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Feeling a little blue?

The struggles with mental illness or emotional disability can affect your day-to-day activities. Everything seems too much to handle when submerged by thoughts and emotions.

For many, having a pet in their life motivates them to wake up every day. Not just a regular pet but an emotional support animal can be a great addition to your life and a friend by your side.

Emotional Support Animal        

Humans and dogs go way back and have a long history together. We have influenced each other in many ways.

Having animals around can be a rewarding experience because it can bring years of glee that they have formed a special bond with humans. This bond we forge with our pets is powerful enough to make us feel better even on our worst days.

Pets can provide joy and be a buddy beneficial in supporting us emotionally, especially in dealing with difficult situations. These companions are known as emotional support animals (ESAs).

What makes an emotional support animal?

Research indicates that an ESA can provide emotional and therapeutic benefits to those suffering from emotional issues or psychiatric problems. Its calming effect can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.

emotional support animals

Emotional Support Animal Benefits   

Emotional support animals offer contentment, ease of tension, and more to people coping with mental and emotional struggles.

In terms of mental health, these animals can improve self-empowerment and trust. Pet ownership improves overall health even when not trained to provide emotional support.

The goal of having an ESA is to increase self-esteem and develop social skills. Improving interactions with others increases your willingness to join in activities decreasing loneliness and isolation.

Having a companion reduces anxiety and depression as it makes you happier, improving your outlook on life.

An ESA can give valuable life lessons as it teaches you to empathize with and care for living creatures. Pets give affection in return for your attention.

Caring for a pet can be a positive experience as it provides entertainment and valuable lessons about selflessness and responsibility.

Animals can provide relief and elevate one’s mood by simply petting them. They create relaxation and give people a sense of purpose as they require care and love in return for their companionship.

Emotional Support Animal Risks         

One must prepare for the commitment of caring for the animal.

A patient may claim to benefit from having an emotional support animal.

However, it may present health risks to the owner and others, including infectious diseases, allergies, and injury from bites and scratches.

Having a pet requires time and effort to ensure its safety and sanitation when brought into the public. Its temperament and behavior while interacting with other people cannot be guaranteed due to no training course to ensure proper animal control.

emotional support dog

Emotional Support Animal Success    

The success of increasing positivity with an ESA depends on establishing realistic expectations and meeting those goals.

ESAs play a role in the lives of their handlers as they become a source of connection and motivation.

Caring for them can help you feel wanted and needed while providing you with a sense of security. Pets give non-judgmental regard hence not criticizing you when you feel misunderstood.

Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal        

Is your pet for comfort or errands?

Assistance animals are inclusive of both service animals and emotional support animals, only that there is a difference between the two.

Service animals help calm down their owners, while ESAs’ therapeutic value is derived simply from being with their owners with no required training.

Service dogs help disabled people with specific tasks.

They guide an individual with vision impairment, detect seizures, or keep individuals calm during a panic attack. Other examples of this function include conducting someone who is blind, pulling a wheelchair, or alerting someone with diabetes that their blood sugar levels have dropped.

Service dogs are allowed to follow anywhere the owners go. They have been upskilled not to be a nuisance in a public setting and hence cannot be barred from any area the public is typically allowed to go.

These dogs are chosen and designated for their calm nature and ability to learn complex tasks. They go through a rigorous training process to be qualified as service animals.

On the other hand, emotional support animals help people struggling with mental illness or emotional disabilities.

Can any animal be an emotional support animal?

Yes. ESA can be any animal that can support its handlers’ worries, concerns, and misery.

Any domestic animals that are house trained, understand basic commands, and are safe to be around other people and pets—can be emotional support animals. They provide therapeutic benefits to the elderly and those who live alone.

Emotional Support Animal Qualification      

You may sense you require an emotional support animal, but your licensed healthcare professional has the final say on it.

You may have determined that you can care for an animal and have it officially appointed as your ESA, but you will still need to seek advice from a health professional to get their judgment on whether you need one.

To qualify for an emotional support animal, one must have an emotional or mental condition that is certified by a mental health expert such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

You would benefit from having an ESA once determined to have a qualifying disorder.

Do you need an emotional support animal?

An emotional support dog, cat, or bird can be recommended by your doctor as part of your treatment whether or not you have a mental health-related ailment.

You may sometimes feel that you need such an animal for relief and fellowship to provide healing or improve your quality of life.

Emotional Support Animal Requirements   

You will need to decide what kind of pet is best for you.

To be deemed a legal emotional support animal, the animal's presence must be considered necessary by a licensed medical specialist. This means that the pet can provide relief from an impairing mental condition.

