May 25, 2020

Service dogs lending a helping paw

Organizations like Residential Life, Center for Health and Wellness, as well as individual resident assistants have helped bring dogs to campus during finals week to help stressed out students.

Most of our population likes or loves dogs, and according to a study done by Associated, 74 percent of Americans like dogs. Dogs, and all pets, can be great companions for all ages, but there are actually health benefits behind having pets.

Studies by the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health have shown that human-dog interactions actually lower blood pressure. Blood pressure levels were lowest when participants were petting dogs and highest when talking to those conducting the study.

Another study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employees who took their dogs to work reported lower stress, and that those with pets have less stress and better overall health.

Because of the health benefits, schools, hospitals and nursing homes have brought in dogs for their students and patients, and Capital has also participated in this.

“Staff at Saylor-Ackermann has done a program with dogs; Center for Health and Wellness co-sponsors those,” John Geyer, director of Residential and Commuter Life, said.

There are organizations like Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Love on a Leash that work towards certifications for service dogs, as well as host these kinds of events for students.

Universities like Yale Law, Fordham University, Oberlin College and the University of Connecticut have all implemented pet therapy programs with trained dogs. The response from students was incredibly positive, and many said the program helped with decreasing stress from classes and finals.

Capital staff hasn’t talked much about having a service dog program, mostly because of the challenges that come along with taking care of the animal day to day, as well as over long breaks.

“At other schools, somebody is responsible for the care of that animal beyond when it’s on campus,” Geyer said.

Center for Health and Wellness as well as disability services work with students needing service dogs and emotional support animals on campus. This process starts by getting in contact with disability services and requesting accommodations, and then meeting with staff to assess the needs of the student to develop a plan best suited for each student.

If a service animal is best suited for the student, approval is needed by roommates and hallmates, in order to avoid those with pet allergies.

“Just making sure there’s good separation between what is considered an emotional support animal and service animals,” Geyer said. “Service animals are more specifically trained to provide a specific service to an individual who has a need, they can be a wide spectrum of services they provide. Then, a support animal is more for emotional support. So, we draw a pretty clear line between those in our policy.”

Geyer talked about how pets would likely not be allowed in dorms at this time, due to the concerns with allergies and cleanliness, as well as problems in creating pet-friendly housing, but it is up for discussion.

“[You have to consider] what investments would have to be made … and if you devote an entire space to pet-friendly housing, are you going to fill it,” said Geyer. “So, it’s something that we’ve explored and seen research on, and we continue to look at as a potential option in the future.”

  • Julie is the web editor of the Chimes and is a third-year Professional Writing and Journalism and Creative Writing major at Capital University.

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