Emotional Support Animals: Requirements, Benefits, And More!

Do you have countless nights where you have just woken up in the middle of the night just feeling sick or anxious? You might need emotional support animals or ESA. This can be a dog or any pet wherein you just want them to be by your side or whenever you just need something to hold on to. Suffering from a mental or emotional disability is hard enough. And having your pet by your side eases some of that pain and comforts you in time of need.

Animals may bring us happiness and friendship. They may also give emotional assistance to persons suffering from mental illnesses. Pet ownership improves mental health through building emotional connectedness and assisting people in times of distress. Whether you are working under pressure, fear, trauma, or another form of mental health illness, consult with your healthcare professional to see whether an ESA will be beneficial in your specific circumstance. Continue reading this blog for more information on ESA and the ESA letter.

emotional support animal
Photo credits: Eric Ward

🟒What Is Emotional Support Animal🟒

An ESA or emotional support animals are essentially something your licensed mental health provider has prescribed. It is different from any regular pet that you have in your home. And the sense that it’s been prescribed to you, it is helpful to address your mental health symptoms with that approval from a therapist.

πŸ• Privilege

An ESA has a couple of special privileges beyond that of a typical pet. The one significant claim to be most relevant is that it is allowed in a space where pets are not allowed. It is legal to have one because you have permission from a medical professional. Another privilege is that an ESA can travel with you anywhere. You are allowed to bring emotional support animals, especially if you have a panic disorder when traveling by plane or boat.

πŸ• ESA vs. Service dogs

The difference between emotional support animals and regular pets is the privileges mentioned above. But ESA and service dogs have lots of differences. Any regular pet that is approved as a domesticated creature can be an ESA. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, or fish, it is not limited to what kind of animal you have.

Now, service animals are usually dogs. There are cases that other animals can be trained as a service animals, but cats do not belong here. This is because service animals are specially trained to undergo rigorous exercises and schooling to help people with specific disabilities. An example is a seeing-eye dog. You will introduce this type of dog extensively to help be the eyes for someone who may have some difficulty seeing.

There are also animals who already have unique gifting, like the ability to sense seizures before the seizure starts. Special animals can actually get certified to be service animals.

🟒Things To Know In Getting An ESA🟒

It is essential to know the things before getting some emotional support animals or ESA. This is because there is a little bit of confusion where people are not totally sure what all is required. So let’s dive into a couple of things.

πŸ• Know what you really need

There is a difference between just getting a dog and getting an ESA. They can totally serve the same purpose, but their intention is different. Older dogs are so much easier than a puppy. But each scenario and situation is going to be different. Generally speaking, if you want ESA, go for older dogs. This is because puppies have to go out every hour having health issues that are not super ideal, especially if you are under stress. Depending on the severity of your condition, it may not be super feasible to start with a puppy.

πŸ• Breeds

It is critical to choose a breed of your ESA. If you are getting one from a rescue, do some research with different breeds’ temperaments. Other dogs have different character levels that may or may not be suitable for you. It is better to get started with a breed that is relaxed and does not have too high energy. Knowing the breed is essential because you will see if you need a fence for your backyard or keep all the biteable things in your house.

πŸ• Certification

This part is on a case-to-case basis. Usually, you do not need any sort of certification to have an ESA because it is not the same thing as a service or a therapy dog. This is because service and therapy dogs require a whole different set of training and tests. But for ESA, all you need to have is a written note from your doctor. The doctor’s note is a weapon that will allow you to be able to live in a place that may not usually allow animals or pets. Another good thing if you have a doctor’s note for ESA is that you are able to fly with it as well.

But remember, those are really the only differences or exceptional circumstances that are having an ESA will do. You still can’t take them from public places like you would a service dog. Another note is that you must renew the doctor’s note every year.

πŸ• Training

Do not expect your ESA to know everything from a shelter as soon as you get it. Take note that ESA is different from a therapy dog. If you are mentally stable and want to be preoccupied, it is excellent for you to get an ESA and train it yourself. You can watch videos or ask for a professional trainer. So that your ESA will know what to do in case you have a panic attack.

🟒How To Request ESA Letter🟒

Did you know that you can legally live with your pet without paying pet deposit fees? The key is to have an ESA letter. But this letter is only applicable to those who really need ESA from a licensed medical professional.

This letter is a recommendation letter that attests that you need your pet’s companionship. The US and foreign air carriers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of a patron’s physical or mental need for an assistance animal to help with their conditions.

πŸ• Qualifications

What makes you qualify for an ESA letter? The answer is any disabilities that are mentioned in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Such conditions are learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, intellectual disability, and motor skill disorder. However, it is unfortunate that when anything comes popular, many people try to cash in an on-trend unscrupulous way.

