Dogs became a significant part of people’s lives in the modern world. Every fifths family has one or more dogs, they are considered to be family members.
However, there is a category of people with mental health troubles that cannot socialize properly without their pets. They need an animal that provides psychological oremotional support, acts as a companion and is ready to be nearby during hard times. We are talking about emotional support animals (ESAs). What are those animals, and how can they help people? Let’s find out in the article.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is the type of pet that can provide emotional support for those who need that. These animals may help people with such mental problems as anxiety, depression, various kinds of fears or phobias, relationship or socializing troubles, etc. An emotional support animal can make depressive episodes easier on the person with a mental disability or psychiatric problems, distract or warn them about upcoming complications, etc.
In order to get the status of the ESAs pet, the person needs to register them. To do that, it is necessary to get a prescription from a licensed mental health professional that proves you can qualify for an ESA. Only after getting it, as well as signing necessary ESA letters, the person can start a registration process.
According to the ADA, any breed of animal can qualify as ESA. Among the most popular ones are dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, miniature pigs, goats, and horses. The most important for them is to be supportive in the life of the owner, help them to live through the problems, and improve mental health conditions.
The Difference Between Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has its own definition of service animals and emotional support animals. According to them, a service dog (also known as an assistance animal) is an animal that can perform tasks for an individual with a disability. At the same time, an ESA provides emotional support for those with psychiatric and mental problems.
Besides, a service animal has more rights than ESAs. People with disabilities can visit public places, such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, universities or work, etc. together with them without showing proof that they need their services. They are protected by federal law.
All service animals are not pets, they are working animals. They complete special training in order to be able to assist their owners with a specific task (or tasks) directly related to the person’s disability. Also, they do not need to be registered (however, most handlers choose to do it to avoid troubles and unnecessary questions).
Emotional Support Animals and Travelling
Some time ago, emotional support animals were considered as a subcategory of a service animal. That is why they had every benefit service dogs have, including the ability to be near the owner during the flight. This rule is supported by The Air Carriers Access Act.
However, starting from 2020, they were defined as a separate type. That is why the department of transportation now describes them as pets and demands to crate them during air travel. Sometimes it is possible to get permission to take the pet with you during the flight, but proof of their importance from mental health professionals is needed. If the person will have their pet on the plane, it should sit on their laps or between the legs on the ground the whole time. It will not be a problem if the animal is calm and well-trained.
Emotional support animals usually assist owners with high-functioning anxiety, high and flight phobias, and panic attacks during the flight.
Accommodation and Fair Housing Act
People with emotional support dogs (or animals) are legally allowed to bring their pets with them to the hotels or rented houses if they have the note from the therapist with them. The note should indicate that the person with the following problems demands moral support, and their animal provides them with that.
Moreover, the owners of the rented place cannot demand an extra fee for the animal or cleaning services caused by the pet. The only way they can charge for is when the dog causes problems in the accommodation, breaks something, and it needs to be replaced. Moreover, the dog owner can’t be separated from other people in the “pet zone” just because they have a pet. They are allowed to move around freely.
If the letter from the doctor was shown to the housing authorities, they can’t refuse to check-in someone with an ESA. If they are not reasonable and still have some problems with a pet owner, it is possible to contact local legal authorities and explain the situation to them. If all the documentation is fine, and the dog is well-behaved and is not dangerous to other people in the housing, they will be able to deal with this situation.
The Bottom Line
The emotional support animal may change the life of the person who needs moral help dramatically. They are not pets, they are companions, those who will be there during hard times. No wonder more and more people choose to have such a friend in their lives. Not only do they help mentally, but they also give reasons to move forward in life. That is the most important thing.