Emotional Support Animal Criteria
An emotional support animal is an animal that is trained to provide therapeutic benefit to the person who has a mental illness or other mental health issue. These animals are not pets, but they meet many of the same requirements as a service animal, and both are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Many people can benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal. As a whole, they can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhance self-esteem and confidence, increase social interactions with others, and improve sleep patterns and sleeping habits. People who have conditions involving severe depression and anxiety can benefit significantly from having a familiar animal companion around.
But how do you know if an emotional support animal is right for you? What are the requirements for an emotional support animal? Do you need to train them? This article will answer all of these questions and more.
What Animals Qualify as an ESA?
The first question to ask is, what type of animal qualifies as an emotional support animal? You may think that an emotional support animal can only be a dog or a cat, but this is not the case. There are other animals that can qualify as an emotional support animal. Most domesticated pets can qualify, such as a rabbit, rat, gerbil, guinea pig, hamster, or a bird.
This is because emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. For example, service dogs are trained to alert their owners of epileptic seizures, and guide them in public. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, simply provide comfort and support to their owners. They do not need to be trained or certified. So as long as you have a domesticated pet that gives you emotional support, they may qualify as an ESA.
How Do You Qualify to Own an ESA?
Of course, choosing the right animal is only half the battle. You also need to know if you yourself qualify to own an emotional support animal. How can you know? Well, what you need to do is to get a signed ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
An ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) is a document that can help you qualify to own an emotional support animal. The ESA letter will detail the symptoms of your condition, as well as how having an emotional support pet can help alleviate that. It will also include a statement from the LMHP that they believe your pet qualifies as an ESA.
This does not mean that every single person who has a mental health condition qualifies for an ESA. Instead, your chosen LMHP would need to decide if your condition requires you to own an ESA. If your chosen LMHP does not think you need one, then they will not issue you with a letter.
On top of that, it’s important to note that this letter is not a one-time thing. That is, the letter is only valid for twelve months. After that, you’d need to have it renewed if you still want to own an ESA.