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What are ESAs - aren't they just canines and cats?

by: CertaPet
Posted: January 15, 2019

HUNTINGTON BEACH...You may have sat next to one on a plane, or you may have heard your neighbor, a friend, or a colleague has one. To you, they look just like your usual household dog or a cat. But to someone else, they may be their emotional support animal, aka ESA.

You may also have heard stories and seen news items about a bunch of animal species referred to as ESAs. Some of which have included peacocks, pigs, ducks, and even kangaroos. Not exactly your typical type of furry friend, so what’s with that?

Here we run through all the what, who, why and how questions you may have wondered. They're also some of the questions you may have been hesitant to outright ask someone with an ESA.

What Emotional Support Animals Are

Emotional support animals help with an individual’s mental and emotional health. What's more, there are many ways they can be a supportive presence in someone’s life.

Most especially, ESAs are of emotional support through the companionship and affection they give. Yes, it’s about love and cuddles, but that’s not all on a daily basis, by any means.

ESAs can help someone follow regular routines. They can help people leave their house. They can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. They can also provide an alternative focus or distraction from symptoms.

What Emotional Support Animals Are Not

Emotional support animals are not service animals, nor are they therapy animals.

Service animals receive specific training to tasks for people with disabilities. People who are visually impaired may need a dog to be their “eyes”. Those with a hearing impairment may have a dog trained to alert them certain sounds, such as a knock at the door.

Therapy animals spend time with people in group settings, or limited one-on-one time as part of a treatment plan. Elderly folk in rest homes and people in rehabilitation centers may benefit from therapy animal visits. Kids struggling with reading may encounter therapy animals. They are sometimes brought in as an impartial audience in schools and libraries.

Which Animals Are ESAs?

Technically, any type of animal can be an emotional support animal. However, just because they can, this does not mean they should be. Just as it can be inappropriate to try and keep wild and exotic animals as pets, so too many animals are not really suitable to be ESAs.

 

The most common, and recognized, types of emotional support animals are canines and cats. There are exceptions, but good old dogs and cats are the animals we have known, loved, and shared our domestic lives with for hundreds of years.

Who Has Emotional Support Animals?

Someone who has an emotional support animal may have one of any one of a number of mental health conditions that affects their quality of life. Does this mean they are crazy? No! According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness affects one in five Americans every year.

Some of the conditions that benefit from emotional support animals include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, mood and personality disorders, and more.

How Do People Get Emotional Support Animals?

To qualify for an ESA, a person must be assessed by a licensed health professional in their State. The provider will establish whether an animal should form part of a treatment plant and be of therapeutic value to the person, their condition, and symptoms.

Where Do People Get ESAs from?

Emotional support animals do not receive any specific training to fulfill their role, so they can pretty much come from anywhere!

Sometimes someone’s existing pet is later “promoted” to the role of an ESA. Or someone may seek out an animal with the temperament and qualities that can help alleviate their specific symptoms. They may look to re-home animals in shelters or go to breeders for a certain breed.

Why Can People Have ESAs on Planes?

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), people with emotional support animals can fly with their animal on airlines free of charge. This may be to help the person with any anxieties around flying, or because they need their emotional support animal at their destination.

This does not mean that someone with an ESA will automatically get their animal on a flight. Airlines have their own policies and regulations. These are to protect the health and safety of everyone who flies with them, and the animals themselves. Most now have restrictions on species and some breeds.

How Can A Person With an ESA Live in Housing With a No-Pets Policy?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires landlords and property owners to make “reasonable accommodation” for any tenants with an emotional support animal. This means a tenant cannot be refused permanent rental housing on the basis of a no-pets policy. However, landlords also have rights under the Act to ensure they, or other tenants, aren’t disadvantaged by an ESA on the premises.

Does an ESA Need Documentation or Registration?

The emotional support animal itself needs no formal documentation or registration. However, the person with an emotional support animal does if they wish to apply to take their ESA on board a flight or to live in rental housing with them.

Only licensed health professionals can issue this documentation, otherwise known as an ESA letter. This letter confirms that the individual qualifies for an emotional support animal. The letter will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

 It will give details of the health provider, and their license number. It will also confirm the person has an emotional support animal as part of a treatment plan for a mental or emotional disability.

 

Thinking An ESA May Help You Too?

Don’t be put off by the stigma surrounding mental illness if you think an emotional support animal may be of benefit to you in your life.

Talk with your own licensed health professional if you can. This may be your general practitioner, therapist, psychologist, or social worker that you trust.

Alternatively, use a legitimate emotional support animal registration service to connect with a licensed mental health professional in your State.

It will give details of the health provider, and their license number. It will also confirm the person has an emotional support animal as part of a treatment plan for a mental or emotional disability.

Thinking An ESA May Help You Too?

Don’t be put off by the stigma surrounding mental illness if you think an emotional support animal may be of benefit to you in your life.

Talk with your own licensed health professional if you can. This may be your general practitioner, therapist, psychologist, or social worker that you trust.

Alternatively, use a legitimate emotional support animal registration service to connect with a licensed mental health professional in your State.




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