Policy Regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)
PLU Counseling, Health and Wellness Services (CHWS) clinicians and counseling staff cannot provide documentation for Emotional Support Animals (ESA).
CHWS acknowledges the frequent requests to provide support and documentation for students who wish to have an Emotional Support Animal on campus. We truly understand the love and connection people can have with animals, how they benefit us, and many students’ desires to have one. While agreeing that many people enjoy and take comfort in a relationship with an animal, CHWS is not able to provide assessments nor provide documentation to establish the need for ESAs.
Diagnosis of a disability resulting in support of an Emotional Support Animal is a complex process that requires several sessions in order to understand the presence, intensity, and duration of various symptoms, degree of impairment in several areas of life functioning, and an evaluation of how an ESA would help mitigate symptoms and improve functioning. These assessments are not within the scope of practice at CHWS, and there are potential ethical and legal implications. This position is consistent with the recommendations outline by Younggren et.al. (2016) in “Examining Emotional Support Animals and Role Conflicts in Professional Psychology.” https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000083
Students who are interested and wish to be evaluated should seek this documentation from a prior licensed medical or mental health provider, current primary care physician, or through local community resources. To find a mental health professional in our area, a good place to start is to contact your health insurance provider. Or, follow this link to search for local therapists.
- Please note, CHWS discourages use of online resources that promise ESA support letters for a fee. These sources are usually fraudulent and may not contain required documentation.
We Can Still Help!
While CHWS does not issue letters of support for Emotional Support Animals, we do fully work with students for the whole range of psychological and medical issues, including all concerns which may underlie the need for Emotional Support Animals.
- Emotional Support Animals are viewed under the Federal Housing Act (FHAct, 42 U.S.C.A. 3601 et seq) as a “reasonable accommodation” for those who have a physical or mental/psychological disability.
- ESAs, sometimes used as part of a treatment plan, are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These animals are considered a different category than service animals.