If you need a moral endorsement but are ashamed to ask for it from family and friends, an emotional support dog is an ideal option for you. These are faithful companions who are always ready to distract you from what weighs you down, give you positive emotions, and just be there at any time of your life.
We have gathered all the most important information you need to know if you decide to get an emotional support animal.
What is an emotional support dog?
Dogs that support humans with diagnosed mental health issues for a purpose are called emotional support dogs. Although this idea is fascinating, some people question how they are different from an ordinary household-training dog and especially from a psychiatric service dog.
The main contrast is that service dogs receive special training to be able to perform tasks to facilitate the life of a person with a disability. For instance, psychiatric service dogs are taught to provide first aid, monitor the timely receipt of medication, as well as special techniques to calm the owner during anxiety or panic attacks.
On the other hand, emotional support dogs do not need specific preparation. Their main task is to be close to the owner in times of crisis. The mere presence of an animal nearby reduces stress and tension, helps to get rid of obsessions, and promotes socialization.
Moreover, according to research, the presence of an animal can lead to changes in human nature. For example, people who have always been estranged and closed become more friendly and easy-going, as well as easier to talk to strangers and make friends.
Tell me the best way to get an ESA letter?
For a letter of approval, the ESA must meet the required qualifications when talking to a licensed mental health professional in person. Even a professional diagnosis of mental illnesses is usually more difficult for a person to obtain. The ESA requires that you consult therapists for appropriate mental health care advice.
If your therapist deems it necessary to recommend an emotional support dog to treat your disorder, you will receive an ESA letter. You can also get this document online. To do this, you need to fill out a special questionnaire about your psychological state and wait for a positive response from a specialist.
Is the ESA letter legal?
ESA letters are in fact legitimating papers that are designed to expand the rights of dogs and their owners. These letters can be necessary to buy or rent a dwelling when normal dogs are not allowed. In fact, it is a good practice to prove the dog is emotionally supportable by giving a letter that supports your claim.
In addition, to relieve yourself of the need to constantly show an ESA letter, you can use the ESA Registrar to obtain a certificate confirming the status of the emotional support dog. This certificate will help you resolve disputes that may arise with the landlord and other occupants of the house due to the residence of the dog in the building.
What do I need to know about emotional support dogs?
While assistance dogs help to cope with daily physical tasks, dogs of emotional support help to go through emotionally difficult periods of life. Although every dog has an emotional attachment to its owner, the dog must be prescribed by a qualified mental health practitioner.
Various mental health conditions can become the reason to get an emotional support animal. Yet, some maladies are more common for ESA owners. For example, you will definitely be recommended a dog of emotional support if you have anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, social behavior disorders, and other mild or moderate mental frustrations.
Note that the involvement of a dog in emotional support is only an adjunct therapy and cannot be considered an independent treatment for a mental disorder. The dog provides emotional comfort for the owner, reduces the level of stretch marks and stress, and helps to relax. This is what promotes faster recovery if you follow all the other recommendations of the therapist.
What are the most common emotional support animals?
Despite the fact that according to the law, animals of emotional support can be of different types and ages, the most popular ESAs have long been considered dogs and cats. Humans often classify their pets as ESAs, so these species, as the most frequent pets, have gained popularity among emotional support animals.
In addition, some dog breeds, such as Labradors or Retrievers, are known for their friendly nature and are considered one of the best breeds for the treatment of mental disorders.
Despite the stereotype of the alienation and indifference of cats, these animals also often become faithful companions and friends to their owners. Cats have a very developed sense and attention to the slightest change in the mood of their owner, so they feel the approach of the crisis long before it appears.
The cat is always there when needed, and at the same time, this animal does not need much attention and calmly tolerates loneliness. This is especially true for those who spend a lot of time at work and do not have the opportunity to take the animal to the office.
However, other animals have recently gained popularity among ESAs. For example, due to their small size and low requirements, decorative rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, mice, etc. are gaining popularity. These animals are a great alternative for those who do not have enough free space in the room, however, need encouragement and an emotional boost.
All about ESAs rights
It is obvious that due to the fact that service dogs are vital to their owners, the Americans with Disabilities Act extends the rights of these creatures in almost all spheres of human activity.
However, with emotional support dogs is a bit more complicated. Laws are constantly changing, so it is important for ESA owners to keep up to date.
To date, the only law that matters to ESAs is the Fair Housing Act. This statute is to provide reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal and its owner without interference or additional charge. It means that the landlords must make concessions to ESA owners and cannot prohibit them from living, even if the housing providers adhere to a no-pet policy in a building.
With regard to transport and air travel, according to the latest changes in the Air Carrier Access Act, the ESA no longer has the right to accompany its owner in the cabin of the aircraft free of charge and to be with him or her throughout the flight.
Today you have several options for transporting an emotional support dog. You can apply for transportation in the baggage compartment or in the form of cargo. And you have the opportunity to use the services of pet-friendly airlines. However, if you choose the second option, we recommend that you carefully read the pet policies of the chosen air carrier.
Also, keep in mind that state and local laws regarding ESAs may differ. Laws issued by local governments can often extend regulations issued by the federal government. For example, federal law does not require employers to allow employees to work with their ESAs. However, in Florida, for example, the employer is obliged to make concessions and allow employees to work with their emotional support dogs.
Do emotional support dogs actually help?
As we said before, the dog of emotional support is not a universal cure for people with mental disorders. This is only an additional therapy that stimulates faster recovery if you take medication prescribed by a doctor and regular consultations with a therapist.
In addition, unlike service animals, ESAs are not able to perform specific tasks. However, with the right approach and regular exercise, you will be able to teach emotional support dogs to perform commands of even more difficult levels.
Although there is much debate about the benefits of ESA, most mental health professionals agree that interaction with dogs has a positive effect on the psychological state of their patients.
First of all, the dog gives its owner the opportunity to relax both mentally, distracting him from obsessive thoughts and ideas, and physically, significantly improving the quality of sleep. And as we know, healthy and long sleep is one of the most important components in the treatment of psychical maladies.