What Qualifies an Emotional Support Animal?
A lot of research shows that pets can help relieve some stress. For that reason, some mental health professionals encourage their patients to keep animals for emotional support (ESA). Today, 67% of households in the U.S have pets. Most of those pets are dogs, followed by cats. Have you ever considered getting an emotional support animal?
You would be right to get one. After all, the benefits are tremendous. Even so, emotional support animals are not for everyone. That’s to say, you must be qualified to get one. What are the qualifying conditions for ESA, and how would you benefit from them? These are the topics for discussion. First, let’s understand what’s meant by emotional support animals.
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What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
A person with a mental disability uses an emotional support animal to alleviate symptoms of the disorder. Mental disabilities can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. On the other hand, science and experience show that interactions between humans and pets are good for a subject’s mental health. So people with mental illness rely on emotional support animals as part of their treatment plan.
Most people prefer dogs and cats. But in some cases, you’ll find someone with a miniature horse, duck, pig, or monkey. Unlike ordinary pets, emotional support animals have higher privileges under the law. But for you to get an ESA, you must go through medical testing to prove that you have a mental disability. Which disabilities are these? Below are five of the most common conditions that qualify you for an ESA.
How Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?
Your love for dogs cannot get you an ESA. Neither can a mild feeling of depression. You need to have a life-limiting mental problem to qualify for an ESA. And the mental condition must prolong for a significant period. Some of the mental challenges that meet these requirements include:
1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD results when you experience traumatic events in your past life. These events create a shock in your mind that keeps coming back into your memory. You may try hard to forget them, but they come back involuntarily, sometimes even leading to nightmares. These memories often lead to sadness and anger.
2. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition associated with mood swings. It has two episodes with opposite characteristics; depression and mania. Depression makes you feel sad, hopeless, and without interest in activities. On the other hand, the manic episode makes you feel euphoric, full of energy, and hyperactive. You may find yourself sleepless, talking too much, and making decisions without thinking.
Depression disorder comes when you experience feelings of sadness over a long time. This mental health issue makes you feel worthless and hopeless. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, irritability, having less energy, plus insomnia.
4. Clinical Anxiety
Anxiety comes from worrying too much about the future. Primarily, you think the worst is going to happen. The thoughts about potential danger come to your mind and never leave. They weigh you down to the extent of interfering with your daily activities.
5. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a mental condition that affects the nervous system. It starts from childhood and may progress to adulthood. Attention deficit means you can’t concentrate for a long time on a task. It makes you unable to stay organized and keep things in memory. Hyperactivity makes you restless, easily distracted, talk too much, and interrupt others.
Other mental disabilities that qualify for an ESA include autism, schizophrenia, learning disability, and phobias. A mental health professional has to assess you to ascertain whether you have a mental disability. Your mental disability must appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Mental health professionals rely on this book to determine whether a diagnosis is reliable. It’s only then that you can be qualified for an ESA.
Emotional support animals can help you with mental disorders. Click the banner below to get your ESA letter.
Psychiatric Service Dogs Vs ESA
Psychiatric service dogs (PSD) can also help people with mental disabilities. So, what’s the difference between PSD and ESA. Well, in both cases, mental disabilities are similar. But the difference comes in how the animals assist a person. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lays down the rules for service dogs. According to these rules, a service dog must receive training directly related to your disability. Due to this training, a service dog can perform various tasks.
These tasks include behavior interruption, retrieving items for the handler, alerting you of an impending attack, among others. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are not usually trained. They only help you emotionally by being present. When you look into the dog’s eyes, cuddle them, or pet them, you experience some stress relief. So an ESA does not need to do anything except be around.
Therefore, ESAs are generally affordable (you can even use your current pet as an ESA). On the other hand, service dogs are somewhat expensive. You either have to train your existing dog to be a service dog or buy one with skills. Either way, it will still cost you significantly. The ADA rules say that service animals can only be dogs and miniature horses. But for ESA, there’s no restriction to the species of the animal.
Still, most people prefer dogs for ESA. But a good number keep cats, and a few have ducks, pigs, and monkeys. You have to get a doctor’s prescription before getting an ESA. The doctor will test you and give you an ESA letter. This letter from a licensed healthcare provider proves that you have a life-limiting mental disability. And that the emotional support animal is necessary as part of the treatment.
A psychiatric service dog requires no prescription. But for you to get the dog, you may still need a doctor’s confirmation of your mental condition. Even though ESAs and PSDs serve the same people, they follow different rules. Let’s see some of the laws that apply to emotional support animals.
What Laws Apply to ESA?
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against people with emotional support animals. Even if there’s a no pet policy, landlords should accommodate ESAs. However, a landlord might ask for evidence of mental disability. Here, the only evidence you should avail of is the ESA letter. Your landlord should not request additional documentation to prove your disability.
The extent of your disability and the exact symptoms you have are supposed to be confidential information. Since an emotional support animal is not a service dog, your landlord should not insist that you train the dog. But it’s best to ensure your ESA is housebroken, not aggressive, and doesn’t pose a health threat to others. If you present a valid ESA letter, you might get a waiver from pet fees, where payable.
The U.S Department of Transportation requires airlines to accept emotional support animals on their flights. But due to frequent cases of fake ESAs, most airlines may request a 48-hour notice if you’ll be traveling with your ESA. In addition, you have to fill out forms or provide documents from your veterinarian showing that the animal is vaccinated. And as such, the animal does not pose any threat to the flight members.
