After being placed on a waiting list for about six months, the day had finally arrived.
Eric Hard, a former Salt Lake Community College student, received word that a service dog had been assigned to him.
“I was lucky in my process [of] getting a service dog since I was introduced to a local company here in Utah,” he says. “The process involved me meeting the owner, explaining why I need a service dog, if I was capable of the care, and extended training required after receiving one.”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” The service animal’s duties must be directly related to their person’s disability.
“With me being Type 1 diabetic, there are many times where I do not feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia,” Hard explains. “These dogs’ ability to pick up on the scent of changes in blood sugar levels is far more accurate than any other medical device out there at this time.”
However, Hard only recommends getting a service animal if a person is in absolute need.
“You have to be willing to put in the work, deal with the general public, and educate yourself and others,” he says. “It’s a nonstop commitment. But, the work you put into these animals is reciprocated beyond measures.”
Animals for emotional support
For people who don’t require a service animal, pet ownership still has its benefits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, having a pet can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and feelings of loneliness; a pet also brings new opportunities for socialization and exercise.
Walter Garcia, a former SLCC student, explains how getting a dog helped his son’s confidence. He describes how his son had faced some bullying issues at school and started to become withdrawn at home.
Within days of getting the dog, Garcia says that he noticed a complete change in his son’s demeanor.
“It helped a lot, especially with his self-esteem,” he says. “He started going out to play more and he was genuinely happy again.”
Most people think of their pet as their friend, family, or companion. People who suffer from an emotional disability can qualify for an emotional support animal, and in some cases, even a service animal.
Megan Quinn, a business and marketing student at SLCC, says that her emotional support dog has been quite beneficial compared to other traditional treatment methods.
“I don’t have to rely on pills — the cost, taking them daily and adding unnatural substances to my body to alter my mood,” she says.
Service animals at SLCC
Unfortunately, individuals who own emotional support dogs, like Quinn and Garcia, are not allowed to bring their animals on campus.
According to the Disability Resource Center, individuals may bring service animals into SLCC public buildings, classrooms, offices, and other areas. Only dogs, and in some cases, miniature horses, are considered service animals.
College staff is only allowed to ask an individual two questions about the animal:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
To avoid any confusion, the ADA has further clarified the difference between a psychiatric service animal and an emotional support animal:
If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.
The DRC’s interim director, Faye Edebiri, states that her goal is to facilitate access and inclusion and to provide reasonable accommodations to students.
“The DRC is a wonderful resource to help students with disabilities gain access to programs at SLCC,” she says. “I support providing access to a broader range of students that enriches the educational community in support of providing access to educational opportunities for all who attend.”