The Culture of Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals on the University of Illinois Campus

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Stephanie Delong


The purpose of this project was to understand the assumptions about emotional support animals (ESA) and service animals at the University of Illinois. I sought to compare opinions and experiences regarding ESA and service animals by interviewing members of the University community. Initially, my hypothesis was that ESA are seen as less legitimate than service animals. The interviewees’ responses not only support this assumption, but they also demonstrate some reasons people assign more validity to physical impairments rather than mental illness, which thereby affect people’s opinions toward the associated animals. Overall, the project shows that the University successfully accommodates people with physical restrictions, but it is lacking in terms of educating about and accommodating those with mental illness. My hope is that this project will serve as a wakeup-call for the University to address the needs of students, faculty, and employees who suffer from mental illness. 

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