A pet always brings joy and calmness to its handler. That is why emotional support animals are often used today as adjunctive therapy to cure a variety of mental disorders.
What exactly is an emotional support animal (ESA)?
Almost any pet that grants nonphysical endorsement to the owner may become an emotional support animal. An ESA is a companion that prevents its owners from feeling lonely or outcasted. Thanks to pets, a human feels important and necessary for someone. ESAs usually give the sustaining to those who are experiencing any mental disorders or crises.
If you have a more serious mental illness, there are special psychiatric service dogs. These animals make available necessary assistance for humans with severe forms of PTSD. They are expressly trained to fulfill any disability-related need of their handlers.
The dissimilarity between ESAs and service animals
There is a couple of main differences between an emotional support animal and a service animal. The first is the juridical issue. Emotional support animals are not listed as assistance animals. There are no special ID cards or other documents for them other than an ESA letter from your therapist. And even this ESA letter is not essential for receiving psychological backing from your pet. In fact, any animal that brings you joy, happiness, calmness, and helps to alleviate the symptoms of your mental maladies can be considered an ESA. There is a psychiatric service dog for all severe mental illnesses.
The second huge difference lies in the level of training of the animal. While service dogs undergo several months of education in order to be as useful as possible for people with disabilities, emotional support animals need to be able to follow the simplest commands and behave well in society. They don’t have to carry out any specific assignments. Their primary role is to be companions to their owners.
How emotional support animals are trained?
There is no special preparation for the emotional support animal. That is why almost any pet that brings you comfort and a sense of security can be qualified as an ESA. However, the animal must be non-aggressive. It mustn’t growl, bark, bite, or rush at people for no reason. Also, the animal should not destroy the possessions of its owner or others.
The animal must be obedient and reliable. It can often be taught basic commands such as “stand”, “sit”, and “down”. Such additional training will help keep the animal in shape, and for the owner, it will be another reason to interact with the pet.
How to get ESA online?
You can also receive an ESA letter online using one of the many existing services. One of them is the ESA Registrar MyServicAanimal. There you can find all the necessary information about emotional support animals to understand whether such an animal will be useful for your condition. Also on the online service, you can get advice from mental health professionals.
To receive an ESA letter, you will need to fill out a questionnaire and answer several clarifying questions regarding your psychological state. Your answers will be forwarded to specialists who will be able to determine the severity of your disorder and whether the emotional support animal will be helpful in your particular case.
ESA for anxiety
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common maladies today. They are usually accompanied by unreasonable panic attacks, increased heart rate, and pressure, which can often be dangerous to a person’s physical health. Also, common symptoms are persistent fears and phobias, feelings of insecurity and vulnerability, obsessive thoughts, and pre-suicidal states.
The presence of an emotional support animal in the moment of crisis is essential for its handler. The animal is close to the person, gives him a connection with reality, and helps to alleviate the visible symptoms of anxiety. Thus, a person’s mental health is gradually improving, anxiety attacks occur less and less and a person becomes calmer and more confident.
Other mental disturbances
Emotional support animals are also often used as therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, social and antisocial disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many other mental disturbances.
Together with regular consultations with a psychiatrist and taking special medications, ESAs can significantly improve the mental health conditions of their “patients”. In addition, thanks to the animal, a person becomes self-confident, sociable, more open to communication, socializes, and makes friends easier.
The prescription for the ESA
If you want to have a legitimate emotional support animal you can visit your physician, psychiatrist, or any other licensed mental health professional to get an ESA letter. However, it is essential that the specialist is competent in matters of ESA. The ESA letter is a special note that includes the data about your disorder and states the necessity for the presence of an animal as auxiliary therapy.
Special documentation for ESA
In fact, an ESA letter is the only document for the emotional support animal. Thanks to it, you and your pet will be able to enjoy the privileges that the law gives to you. You can get this letter either from your therapist or online.
At the same time, it is important for you to know that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t consider ESA assistance animals and the rights of emotional support animals are limited. Nowadays, they are only subject to the Fair Housing Act, which establishes that an emotional support animal can live with its owner even if animals are disallowed in the building. At the same time, tenants do not have to pay an additional fee and cannot be evicted without objective grounds.
There could be also local law that gives ESA more rights. For example, emotional support animals can be denied access to some public places or cannot travel in the cabin with a handler. However, some schools and colleges can decide for themselves whether to allow students to study with their pets. In addition, there are a lot of pet-friendly institutions where you can spend time with your emotional support animal without any limitations.