The transition into college is a trying time, especially for those leaving home — their friends and family a fleeting image in their rearview. 

If only a piece of home could always be with you, acting as emotional support, a guide to prevent hindrances or just an adorable, cuddly companion. Angela Strider, assistant director of residence life and business services, discusses the likeliness of the residence halls’ pet policy changing in the near future, to extend beyond fish in 20-gallon tanks. 

“Since it hasn’t officially changed, I hate to get too much into the details, but we are proposing that it would include common household pets like cats, dogs and some other aquarium type animals,” Strider said.

She believes that this change will help ease the stress of moving into dorms and make the university feel more like home.

“Since what we are proposing would be a pretty big change, we are only wanting to roll this out as a pilot program on a floor in Woods and maybe a floor in Freddy," Strider said.

On the other hand, Residence Life has always allowed service and emotional support animals for those in need, as long as one is aware of the rules and regulations, according to the “Residence Hall Guide to Living,” on Missouri State's website. 

“Emotional support and service animals are different and each have their own policy,” Strider said. “The Americans with Disabilities Act is what governs these.” 

In 1990, this law was passed by Congress to protect against discrimination in daily life and facilitate equal opportunity. However, this notion of equality was not the first of its kind. In 1965, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formed and created a system to help increase homeownership by allowing for more affordable housing and held the same strong stance against discrimination. 

“These laws govern the usage of support animals,” Strider said. “Since 2013 we have seen an increase in emotional support animals, probably because more folks know about the law, however, we have about the same number of ESAs and service animals this year as we have the last few years.” 

According to Strider, regular pets are governed by university policy, whereas ESA and service animals are governed by the law.

Service and support animals are two separate entities. A support animal is utilized to relieve students of their stressors if they have any disabilities, such as an anxiety disorder. Whereas service animals are trained to “level the playing field” by reducing obstacles, such as a dog guide for someone who is blind. There is a wide array of available ESAs and service pets, from dogs to miniature horses, as long as they pose no threat and are strictly maintained, as stated by the school website. 

Strider is enthusiastic about the potential for change but hopes students understand the amount of responsibility involved.

“Anytime you are responsible for an animal, there is an additional responsibility to care for the animal, but I would imagine most students who have animals would say it’s worth the additional responsibility,” Strider said. “We’re excited to see how this pilot program works out.”