Pets at SBCC create strain on students who need service animals


Vanessa Martinez

Shek, an English mastiff, provides services to owner Grace Vannelli on Wednesday, March 14 outside the Luria Library in Santa Barbara. Shek is a four-year-old service dog.

Maxton Schulte, Staff Writer

An increase of registered and non-registered service animals on the City College campus has caused an imbalance of the protection and rights of people who need them.

“We do as much as we can to accommodate animal and human pairs,” said library director Elizabeth Bowman. “It’s a life-saving and an incredibly important mechanism.”

Despite City College’s serious animal policies, the last three years have shown a major increase of students bringing their emotional support animals on campus.

Currently, the only qualified service animals are canines and miniature horses, whom perform specific tasks for their owner with disabilities. Any animal, however, can be labeled emotionally supportive whereas only domestic pets can be used for therapeutic purposes.

According to federal law, the dog owner can be asked only two questions: Does the animal give a service and if so, what service is that. Additionally, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require vests or medallions, therefore making it more difficult to distinguish the differences.

Any service or non-service animals that cannot be controlled by its owner will be expected to leave the building. However, some students have been less cooperative toward staff members because they want their pets with them on campus, even if they are not service animals.

“People are really reluctant and do everything they can not to abide by the rules but we maintain the same standard practices,” said Bowman. “As a human being though, I understand the impulse to always have your animal.”

This is proving to be a challenge not only in City College but also at UCSB. Recently in the UCSB library a male student’s “emotional support” snake slithered out of his packback. It was later reported that the student’s apartment was getting fumigated and that he had no choice but to bring his pet snake along with him.

Despite the habitual peace of a library, students and staff were undoubtedly put in quite discomfort that afternoon. By law, emotional support animals are not permitted in public places, businesses and transportation.

Fortunately enough for City College, guinea pigs are the most extreme animal witnessed on campus.

“I’ve met a whole range of animal and human pairs,” said Bowman.

One of the many pairs on campus includes Grace Vannelli, a current City College student and owner of a service dog.

“She thinks she is a tiny lap dog,” said Vannelli, regarding her 4-year-old English mastiff named Shek.

Acknowledging the policies and abiding by them is essential for the students who need them. Individuals taking advantage of the different labels ultimately blur the lines and make it far more difficult for people like Vannelli to have them on campus.

To all students undergoing major stress with finals, the opportunity to attend “destress fest” will be accompanied by 12 therapy dogs from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 10 outside of the Luria Library.

The City College’s required $1 million insurance allows all of these trained and licensed dogs to be present.

“We are so crazy about animals here that we bring the pet therapy dogs twice a year,” said Bowman.