Emotional support animals, or ESAs for short, are pets that provide love and comfort to folks dealing with mental or emotional issues. These animals aren’t like service animals with special training to do specific jobs for people with disabilities. Instead, their main job is just to be there for their owners and offer emotional support.
What ESAs Do and Why They’re Important
Emotional support animals help people with mental, emotional, or intellectual challenges. These might include things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, or autism.
Having an ESA around can help lower stress levels, ease feelings of anxiety, and fight off loneliness. These animals can help their owners stick to a daily routine, promoting responsibility and emotional well-being. They can also encourage owners to get up and move around, which is great for physical health. Having an ESA around can help lower blood pressure, cut cholesterol levels, and even reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The Difference Between ESAs and Service Animals
It’s key to understand that emotional support animals and service animals have different jobs, and the rules that apply to them are different, too.
Service animals, usually dogs, are trained to do specific jobs for people with disabilities. This can be anything from guiding someone who is blind to alerting someone who is deaf or helping someone with mobility issues. Because of their specialized training, service animals are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so they’re allowed in public places where pets usually can’t go.
ESAs, on the other hand, don’t need any special training. Their main job is to provide emotional comfort to their owners. ESAs aren’t considered service animals under the ADA, so they can’t go everywhere that service animals can. But, they are covered under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which means they can live with their owners in housing units that usually don’t allow pets.
Are Emotional Support Dogs Allowed on Flights?
Since January 2021, only trained service dogs have been allowed on flights by the DOT’s revised rules. Emotional support animals and other non-dog species are now considered pets, not service animals. Passengers with service dogs may need to fill out a DOT-authorized form before traveling. This change addressed safety concerns, including abusing emotional support animal status.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal
If you want an emotional support animal, you’ll usually need a prescription from a licensed mental health professional. This might be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another type of licensed therapist who can confirm that you need the animal.
The animal you choose as your ESA depends on your personal preference and lifestyle. Dogs and cats are common choices, but ESAs can be any type of animal — birds, rabbits, and even miniature horses can all be ESAs.
How to Take Care of an Emotional Support Animal
Taking care of an emotional support animal is like caring for a pet. You need to feed and exercise them and ensure they’re healthy. It’s also really important to treat ESAs with kindness and respect and consider their well-being.
Emotional support animals play a huge role in the lives of many people. They offer love and comfort that can make a huge difference in mental health. Even though they don’t have the same legal recognition as service animals, their benefits can’t be understated. By understanding what ESAs do, we can create a more inclusive society for those who rely on them for support.
Can any animal be an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
Yes, technically, any animal could be considered for an ESA. However, it’s essential to consider the practicality of the animal type. The animal should be manageable in a domestic setting, not pose a threat to others, and be able to provide the emotional support needed. Common choices include dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits, but less traditional animals like miniature horses have also been chosen.
Do I need to put my Emotional Support Animal through training programs?
Unlike service animals, ESAs do not need to undergo specialized training. However, your ESA must be well-behaved, especially in public settings. Basic obedience training is recommended to ensure your ESA does not cause disruptions or pose any harm.
Can a landlord refuse to accommodate my ESA?
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords and property managers cannot discriminate against tenants with ESAs. This means they cannot refuse your ESA, even if they have a no-pet policy. However, you will need a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that you require an ESA.
How often do I need to renew my ESA letter?
An ESA letter typically needs to be renewed every year. This process involves a new evaluation by a mental health professional to determine the continued need for an ESA.
Can I have more than one Emotional Support Animal?
You can have multiple ESA if your mental health professional recommends it. Each animal should be included in your ESA letter.
What if my ESA causes damage to my rented property?
Even though ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act, you, as the owner, are still responsible for any damages your ESA causes to the property. It’s important to ensure your ESA is well-behaved and controlled to avoid such situations.