Animals are wonderful beings. They’re beautiful, strong, and can have incredibly soothing and therapeutic effects with their presence. Because of this, some people have been using Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) to assist them with their everyday lives. If you are considering an ESA, there are a few things you need to know.
Foremost, there is a difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog. These dogs are required to undergo training to assist with specific tasks and activities that a person would otherwise be unable to complete with ease or comfort. Service dogs are allowed in more places than emotional support animals. This being said, ESAs are often allowed into locations that regular animals like pets are not allowed. For example, emotional support animals are often allowed in rental units that typically do not allow residents to keep pets.
To qualify for an emotional support animal, you will need a legal prescription from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. This means that likely you will need to spend enough time with a mental health professional to receive a mental health diagnosis, as well as enough time for them to determine that an emotional support animal is a solution that best suits you and your circumstances.
This prescription will take the form of a letter. Keep in mind it’s best to have an ESA letter on hand that you can show to various people and businesses if you and your ESA are refused entry somewhere. Occasionally, environments will not permit the entry of an animal without an ESA letter. In addition to getting the letter, you will need to renew the letter every year.
Beyond this, you need to make sure that you do your research and get a letter from a source with the authority to give it. Scam ESA letters providing companies have begun to arise. In addition to all of this, many mental health professionals are strict when it comes to prescribing ESAs. This is because of the high number of people who attempt to get an ESA not out of necessity, but because they want to be able to bring their pet on a plane.
Of course, each person’s mental state is different, and so each mental health professional-patient interaction is going to be different as well. This being said, the following are all examples of scenarios where someone might qualify for an emotional support animal.
- Motor skills disorders which make it difficult to interpret visuospatial information
- Learning disabilities that make it hard to gain knowledge or skill sets that would be expected of someone by their age
- Intellectual disabilities which result in limits on intellectual functions or adaptive behaviors
- Attention Deficit Disorders which result in struggles with concentration, impulsivity, or hyperactivity
- Depression-based conditions that result in a low mood and lack of interest in activities that could lead to a fulfilling life
- Anxiety disorders which interfere with daily activities due to worry and fear
If you are unsure whether an emotional support animal is right for you, speak to a mental healthcare practitioner and explain your situation. A professional will be able to explain to you the daily difficulties and improvements you can expect when adapting your life to one with an emotional support animal. You also need to be aware that you might be making the life of someone with allergies far more difficult when you take your ESA in public. Some people cannot breathe easily when a cat is in the same room for example. This is particularly important when you are sharing a space where people eat meals. As you expect people to be supportive of your ESA, try to offer the same support and understanding to those with allergies.
Getting an ESA is not just a decision you can take lightly. It needs to be considered well first. Otherwise, there’ll be consequences if you don’t think about it carefully. It’s best to think about these qualifications so you can make the most out of getting an ESA for your needs.