usually also comes with a leash! (I have like 3 leashes from attempts of trying to find Apple the right size since he’s so small.)
Otherwise, he just lives in his cage (which I upgraded to a ferret nation that is literally taller than me) and plays around in my dorm room. I originally had a roommate but that was a short lived experience (that I will explain very soon into the future) but I do plan on getting another one.
Where is Apple allowed to go?
Apple is allowed to be in my dorm, the hallways of my dormitory, and campus grounds. He, however, is not allowed to go into classrooms, the cafeteria, the coffeehouse, restaurants on campus, or other dorms. He is not a service animal and is not trained in a way that allows him to go to these places.
Can people pet him if they see him?
It is important to remember that ESA’s and service animals are very different from each other, especially in this situation. While Apple is not a pet, he is also not working when you see him around campus.
The reason why you can not pet a service dog is because it distracts them from their owner which can be very bad encase the person goes through an episode or situation and is need of their service animal.
While Apple does help me in many ways, the situation is not the same. Because of this, I do allow people to pet him. Partially because I love giving people the opportunity to experience petting a ferret and partially because Apple absolutely adores the situation. Unless I am dealing with something (and I would not be walking him if that was the case) then I don’t have a problem with people petting him or holding.
HOWEVER, it should be noted that this is my decision about how to handle the situation and other people might decide on something else. Allows ask if you can pet the animal, regardless of whether you know they’ll allow it because you never know. Do NOT get upset if they say no because there is a reason. Do not ignore their wishes, do not be rude, and simply accept their response.
If it is a service animal, please don’t even bother asking. The answer is no and the harness clearly says “DO NOT PET.” They are working and are not there for your enjoyment and neither are ESA’s however Service Animals are completely different and it is simply not allowed.
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Facebook: Sabrina L. Ingram.
Apple’s Instagram: @apple_the_ferret
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