Everyone knows the amazing benefits you get from owning a pet. After a tough day, they are always there with unconditional love and companionship. Most people reading this have benefited emotionally, at some point in their lives, by a pet or another animal. But did you know that those same pets can serve as an important part in your mental health plan?
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
Most of us can’t picture a life without our favorite pet. An animal companion can grow to be an important part of your life. But, for some, these animals are utilized to provide emotional support to those who suffer from mental health issues. These animal companions are known as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).
Emotional Support Animals are used to provide companionship and support to help ease the stress of mental health concerns. To help give you a better idea of what an Emotional Support Animal is, and isn’t, we’ve compiled this list of 7 facts about Emotional Support Animals.
Emotional Support Animal Facts
- Emotional Support Animals Don’t Have to Be Dogs or Cats – There is no denying that dogs and cats are, by far, the most popular of all ESAs, but they are by no means the only animals that qualify. Animals such as birds, lizards, rabbits, ferrets, and most other domesticated animals can be an ESA. There have been instances of larger animals, such as pigs and horses, used as ESAs.
- Emotional Support Animals are NOT Service Dogs – This is an important thing to mention and one that is most confusing to people. There is no specialized training for your pet to become an ESA. An ESA is there to help their human companion function in their day to day life in regards to their mental health struggles. The good news is your pet requires no specialized training to be your ESA!
- Emotional Support Animals are Covered Under the Federal Fair Housing Act – Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, all providers of housing are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow people with disabilities to keep an animal assistant in their home. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that there be exceptions made to all “no pets” policies.There are two condition for this exception:The animal’s companion must have some disability that limits the leading of a normal life.
The animal must provide relief or assistance related to the disabilities.
As there is no specification as to what the disability is to qualify for the exception, most housing providers require a verification letter from a mental health professional.
- You Can Fly With Emotional Support Animals – As of January 11, 2021, the US Department of Transportation no longer requires airlines to accommodate emotional support animals. While this is very disheartening to owners of ESAs, you should still be able to fly with your ESA.
All US-based airlines will still allow you to travel with your ESA, but it is to be treated as any other pet and subject to fees and airline restrictions on size, weight, and breed. Some pets are forbidden from flying in the cabin and can only travel via cargo, while some animals may be prohibited from flying altogether. It’s best to check with your airline as to their particular restrictions to avoid issues at the airport.
- Students in Dormitories Can Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal – Campus housing systems are also required to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act. Colleges and Universities are not immune to mental health challenges and struggles that would benefit from the companionship of an ESA. This will also require documentation from a licensed mental health caregiver.
- You Are Never Required to Disclose the Nature of Your Disability – The places that are required to allow your ESA to accompany you may ask you to provide documentation necessitating your need of the ESA. But in no uncertain terms may they ask you to disclose the nature of your mental health challenge. Privacy is guaranteed and the complete details of your disability will remain between you and your mental health provider.
- Documentation is Required For Your Emotional Support Animal – While your ESA does not require any special training, they do require documentation. You don’t have to register your pet or attend any special classes. In most instances, a simple letter from a physician or mental health counselor, stating the need for the ESA but mentioning no specifics. This is the only documentation required by law.
Is An Emotional Support Animal For Me?
After reading through our 7 facts about emotional support animals, you may be wondering what is your next step. The very first thing you should do is discuss the possibility of having your pet elevated to Emotional Support Animal. You have to realize that the ESA isn’t just a way to get into that new apartment without a pet deposit. It should be treated as an integral part of any mental health treatment plan.
If you have any further questions about Emotional Support Animals, don’t hesitate to talk to your therapist or any of the experienced mental health providers at Carencia. We have years of experience creating mental health plans that include Emotional Support Animals. We’d love to show you how the companionship of an animal could help you live the life you deserve.