by Krista Lee
Maggie Ganguly-Kiefner is Junior at Green Mountain College studying Sociology and Anthropology. She is the person who brought the Animal Policy to campus and paved the way for students to have access to Emotional Support Animals. “Emotional Support Animals are companion animals that provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.”
Maggie has been battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for two years after a car accident in 2012. She had problems with sleeping with her PTSD, and after research found that a successful coping method for PTSD can be emotional support animals. Emotional support animals (ESA) are not service dogs, they are different. Not knowing where to go first, Maggie went to disability services and they had never approached this topic of Emotional Support Animals before. She filled out a form for an accommodation, and at the time had only academic accommodation options. Now because of Maggie’s incredible work, it has options for academic, psychiatric accommodations. Now ESA animals are seen as an authentic request a student can make, and with proper paperwork can have access to this need. Although she did have support from several members from residence life, there was still a struggle with the department in creating this policy. Maggie after continued effort without getting results, she lost hope for a little while and left it. During this time, Maggie heard of a student on campus who got an emotional support animal on campus.
After interning in Washington the summer of 2014, Maggie found an abandoned and abused dog in a parking lot and named this dog JoJo. Maggie worked to find the owner but no one claimed the dog after several weeks. JoJo helped Maggie with her PTSD, and Maggie worked again to approach GMC to see if she could bring her ESA animal back to campus. The complication with residence life was, from the beginning, about allowing animals into SAGE residence hall, and Maggie was approved for the dog, but denied for having the dog in her community of SAGE.
Maggie brought up the Disability Act which states a person cannot be denied housing based on the fact that someone has an animal based on a disability, disability including psychiatric which PTSD falls under. While there was another pet floor on campus, Moses 2nd, Maggie felt strongly about staying in the comfort of her own community of SAGE and didn’t accept being denied this right. Maggie was finally granted the right to be able to live in SAGE while having her ESA dog.
“Change doesn’t happen without someone paving the way” Maggie says. Although she had to go through a lot of stress to write the policy and have it approved and instated for the whole GMC community, she in the end, is grateful that she was given this opportunity to help current and future students. As a student with this disability, it really shows her strength in going through all that she did to get this instated into the school policy, even though the process could have been triggering for her PTSD. Using her strength to make sure that students in the future can get their ESA animals without feeling stress or pressure.
Maggie’s family and living with her sister at the time in SAGE helped make it possible for Maggie to go through all the hurdles that she did. The project to instate this policy was a heavy load, and the stress brought on by it could not have been tackled without the help and understanding of her sister Monica.
Animal Studies Club is refining and reviewing the policy and make it more accessible to people who need it. They meet Wednesday at 4:00 in the Chapel for any student who wants to get involved with this!
JoJo is a huge help to Maggie’s disability and provides her the support she needs.
I encourage you to please check out this link and the Animal Policy on the Green Mountain College website.
“Therapy animals are defined under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as any animal prescribed by a licensed mental healthcare professional as necessary in the treatment of a diagnosed condition. These animals are not required to undergo specialized training. Therapy animals are not the same as service animals in that they are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. A request to have a therapy animal in campus housing is considered a request for accommodation and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”