How Emotional Support Animals are Saving College Students

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Taylor Perline
A golden retriever sitting in the grass.

Stressed? Overworked? Sleep-deprived? These are common signs of being a typical college student! Many students don’t know how to help themselves and end up falling deeper and deeper into not feeling “okay.” More and more, students are turning to their favorite furry friends, also known as emotional support animals (ESAs), to help relieve their stressors! As a pre-veterinary student, ESAs hold a special place in my heart as well as many others, and on April 30th we celebrate National Therapy Animal Day!

What’s an ESA?

ESAs are a furry (or feathery, or scaly) companion that provides comfort and support to people facing emotional or mental health challenges. Unlike service animals, ESAs don't need to be specially trained, but they still hold the power to make a world of difference in our lives.

What Can an ESA Do for College Students?

The benefits truly don’t stop! Lonely? Living away from family and childhood friends can be tough. But with an ESA by your side, you can feel so much less alone! They don’t judge their owners or stress you out like a scary professor might. They simply enjoy our presence and stand with their owners until the end!

What About Health Benefits?

ESAs can provide those, too! It has been proven that owners of an ESA have increased exercise levels, which can help boost heart health, as well as general health! With long study hours that college students have, getting up and playing with an ESA can get your body moving! There are also proven mental health benefits to an ESA. These include increased levels of dopamine and serotonin (the chemicals that make you feel happy).

Even if adopting and raising an ESA isn’t in the cards for your college lifestyle, being aware of them around campus is important! Many students may not know of the benefits of an ESA. Start the conversation and educate others about how an ESA could benefit them or people they know during college. Think about it, your campus could be filled with wagging tails, purring pets, and smiling faces!

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