A lot of people with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, PTSD, and other mental disorders find emotional support animals a valuable addition to their treatment plan. An emotional support animal (ESA) is not a pet. It is not a service animal either, but a companion that provides therapeutic benefits to individuals with psychological disorders.
You can have your pet become an emotional support animal if you receive an ESA letter from your physician or therapist verifying that the animal contributes to your mental health.
The process of obtaining an ESA letter doesn’t take long, not more than 48 hours. If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, you may ask your doctor or mental health provider for an ESA letter. This is a prescription letter from a licensed health provider certifying that you suffer from a mental health issue and that an emotional support animal can provide therapeutic benefits.
An ESA letter legally categorizes your pet as an emotional support animal, allowing it to join you on airplanes at no extra charge or to live with you regardless of your landlord’s or management’s policy.
Each ESA letter is valid for 12 months after you obtain them from a certified health professional. After one year, you will have to renew your support animal letter.
If you have anxiety, you can get an ESA prescription from a licensed health care professional that will designate your pet as an emotional support animal. However, there is a difference between emotional support animals and service animals (dogs).
Emotional support animals don’t undergo training to perform specific tasks; they reduce anxiety symptoms only with their therapeutic presence.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may train your dog to become a service dog and perform various tasks, helping you cope with your illness. Service dogs for anxiety can help by anticipating your anxiety or panic attack, bring you medications, or provide a sense of calm through tactile stimulation.
You can either adopt an already trained dog or have your own dog trained.
To become a therapy dog, a dog needs to undergo training to acquire good manners, social skills and learn to perform specific tasks. Because all of this training involved, a service dog for anxiety can cost a lot, usually between $15,000 and $30,000 per trained dog. Some dogs can even cost up to $50,000, depending on their tasks.
But suppose your service dog is to provide emotional comfort when you experience anxiety. In that case, the training cost may be lower as intensive training (necessary for service dogs for physical disabilities) is not required.
If you decide to train your own dog, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $250 an hour for a professional dog trainer. Or you can use training programs and service dog certifications available online. However, service dog experts agree that it is best to leave the training to the professionals.
If you want to certify your pet to become a psychiatric service dog, the first thing you need to do is a character test to determine whether your pet is the right candidate for a service dog. Such test typically costs between $300 and $400. If your dog needs to undergo thorough training, this could cost a lot of time and money.
Group classes with an experienced trainer typically cost between $150 and $250 per hour, while one-on-one courses are more expensive. The total cost of training in the first year usually ranges from $3,000 to $40,000.
If you do not have a dog, it is a good idea to get a puppy from a reputable service dog breeder, which could cost between $2,000 and $4,000.
Yes, you can. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), law allows people diagnosed with a psychological condition to have more than one emotional support animal.
No, they cannot. You are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) if you have a disability that hinders your ability to perform everyday life activities. If you require an emotional support animal to make your life easier, your landlord cannot refuse you as a tenant simply because they don’t allow pets. An ESA letter certifies that your emotional support animal is not a pet but an essential aspect of your illness’s therapeutic process.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Laws, emotional support animals must be exempt from paying pet fees. All you need is an ESA letter from a licensed health professional stating that you require a support animal for disability, which qualifies you under the FHA.
Nevertheless, your landlord may require a pet deposit to rent or compensation if your emotional support animal causes any damage to the apartment, house, or unit you rent.
Even if you are currently not receiving mental illness therapy, you can still have an ESA prescribed. If you don’t have a therapist or physician to give you an ESA letter, you can go through many reputable companies online. These companies can connect you with a licensed health care provider who can provide an ESA letter.
Once you choose a health care provider, they will go through your medical records and interview you to determine your illness and whether or not you qualify for an emotional support animal.
To get an ESA letter quickly, speak to your therapist and ask them to issue an ESA letter. If you are not receiving therapy for mental health disability at the moment, take a free ESA assessment online to find a certified health care professional who evaluates whether you are fit for ESA and prescribe an ESA within two days if you do.