Research and reports indicate that handlers’ quality of life had improved after having an ESA. Studies show that having emotional dog support can increase one’s independence and help improve their sleep.

Pets can be a source of calming support, a diversion from distress to help their owners maintain a positive identity and sense of self.

Can you say your dog is an emotional support animal?

There is no such thing as a required ESA certification that officially qualifies a dog as an emotional support animal under the law.

The only legitimate way to qualify your dog as an ESA is by obtaining an honest ESA letter from an accredited mental health professional.

Emotional Support Animal Training and Tasks

There is no special training for emotional support animals, and often, they are not officially trained in any capacity.

An emotional support animal, typically cats and dogs, does not require any special or formal training to assist patients with mental health symptoms.

An emotional support animal can be any domesticated creature that can potentially provide comfort and sentiment.

A licensed mental health care provider must provide an official letter recommending the use of an emotional support animal, no matter what the species is. It is likely for the ESA to act appropriately in the owner’s presence and not cause any public disruption.

Emotional Support Animal Letter       

The federal law does not require emotional support animals to wear a tag, harness, or clothing indicating they are ESAs.

You will need a signed letter from a therapist stating that you have a mental health ailment to get the benefits of an ESA.  Landlords and airlines will require a prescription from a psychiatrist for your pet to help you deal with it.

Health issues that may qualify you for an ESA letter include depression, paranoia, and personality disorder. Your healthcare provider will discuss these conditions.

You will be written and given a legitimate, legal ESA letter to make it official once your licensed mental health professional (LMHP) determines that you need an emotional support animal.

Emotional Support Animal Controversy       

 Emotional support animals may behave differently from trained assistance animals. Due to the lack of training, an emotional support animal may bark or sniff at other people, whereas service dogs are trained to behave accordingly.

It is still not comprehensible whether emotional support animals have therapeutic effects beyond animals' positive benefits in general.

It is possible for some of these animals to be unpredictable and may cause harm since emotional support animals are not required to be trained or certified.

There have been disputes about getting an animal certificate on how complicated or costly the process could be. Disagreements arose regarding the business aspect of websites offering emotional support animal registration as they are expensive but will not afford any legal protection.

Emotional Support Animal Laws and Legislation

Emotional support pets are not explicitly trained; hence they do not have the same legal protections as the service animals.

Public spaces such as stores and other establishments do not grant entry to ESAs where pets aren’t usually permitted.

However, federal laws support ESA through the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. This law lets an ESA legally accompany its owner during air travel and live in its home.

Fair Housing Act

This means that people with an ESA can have their pet in their home even if there is a “no pet” policy.

According to the Department of Health and Urban Development (HUD) regulation, if your letter is written by a licensed mental health professional who has diagnosed that you have a qualifying disability, landlords must accept your letter and make reasonable accommodations to have your ESA with you.

Air Carrier Access Act

Are emotional support dogs allowed on flights?

Yes. Some airlines will allow emotional support animals with proper documentation from a veterinarian or a mental health counselor.

However, rules may vary from airline to airline due to the changing federal laws. Emotional support animals allowed on planes are well-behaved and do not cause a health or safety hazard.

The laws on emotional support animals prevent additional pet fees since they are allowed to travel with you on a plane, especially the little ones that can be held on the passenger's lap during the flight.

Emotional Support Animal Summary

A person diagnosed with a psychological disorder can acquire and raise an emotional support dog. Still, it is generally best to consult a mental health expert first if you are considering getting one of your own.

Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.

Comfort animals do not need specific working abilities to become emotional support animals.

You must have an emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health specialist to benefit from federal law protection in the United States.

Suppose you have an emotional disability living with depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, or bipolar disorder. In that case, it must be stated that you have a condition and that you need an emotional support animal (ESA) to cope with your disability.

Providing encouragement, helping stabilize intense emotions, and giving social support are among the mental health benefits of an emotional support animal.

Other advantages include calming and relaxing, lowering anxiety, alleviating loneliness, enhancing social engagement and interaction, normalizing heart rate and blood pressure, reducing pain, reducing stress, reducing depression, and increasing pleasure.

Obtaining and raising a therapy animal should not be a decision one makes lightly due to the responsibilities that come along with it. It is essential to seriously consider and think about whether you can care for it physically, mentally, and financially.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the American flight attendants union, complained that emotional support animals were dangerous and unfair.

We all love our pets and want to spend as much time as possible with them, but it is essential to consider what is best for your pet and what is safe for the community when considering bringing your pets on errands or to the open.

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