While you might be familiar with therapy dogs, you might not know exactly what an emotional support animal is. With the amount of emotional support animals (ESAs) on the rise, it's important to understand just what ESAs are and if you might benefit from an emotional support pup by your side. Here's everything you need to know about emotional support animals.
What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal is any animal (dog, cat, or other pet), that offers its owner emotional and mental support through their companionship. While therapy dogs are trained to help owners, emotional support animals simply help their owners through companionship.
Who needs an ESA?
Really, anyone! Whether or not someone has a diagnosed mental illness, support animals can be beneficial to them. Anyone who has trouble with managing emotions or anxiety on a daily basis would benefit greatly from the companionship from an animal, especially those who experience feelings of loneliness.
How does somebody acquire an ESA letter?
You don't need to have a diagnosis or need to "prove" anything in order to get your pet certified as an emotional support animal, as long as your doctor thinks it will be beneficial for you and that it is necessary for your health. General practitioners, therapists, social workers, and any doctor who can attest to a patient's mental or emotional health have the authority to write an emotional support letter specific to your pet that you own or a pet that you're looking to adopt.
What animals can be an ESA?
Any animal! There are no breed restrictions or size reactions when it comes to ESAs. Whether your rabbit, snake, or dog gives you emotional support, any of them can be your ESA as long as you acquire an ESA letter for them.
Does my ESA need training?
No training is required for emotional support animals, since they aren't meant to help you physically navigate or to acquire help for you when you're unable to. Instead, ESAs just use their charming personalities to make you feel better, and there's no training required for that!
What benefits do ESAs get?
Emotional support animals allow owners to have some unique benefits that other pet owners don't get. If you're renting, landlords must allow an emotional support animal, no matter what their pet policy is. Landlords are also not allowed to charge any pet fees or deposits for emotional support animals. If your pet is allowed on airlines, then they the airline is prohibited from charging extra fees for an ESA. However, airlines are allowed to restrict the type of pet flying, regardless of whether they're an ESA. ESAs are not allowed into establishments that don't allow animals, since they aren't specifically trained for public interactions like therapy dogs are.
If you think having an ESA would help you, you can talk to your doctor and see if your pup can be certified to comfort you!