Having an emotional support animal is a big help for many people with anxiety and depression. These animals provide companionship, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and allow their owners to be more functional. But are they actually legal, and what steps do you have to take to make sure you get the full perks of owning one?
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
An emotional support animal is an animal that is trained to be a service animal for its owner. In some cases, it can also be a pet or other type of animal that has been trained to provide emotional support for its owner.
Many confuse emotional support animals with service animals. Service animals are specially trained to perform a specific task, such as guiding people who are blind or deaf, alerting those who are deaf or hard of hearing to intruders, or helping people with mobility issues. Emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship. They often become an integral part of their owner’s life.
In general, emotional support animals have the purpose of alleviating the symptoms of an owner’s disability. However, there are specific laws that govern this, and if you’re in doubt, it’s best to check out your state’s laws.
The Importance of an ESA Letter
People who suffer from mental illness and physical ailments can get a letter from their doctor that explains the need for an emotional support animal. Most states require that you have this so that your pet will be properly recognized as an emotional support animal.
Even if your pet already serves as your emotional support animal, the state will not acknowledge them as one unless you get this ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), such as your therapist or psychiatrist.
So, if you want to make sure that your pet will be recognized as an ESA, the first thing you should do is make sure that you have this letter from your doctor. The letter from your doctor should state that your pet is allowed in the place where you are staying and why it is needed there. It should also state what symptoms you have, and why an emotional support animal will greatly help you in dealing with them.
How an ESA Letter Helps Travel and Housing Laws
An ESA letter can help you and your pet in many ways. For instance, some cities and states do not allow animals in certain places. For example, many public buildings do not allow pets because of allergies or cleanliness concerns. If you have an ESA letter, your emotional support animal will be allowed to bypass these policies for the sake of your mental wellbeing.
It’s also important to check with your landlord or housing association about what their policies are when it comes to emotional support animals. They may require that you have an ESA letter before allowing your pet into the property. Travel accommodations will also generally grant you some leeway when you have this letter, such as letting your emotional support animal board on a flight with you.