Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS




Dr. Noam Shpancer

First Committee Member

Dr. Noam Shpancer

Second Committee Member

Dr. Anna Young

Third Committee Member

Dr. Deborah Soloman


Emotional Support Animals, Mental Health, College Students, Therapy

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Higher Education | Other Animal Sciences | Psychology


Mental health problems have been drastically increasing in recent years among college students. Alongside the rising prevalence of psychological distress, universities have also experienced an increase in requests to have Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) live on campus. To date however, data are scarce on students’ experiences living with and around ESAs. The present study aims to investigate attitudes and perceptions about ESAs, in both owners of ESAs as well as students who do not own an ESA but have interacted with one. Specifically, owners were interviewed to find whether the perceived benefits of owning an ESA outweigh the associated costs and non-owners were surveyed about how they regard the experience of encountering and living alongside ESAs and to gauge their interest in an animal therapy program on campus. Interestingly, all owners reported that the benefits of owning an ESA outweigh any associated cost. Results also indicated that an overwhelming majority of non-owners have positive attitudes and perceptions about ESAs on campus, including in an animal therapy program. These results highlight possible techniques universities can utilize to support students' mental health, whether through ESA ownership or animal programs.