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Emotional Support Animals

Every pet owner knows many benefits of having an animal, from getting themselves out for exercise to receiving unconditional companionship. However, for some people with mental or emotional conditions, the presence of an animal is critical to their ability to function normally daily. The pet provides emotional support and comfort that helps them deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. These pets are emotional support animals (ESAs) or assistance animals.


What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is an animal that provides support and comfort to its owner to help them with an emotional disability or mental health issue. Since ESAs are not required to have any special training, they do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional Support Animals are recognized for specific housing and commercial airline access under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).


The difference between an ESA and a Service dog

  • An emotional support animal offers love and companionship to ease an emotional disability or mental health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. An ESA does not need specific training. ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

  • A service animal is highly trained to assist its owner in performing specific tasks, such as seeing, hearing, or walking. Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • While ESAs are allowed in primary rental housing and commercial airline cabins (with some execptions), service dogs can accompany their owner almost anywhere they go, including public buildings, restaurants, banks, airplanes, hotels, supermarkets, etc.


ESAs Improve Mental Health By:

  • Provide Mental and Emotional Encouragement, especially with owners diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety Disorders, Phobias, and Depression.

  • Help Produce Neurotransmitters; studies show that animals, especially dogs, help humans produce neurotransmitters that make them happy. When you care for another living being or a pet, your capacity to love increases, and you feel less depressed. People suffering from loneliness felt safer and loved when they have an animal around.

  • Animal Therapy Works in Conjunction with Other Forms of Treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

  • Help Stabilize Intense Emotions: Pets are utilized for mindfulness techniques to help find a sense of purpose, encourage spending more time outdoors, and help individuals feel safe during highly stressful events.

  • Provide Social Support: Each person needs a social companion to meet their emotional and mental health needs. When living alone and feeling lonely, having an ESA feels like having a friend around.


How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

To legally be considered an emotional support animal (ESA), the pet must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the animal's presence is needed for the patient's mental health. For example, owning a pet might ease a person’s anxiety or give them a focus in life. The dogs can be of any age and any breed.

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