An emotional support animal is an animal that is not only used to provide therapeutic benefits to its owner, but also assists the owner in coping with a mental illness or other health condition.
They have become more common in recent years, but still have a number of misconceptions about them. For example, an emotional support animal does not require any special training or certification. However, in order to take advantage of the federal protections available to the owner of an emotional support animal, the owner must follow certain rules and regulations.
Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal
These animals fall under the category of assistance animals. They can be a dog, a cat, a horse, or another type of animal. There are many health benefits to having an emotional support animal. For example, an emotional support animal can help the owner with anxiety and depression. They can also help reduce stress and the symptoms of PTSD.
Additionally, there are many laws that allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their emotional support animals in public places like restaurants and shopping malls. For example, they can be in places where pets are not allowed, such as airplanes and office buildings. They can also go into hotels, stores, offices and other businesses as long as they do not disturb the people around them.
For those individuals who are disabled, but do not qualify for a service dog, they may seek out emotional support animals. These animals provide an individual with the comfort of being able to accompany them to public places and help ease the symptoms of their disabilities.
ESAs and Service Animals: Are They the Same?
An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner. Service animals are different.
Service animals are dogs or miniature horses that perform a specific task for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The most common service animals are guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs for the deaf. Other service animals perform duties like pulling wheelchairs or providing physical support to individuals with mobility impairments.
Meanwhile, emotional support animals do not need training or certification to accompany their owners. These animals do not perform any tasks for their owners. Instead, they provide emotional support and comfort to their owners by alleviating anxiety and stress.
How to Make Your ESA Legitimate
Though there are laws protecting the rights of those who have service animals and emotional support animals, pet owners would need to fulfill certain requirements for their pets to be recognized as an assistance animal.
The only way to make your ESA legitimate is to have a letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) that states that you have a mental illness and that your animal provides therapeutic benefits. Once you have your letter, it is important to keep it in a safe place and not lose it. When you enter a public or private space, you may be required to provide this letter to confirm your emotional support animal’s legitimacy.