πŸ• Where To Get

ESA letters are no exception to an on-trend fashion, and you must avoid this. Ironical fact, it is now possible to apply for an ESA letter online, but many online sites provide fake ESA recommendations and don’t have a physical clinic. If you don’t become careful while applying for an ESA letter online, you could easily fall prey to these scammers’ couple of red flags to mark for online.

ESA letters are not instant because a real licensed health professional will need to consult you first and check for your diagnosis before signing a letter. Look for doctors working from an actual medicinal clinic with an established history of ESA registration, with the doctor’s license number, and the letterhead must be the name of the clinic.

πŸ• Assessment To Patient And Animal

If you are the therapist, you have to assess the patient before giving an ESA letter. Make sure you fully understand what the diagnosis is and what led you to believe that this ESA would benefit the patient. So, what are the behaviors you must acknowledge?

The patient is exhibiting that makes you believe that the ESA would help in alleviating those symptoms or behaviors. You are going to do a full assessment of the animal first, and this is where it is really challenging. This is because a therapist is different from a veterinarian and animal behaviorist and has yet to write an emotional support letter. The therapist does not assess through the physical exam but instead just uses the assessment skills to see if it is a well-behaved animal.

It is expected that an ESA will have a great bond with the patient. So it is appropriate when you are doing the assessment to ask for a demonstration of this social support animal’s ability to escalate or help in whatever capacity they were trained for.

Questions to the therapist in assessing the animal

Is the dog paying attention to what’s going on?
Is it easygoing?
What is the interaction with the client?
Do they have a good bond?

πŸ• Request Procedure

The ESA letters are usually requested when somebody needs to travel or a housing request. The process is simple. You begin by taking a pre-assessment survey. Based on your answers o the survey questions to determine if you may be an excellent candidate to have an ESA.

After that, you will be invited to move forward with the entire assessment procedure. The assessment is designed to understand your symptoms and how your animal plays a part in reducing them. The aim is to put you in contact with the right therapist in your state. So answer truthfully and give as much information as possible.

Once done, you will wait for an email from your next therapist stating that they have your assessment and ask you for the treatment plan, which contains resources and recommendations for follow-up care. Lastly, if everything is confirmed, you will benefit from having some emotional support animals. They will mail you an official ESA letter that you can download immediately.

🟒How To Know If You Have ESA, Therapy Dog, or Service Dog?🟒

Different animals can make you feel better. But some specially trained dogs can actually give you therapeutic benefits. You might need a pet to hold on to during your panic attacks or if you have anxiety. But what kind do you need the most? To know what is suitable for this condition, let’s dissect the two types: ESA and therapy dog.

πŸ• Therapy dog

The idea of a therapy dog is that they just go out only in nursing homes or schools and provide therapy, but they are not allowed to be in public. You can’t take them into a grocery store or restaurant.

πŸ• ESA

As mentioned earlier, ESA is prescribed by a doctor. It is a dog that gives channel support to somebody. For example, someone with post-traumatic stress, but the dog is really geared to in-home use. So if it’s ESA, do you think the dog can go with the person anywhere? No.

What they can do, though, is that even if you live in a non-pet-friendly area, you can’t be told you can’t have the dog.

πŸ• Service dog

This dog spent years being trained to help somebody with a specific skill. While training, you do nothing on its behalf. It can take up to three years or more to train the service dog fully. Also, dog certification is essential when bringing a service dog with you. And, their job is to work so you must not interfere with its job because you might ruin its concentration.

πŸ• Answer

Most of the time, you are not going to meet ESA out on the street, but you will encounter a lot of therapy dogs. Also, one thing to observe is the vest. The dog is indeed wearing a vest saying if it is a service or working dog. If you saw one of those dogs, leave them alone. But the golden rule is simple always ask and do not approach dogs first.

🟒Bottom Line🟒

Dogs are really intuitive. They are more intelligent and alert than any other animal that exists. Dogs are skillful in reading human behavior, so they know when you are going through a bad day or a flare. It is hard to explain how an emotional support animal works. But for animal lovers, ESA is one way to improve loneliness and feeling scared. Having one can take a lot of hard work, but it’s all worth it.

It is highly advisable to have an animal if you have the time and space. ESAs are an incredible benefit to our souls as humans, even if they are not necessarily designated as ESA. Just a casual relationship and not that which matters a whole lot. But we do know that the animal responsiveness as emotional support animals is going to be greater at the intensely and uniquely bonded relationship.

Emotional Support Animals: Requirements, Benefits, And More!

by Francis SEO time to read: 8 min
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