A New Kind of Student Is Welcomed On Campus

By Nicole Fitzsimmons, News Editor

This fall, a normal walk onto the quadrangle could lead you to see various dogs on campus. The college has recently seen an influx of animals on campus, including emotional support animals and service animals, now that the college is fully in-person.

While emotional support animals need to be registered through the Specialized Resource Center, service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are not required to be registered with the school.

According to the Service Animal Statement on Manhattan College’s website, “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the service animal must directly relate to the person’s disability.”

The school staff may only ask two questions: whether the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task is the animal required to perform.

Sabrina Boyum, sophomore philosophy and sociology double major, has just completed her first week of classes with her service dog, a chocolate labradoodle named Reese. Reese is currently the only service animal on campus. 

Boyum and Reese are living in a suite in Lee Hall with her roommate Annie Brennan, a sophomore communications major with a concentration in media production. In the morning, before Reese starts her work for the day, she eats and goes on a walk with Boyum. Before classes, Boyum puts Reese in her service animal vest and begins her schedule. After work, Reese might play fetch on the quadrangle or relax in Lee.

“She’ll join me for everything,” Boyum said. “She goes to all my classes. All my teachers know about her. She’ll go to the library with me. She was in the library today while I was doing schoolwork. She’s just pretty much everywhere. If I go downtown, she’ll come downtown with me. Yeah, she’s a mobile dog.”

Boyum states how her professors have been extremely supportive in class, some of them even introducing her to the class.

“It’s just like, you got to really talk to the instructor,” Boyum said. “But, as long as she’s not a disturbance to other people, and I make sure that nobody’s allergic to her, she’s fine. And since she’s like, trained not to be a disturbance, she’ll just sit there. Like, she tends to just kind of sometimes fall asleep in class, if it’s very clear that I’m doing okay, and she’s not like super needed, she’ll just rest. So it’s like, she spends the majority of her day laying at my feet or sitting at my feet.”

Reese is specifically a psychiatric service animal, which Boyum says has completely transformed her time on campus. Reese is a rescue who Boyum self-trained to perform a number of specific tasks, such as deep pressure therapy or monitoring her breathing, or even being a source of comfort throughout the busy day.

During her freshman year, Boyum took the time to decide whether to bring Reese on campus. This year, Boyum does not regret bringing her companion along.

“It’s very scary to be told that you have a disability and that that’s something that you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life,” Boyum said. “But, like, knowing that that also means that I get to have her with me in those spaces, that was like, ‘Okay, I can keep doing this, I have her.”

Despite the extremely positive impact a service animal could have on a college student and anyone diagnosed with a disability, Boyum emphasizes how important it is to give your service animal time to rest and play like any dog would need. 

Senior psychology major, Regina Ricardo, similarly welcomed her moyen poodle, Booker, as a psychiatric service animal to campus this semester. While she thought it was best to bring him home for more training, she is considering bringing him back for the spring semester if he is ready.

Ricardo states that because Booker was still a puppy, he would get separation anxiety and she also did not want to overwork him.

“It just got to a point that I just could tell he’s being overworked because service dogs get washed out where, especially with young service dogs with people who are first time handlers with them, will bring them everywhere and never give them the rest they need and they start getting really frustrated and maybe lash out and just are overworked and then can’t work anymore,” Ricardo said. “So that’s what I was getting worried about with him. So I was like, I’d rather him go home and get the rest and like the proper exercise too. And then like to bring him when he’s more trained versus bringing him here and then have the possibility of him getting overworked.”

Despite Booker being a service animal in training, Ricardo stated that the college was very supportive and accepting for a private institution, who could choose to not house a service animal unlike public schools. Where she is from in New Jersey, service animals in training are not entirely protected by the ADA so having that support from MC was relieving. 

The only complaint Ricardo had throughout this process was dorming. She was originally placed in Horan Hall. She did not want to move halfway through the year since Booker was assimilated into his space. However, the college moved her to Lee Hall into a standalone suite, which she stated was very small. Despite this challenge, they made this space work while Booker was on campus.

“I personally don’t have him here anymore. And, I miss them but I’m also glad that I kind of knew and could read the situation and know what was best for both him and I,” Ricardo said.

It is important to note that animals wearing a service animal vest are at work, which means petting them with this vest can be distracting. Both Boyum and Ricardo stated that they dealt with this sometimes on campus, which was a slight challenge.

Despite some obstacles, awareness of the importance of service animals is essential as their presence grows on campus. Both emotional support animals and service animals alike can introduce key conversations about mental health support to the Manhattan College community while also bringing joy and comfort to their owners and others.