Emotional support animals’ growing presence

Katherine Weber, Contributing Writer

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Jonsi, a miniature American Shepherd, is the first emotional support animal allowed on campus. Owner, Haley Furman can often be seen around campus accompanied by Jonsi. Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

Sophomore biology major, Haley Furman, may stand out to some because of her striking, curly, aqua-colored hair, but University of Dallas students also notice her because of a certain four-legged companion that often accompanies her around campus.

That little companion is Jonsi, a three-year-old gray and white miniature American Shepherd, whom Furman adopted as a puppy in the summer of 2012.

Furman is no stranger to animals. She grew up around a number of various farm animals, from chickens to horses, on a ranch in Rogers, Texas, which explains her hope to use her biology degree to study veterinary medicine.

Her cute little puppy, however, is no ordinary canine: she acts as an emotional support animal for Furman (though she is not a certified service dog).

Jonsi’s qualification as an emotional support animal has helped shape the university’s pet policy.

The issue of a pet living on campus had not previously been brought to light, as Jonsi was the first pet (besides small fish) officially allowed to live on campus.

When the issue was brought to his attention, President Thomas Keefe made special provisions for Furman to allow Jonsi in her room and in the stretch of hall between the door and her room, as well as in any outdoor area.

Other universities across the country have similarly begun to adjust their no-pet housing policies to accommodate students with support animals, as the New York Times reported earlier this month.

The University of Nebraska was fined $140,000 under the Fair Housing Act, which prevents discrimination against students with disabilities, for denying two students emotional support animals.

A federal judge refused to dismiss a similar case at Kent State University last year.

While not legally binding at UD or other universities, the lawsuits and subsequent rulings at the University of Nebraska and Kent State do introduce precedents for allowing support animals to live on campus.

Some universities, such as St. Mary’s College of Maryland, have created compromises between animal owners and students with allergies. For instance, students who have support animals may use other washing machines to prevent dander cross-contamination.

Universities can deny a student’s request for an emotional support animal if the animal is too large or aggressive, or is likely to damage property.

These exceptions will likely not apply to 33-pound Jonsi, who loves meeting students and spends much of her time outside or in Furman’s dorm room in O’Connell Hall.

Students will probably see Furman walking or biking around with Jonsie if they happen to wander outdoors.

Jonsi has yet another trait that makes her unique: she is deaf. Unlike most dogs, who respond to people who call them by their name, Jonsi will not.

Furman says Jonsi’s deafness has had both pros and cons. While it makes Jonsi focus on Furman much more than a normal dog would, she cannot hear commands Furman gives her.

It is also far more difficult to get her attention, as well as to train her.

To remedy this, Furman hopes to save up enough money to invest in a vibrating collar.

Furman says that Jonsi is great with people and loves meeting new friends. She also knows how to cheer you up if your day is not going so well, which is something anyone loves in a dog.

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