Understanding the definition of an emotional support animal can help you decide if one might be right for you.
An emotional support animal, also referred to as an ESA, is a designated companion animal that provides comfort and support to a person dealing with a diagnosed emotional, mental, or psychological disability. An ESA can also be called an assistance animal or support animal, and helps its owner or handler manage the symptoms of their mental or emotional condition.
For most people, their ESA fulfills their emotional need simply by offering affection and companionship. Many patients also find an improved sense of well-being resulting from the daily routine of caring for their ESA.
To be officially categorized as an ESA, the owner and animal must have the proper documentation in the form of an ESA Letter.
There are many different types of assistance animals, including emotional support animals, service dogs, and therapy dogs, each one serving a unique purpose.
An emotional support animal provides love, affection, compassion, and support to a specific person with a diagnosed mental or emotional condition. They do not perform a specific task or job; instead, their purpose is to offer relief in challenging situations.
A service dog assists a disabled individual, providing aid to people with visual impairment, mobility challenges, seizures, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and diabetes. Their role is to help their owner complete daily tasks, and many service dogs alert the owner in the event of an oncoming physical or emotional episode. Service dogs undergo intense training that enables them to help with specific functions, and receive special certification upon completion.
Like an ESA, a therapy dog provides comfort and joy through their presence. However, a therapy dog typically works with large groups of people (not only a specific person), traveling with a handler to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other locations to offer therapeutic relief.
The best emotional support animals are simply ones that provide the comfort and support needed by their owners. Dogs are cats are usually the most common type of ESA, but there is no limitation on the type of animal that can fulfill the ESA role. Ultimately, a good ESA is one that offers comfort, support, companionship, and positivity through their presence. Basic training to ensure good behavior in public places is important, and an ESA cannot pose a danger to other people or animals.
Because ESAs do not undergo special training or receive certification, there is no specific organization or source for adopting ESA animals. Instead, your ESA can be a pet that you adopt or purchase from any shelter, rescue, or pet shop.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for an ESA:
Yes. ESAs have been found to provide significant relief for many patients suffering from symptoms of anxiety including severe stress/fear, insomnia, racing heart, and more.
Yes. Having an ESA can help PTSD sufferers engage in a positive emotional connection, reduce stress, and improve mood.
Yes. ADHD patients often find that an ESA can help add structure and routine to their daily life, as well as provide emotional comfort.
Many doctors are hesitant to write ESA letters due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Although, at Support Pets we have a wide range of mental health professionals and doctors, which make the process of receiving an ESA letter very easy. A growing number of people are finding ESAs to be a highly effective means for managing various symptoms, and support animals are becoming increasingly common.
An ESA letter is an important and extremely useful document for anyone considering an ESA.
An ESA letter is official documentation that “prescribes” an emotional support animal to an individual. The letter states that the person has a diagnosed disability and is allowed an ESA as a result. Note that the ESA letter applies to you as the patient, rather than a specific animal.
A licensed mental health professional can provide you with an ESA letter if they see fit. The letter must include their official letterhead, a dated signature, and other specific details that apply to your situation.
An ESA letter functions as official ESA documentation, securing your rights under applicable ESA laws.
If you have an emotional support pet, you also have specific rights granted by ESA laws. These rights apply to housing to ensure you receive fair treatment.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing, specifically related to disability, race, religion, sex, color, national origin, or familial status. As a person with an emotional support animal, you are protected against discrimination if you are seeking to buy or rent a home, secure housing assistance, or qualify for a mortgage. The FHA also makes it illegal for a homeowner or landlord to set different terms or conditions for the sale or rental of a house due to any of the factors named above. Some types of housing are not included in the FHA regulations, including single-family homes rented or sold by owner, private clubs, religious housing, and owner-occupied buildings with four units or less.
Whether you’re searching for new housing or trying to defend your current residency, there are laws that protect you and your ESA.
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a landlord cannot refuse you housing simply based on your ESA. The law states that landlords must attempt to make reasonable accommodations for your ESA, even if a property has a “no pets” policy. However, there are certain situations in which a landlord can legitimately refuse housing for you and your emotional support animal. If allowing your ESA would create undue financial or administrative stress on the housing provider, they can deny the request. Large animals such as horses or llamas may also be refused, on the grounds of unavailable space.
ESAs must not be disruptive or dangerous in any way, and you are responsible for any damage they may cause to the property. If your emotional support animal is found to have a negative impact on the health, safety, property, or quality of life of other tenants, the landlord can ask you to leave.
No. You cannot be charged additional deposits or fees for your emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal can accompany you to any pet-friendly place, just like a pet would. Whether you’re going about your daily errands or traveling to a new city, you may be able to bring your ESA along for comfort and companionship.
While there are no specific laws guaranteeing ESAs be allowed at work, you may find that yours is willing to accommodate yours if it helps you better perform your job duties. Request a meeting with your human resources department to communicate your situation and inquire about possible accommodations for your ESA.
Depending on your school, you may be able to bring your emotional support animal with you as needed. Many colleges and universities have already developed policies to support students with ESAs, and recent court cases have rules in the favor of ESAs being allowed in the on-campus housing of public universities. If you’re hoping to bring your ESA to college, you should contact your school ahead of time to learn more about specific policies and rules.
Restaurant owners are typically more willing to accommodate pets registered as an ESA. Keep in mind that restaurant owners do reserve the right to refuse service to pets and their owners.
Some hotels have pet-friendly policies and will have no problem allowing an ESA. In hotels that do not typically allow pets, management may be willing to make an exception for ESA situations. Always contact a hotel before booking to confirm whether or not your ESA will be allowed to stay in your room.
No. Because an emotional support animal is not a service animal, there are some limitations on where you can take it. Most businesses are legally permitted to deny entry of an ESA, while certified service animals are required to be allowed. However, if you contact the business ahead of time and communicate your situation, you may find that many are willing to make accommodations if possible.
Unfortunately, there are many scams that seek to take advantage of patients considering an emotional support animal, but you can protect yourself if you know what to look for.
No. There is no national or official database for ESAs, and websites that claim otherwise are providing misleading information.
No. Unlike a service animal, there is no specific certification for an ESA. You do not need to complete any program or training for your ESA.
No. ESAs are not required to wear a designated vest, ID card, or any other form of identification.
If you have a question that was not answered here, Support Pets is happy to help. Follow the steps on the website to see if you and your pet qualify to receive an ESA letter from a licensed health professional or doctor. Take our instant qualification quiz online!
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