People are dealing with a lot of stress and other daily life worries. To help them cope with these anxieties, many people turn to emotional support animals (ESAs). ESA, also referred to as an emotional support dog (ESD), is any pet, especially a dog of any age or breed, prescribed to anyone with a disabling mental problem. A licensed health professional must determine the necessity of the animal in managing the patient’s mental illness through companionship. For instance, the animal should help them cope with depression and focus on life.
Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal?
Some people who suffer mild to severe mental problems such as panic attacks, severe depression, anxiety, and phobias may fail to recover using prescription medications. Others suffer adverse side effects. A mental health professional may advise them to seek relief from emotional support animal companionship in such cases.
The licensed healthcare professional, such as a therapist or psychologist, will first determine the nature of your disability and the impact on your everyday lifestyle. These could be invisible symptoms that prevent you from learning, sleeping, or working.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal
Any dog species can make a wonderful ESD as long as it can alleviate your emotional distress and give you the support and confidence to live a normal life. They don’t need any special training as service dogs. After acquiring an ESA letter, which can also come later, you can approach shelters and rescues for an ESD.
However, you need to ensure that your perfect companion is manageable. You can consider things such as size and aggression. A bigger canine that requires a lot of training and space to roam may not be a good choice if you live in an apartment. Likewise, a hyperactive dog may not give you the calming experience you need if you suffer from severe anxiety.
Emotional Support Animal Registration
Registering an ESA is a straightforward process if you can meet the requirements. There’s no single official registration database for ESAs. All you need are supporting documents from licensed health professionals. Your ESA letter must:
- be legitimate—drafted by a licensed mental health provider and bearing an official letterhead e and bearing
- include the provider’s signature, date of issue, and license number
- demonstrate why you need an ESA
If you lack an ESA letter, you can contact a local mental health provider in person or use the online ESA letter service. These services will cost you some money.
Emotional Support Animal Rights
ESAs are protected by federal and state laws on housing and travel. In 2020, the US Department of Housing will warn against discrimination of ESAs or tenants with valid ESA letters obtained from licensed mental healthcare professionals. In 2021, the US Department of Transportation released new rules that no longer mandate airlines to carry ESAs. They can do so voluntarily.
However, all airlines are required to accommodate Psychiatric Service Dogs. You may need to meet the airline’s pet requirements before boarding. These may also require paying for the ESA both ways.