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More animals in college dorms as students seek mental health accommodations

The number of requests and approvals for emotional support animals on some college campuses has doubled, tripled and even more than quadrupled in recent years.

Cierra Putman (WTHR)

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Published: 8:00 PM CST November 17, 2022
Updated: 5:09 PM CST November 18, 2022

Hundreds of animals are currently living on Indiana college campuses. 13 Investigates learned some colleges are seeing increased requests and approvals for emotional support animals (ESAs) and the number of these animals has doubled, tripled and even more than quadrupled in recent years.

Eloise Richardson, a sophomore at Earlham College brought her dog Jake to live with her on campus her second year of college. He's one of 35 emotional support animals on campus.

The year before, Richardson fostered cats as part of a program no longer available on campus. She told 13News she requested to have the dog and those foster cats to help deal with a mental health disability.

"When you pet a dog or a cat, it releases oxytocin and also decreases the stress hormone cortisol," Richardson said.

Credit: WTHR
Eloise Richardson and her dog, Jake, along with a fellow student at Earlham College.

The number of ESAs on each college or university campus differs greatly based on the student population and size. 13 Investigates reached out to 20 Indiana colleges and universities across the state. Seventeen schools responded to our inquiry and 12 provided a year or more of data. Seven out of a dozen showed the number of approved emotional support animals increased on campus. The numbers decreased at some schools but even some of those schools reported noticing an increase in interest and requests.

Ball State's numbers more than tripled over five school years. There are now 147 on campus. Indiana University reports the number of approved ESAs grew nearly fivefold. IU now has 94 of these specific types of assistance animals on campus this year. Compare that to just 19 during the 2019-2020 school year.

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