Not all airlines recognize ESAs. But even those who don’t can still accept your ESA and pay transport fees for your animal. So before traveling with your ESA, you may want to have a look at the airlines’ policy on emotional support animals. Even though many species can be ESAs, it’s essential to be discreet when choosing the size, weight, and breed. These factors often influence an airline’s decision to accommodate your ESA.
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Mental Benefits of Having an ESA
Most of the research that has been done shows that the quality of life improves by having an ESA. Below is a detailed analysis showing how you can benefit from owning an ESA:
1. ESAs Provide a Calming Effect
Most people would agree that holding and petting a dog makes them feel happy. Well, scientific evidence confirms that to be possible; when humans interact with dogs, both experience a surge in oxytocin hormone. This hormone contributes to positive emotions. And it’s the same hormone that creates the bond between a human and an infant.
A simple thing like having eye contact with the dog is all it takes for our bodies to release the hormone. So interacting with an ESA through cuddling or stroking the fur can go a long way into helping with depression. Therefore, it’s good to set aside time to play with your dog. Let them lie next to you and even lick your face.
2. They Give You Unconditional Love
Even though an ESA can be an animal from any species, dogs tend to be more loving than other animals. No wonder they’ve earned the title of man’s best friend. If you own a dog, you know by experience that a dog can connect with you better than other animals. Dogs are social animals who crave attention. That means the bond between humans and dogs is mutual.
So the dog is not there just for the treats, but they enjoy being with you. Best of all, they don’t judge you for who you are or weigh your inadequacies. And they don’t leave in search of a better friend. They’re always there whenever you need them, giving you all the attention. Simply put, a dog gives you unconditional love. It’s this love that creates a positive impact on your mental health.
3. They Encourage You to Leave the House
People with depression and anxiety often find it challenging to leave the house. Yet, there’s a lot to gain outside if only you could leave the house. Here’s a favorable thing, an emotional support animal makes it a lot easier for you to go outdoors. When you walk your ESA outdoors, you and your animal are exercising. That’s good for both of you. Plus, being outdoors makes you feel relaxed. Interacting with nature, such as walking in the park or taking a hike, is said to improve your mental health.
Going outdoors increases your chances of socializing with other people. You might even meet others who have ESAs. And if you do, you have something in common to talk about. You can share your experiences about emotional support dogs and how they impact your lives. Social interactions minimize loneliness. It can boost your confidence and self-esteem. As a result, your levels of stress and depression are likely to reduce significantly.
4. They Give You Purpose
If you’re a senior with grown-up children who don’t live at home, an ESA can give you a new purpose. Not just seniors but also anyone else who might be free most of the day. You have an animal that looks up to you for upkeep. You have to feed, wash, and groom the animal. At the same time, you have to play or walk the dog for some exercise.
These daily tasks make you a relatively busy person. Since you’re not idle, you have no time to go through depressing thoughts. Caring for your ESA makes you feel needed. It gives you a purpose and boosts your self-esteem. All these contribute positively to your mental health.
5. Eliminates Loneliness
Loneliness is a common contributor to depression. If you live alone most of the time, you might find an ESA quite helpful. People talk to their dogs, and so should you. Talking to an animal is a lot easier. It’s easy to open up your heart, considering the animal doesn’t judge you. When traveling alone, by road or plane, an ESA is the only companion you have. In such cases, you can’t consider yourself alone. Similarly, those with a fear of flying find it less worrying if they have an ESA.
Do I Need an ESA Letter?
Without an ESA letter, your emotional support animal will have the status of an ordinary pet. As such, you’ll not have any legal protection to take your ESA in public facilities. Keep in mind that the ADA laws do not apply to ESAs. But an ESA letter may give you some preferential treatment in most public places. A valid ESA letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional. And it must contain details of the healthcare provider, including license information, date, and signature.
ESA letters are valid for only one year. So after every year, you have to re-visit your mental health professional to renew the letter. Besides, airlines will only accept an ESA letter if it’s not older than a year. The case for a psychiatric service dog is slightly different. A PSD letter can make things easier for you in most places, but it’s often not a requirement. But since mental disability is an invisible illness, it might be hard to differentiate between an ESA and a PSD. So having an ESA or a PSD letter helps to clear any doubts about the legitimacy of your dog.
Why Should You Choose an ESA?
If you have a mental disability, you might benefit from an emotional support animal. But you have to consider a few things. First, your mental disability must be one that’s approved by a mental health professional. And this approval must be in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Secondly, you can choose between a psychiatric service dog and an ESA. If you decide to get an ESA, you might have limited access to public facilities. But, on the positive side, you can have any animal you like.
Plus, you don’t have to train the animal. Finally, ESAs are generally cheaper than service dogs. Supposing you choose a service dog, you have to train the dog to perform specific tasks that help with your disability. Training or adopting a skilled dog is usually expensive. But it gives you many rights to access public facilities. Moreover, you don’t pay surcharges in places that charge extra fees for pets, such as airlines. Whatever your choice, you’ll still get the five benefits listed in this article. And do not forget that your ESA needs your care just as you need their service.
An emotional support animal can help you to cope with anxiety. Click the button below to book your appointment.
Emotional support animals can be beneficial for those people suffering from different mental disorders like depression, ADHD, anxiety, and stress. But remember emotional support animals are different from service animals and you will need to have a valid ESA letter to travel with them and to keep them with you in the areas with no pet policy. Contact us at Mango Clinic for a legitimate ESA letter or click the banner below to book your appointment.