Who let the dogs IN . . . my classroom?

Chapman students and faculty are bringing non-service dogs to class, which may pose a distraction.

Sammy Keane asked her professors if she would be allowed to bring a dog to class before purchasing her golden retriever puppy, Noodle. Photo courtesy of Sammy Keane.

Sammy Keane, junior studio art major, doesn’t attend class alone. Keane, like other Chapman students and professors, brings a furry companion.

Chapman has no policy against dogs in the classroom, according to Equal Opportunity and Employee Relations Specialist Rick Zeiger. Students and faculty have taken advantage of this by bringing their non- service animals to class. Some bring their dogs as a registered emotional support animal. Others just bring their dog to socialize and not be left alone at home. While the owners describe their pets as well behaved, dogs can disrupt the learning environment by running around, barking and whining, or making a mess of the classroom. Dog owners request permission from professors and students before bringing their dogs into the classroom and ensure their dog is a minimal distraction. Some students find dogs distracting and would prefer them to be left at home.

Keane was granted permission to bring a dog to class before she purchased her Labrador and golden retriever mixed puppy, Noodle.

“I bring her because no one is home to watch her and my roommates and I want her to be more social,” Keane said.

Keane says she brings Noodle to class for convenience and to make her more social.

There are a number of faculty members that bring their furry friends to school as well for similar reasons. Keane says she has had four professors who have brought their dogs to class, and sophomore dance major Raea Palmieri has seen five professors with dogs around campus.

More professors in the art department bring their dogs, compared to other subjects, according to Keane and Palmieri.

“Especially as an art major, we have a different type of learning atmosphere,” Keane said.

The laid back and expressive ambiance of art classes is a welcoming environment for dogs, Keane said.

Palmieri chooses not to bring her dog to her math lecture because the environment is more concentration.

“Math is a more complex subject and I don’t want to distract people,” Palmieri said.

Freshman journalism major, McKenna Sulick, has feared dogs since she was young. The presence of dogs distracts her and makes her feel nervous. She is afraid to tell dog owners that she feels uncomfortable because so many people are dog lovers, Sulick said.

“People can get offended that you wouldn’t want to have their dog around,” she said. “I usually just deal with it.”

“If I was more confident in myself, I would ask (students and professors) to leave their dogs at home,” Sulick said.

Palmieri considers that her French Bulldog, Gypsy might be a distraction in her classes. however, she has asked for permission and no one has complained –  to her, at least.

“While I know that not everyone is a dog person, most people don’t mind having her in class and a lot of people actually enjoy it,” Palmieri said.

Gypsy doesn’t bark or bite according to Palmieri, but she has gotten sick in class.

“The worst thing Gypsy ever did in class was projectile vomit,” said Palmieri. “She had a stomach bug and someone picked her up with her mouth facing outwards and she projectile vomited at the front of the class… It was really gross.”

Palmieri cleaned up the mess with the help of two classmates before resuming class, she said.

Facilities did not respond to whether pet waste is an issue in the classrooms.

Despite this messy incident, Palmieri continues to bring her emotional support animal to class.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not require specific training but are required to behave in all settings, according to a website that registers emotional support animals.

As emotional support animal phenomena grows in popularity, researchers question the effectiveness of emotional support animals on personal mental health.

“Isolating the effect of a pet in the context of all the other factors that influence a person’s mental health is so hard, so the evidence there is really, really mixed,” said Molly Crossman, a psychology researcher at Yale.

Emotional support animals and service animals are permitted on campus and in residence halls according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Yet the process of registering a dog as an emotional support animal is as simple as a Google search and a small fee.

“I have told professors that I am bringing my emotional support animal, rather than asking them if it is okay,” said sophomore Raea Palmieri. “I know my rights to an emotional support animal in a collegiate setting.” Photo courtesy of Raea Palmieri.

Gypsy is a registered service dog and Palmieri feels less anxious in class because she can put some of her energy into paying attention to her dog.

“Having my dog in class, surprisingly makes me focus more because I have no additional time to go on my computer and be distracted from the lecture,” Palmieri said.

Professor CK Magliola said she sees no harm in bringing emotional support animals and pets to class. Magliola brings her dog, Ginger, which she describes as small and harmless, to her women’s studies classes. She allows students to bring their pets as well.

“Most folks who ever bring their dogs to class have a dog whose temperament is well-suited for it, or else their owners wouldn’t bring them,” Magliola said. “If there were a dog not well-suited for this kind of public environment (and barked or whatever) or if anyone felt intimidated, I wouldn’t allow it,”

Out of the four of five classes Magliola teaches, she says only one or two students will regularly bring dogs.

“If the school was a crazy zoo and any untoward incidents happened then there would be cause to regulate the matter, but there seems to be no evidence or just cause for this as far as I know,” Magliola said.

Jillie Herrold

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