Simply put, a service animal (usually a dog) performs a specific task (or tasks) for an individual with disabilities. It’s most common to see them helping individual who struggle with their eyesight or walking. Service animals are not meant for companionship and cannot really be viewed as pets since their purpose serves a greater need for the person.
The Americans with Disabilities Act essentially has three requirements for a regular or ESA dog to be labeled as a service dog:
This privilege is reserved for people who suffer from symptoms of psychological, emotional, or mental disorders. These people must first be evaluated by a licensed medical professional or therapist – and that can easily be done online after taking a free qualification screening. In fact, the whole process can take as little as 24 hours.
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There are an abundance of diagnoses that a person can receive an letter for. Here is just a few of the life-limiting conditions that a person could alleviate some of the systems with an emotional support dog or animal:
Even phobias that are very specific and limited but keep you from experiencing a necessary part of life can count, including a fear of flying. If you feel perfectly safe and calm in every other situation but can honestly say that you experience anxiety or panic attacks while traveling on an airplane, you may qualify for ESA certification.
Phobias that don’t really impact your everyday life usually don’t qualify. The health issue in question has to present a limitation to your ability to live a normal life.
A fear of clowns isn’t likely to count, for example, unless you can make a reasonable argument that your quality of life is being substantially and directly impacted by this phobia and that the presence of an animal could allow you to overcome it. If, however, a clown college takes up residence across the street from your house that could potentially well justify the presence of an ESA in your home. In this case, it makes sense that you’d need your emotional support dogs calming presence to help you walk out your door regardless of the physical manifestation of your fears across the street. The certified letter is to represent that your support animal is not just for fun, but rather a treatment for the emotional or psychological disorder that you have been diagnosed with.
The final verdict on whether you qualify for an emotional support animal letter is in the hands of the licenses therapist we put you in touch with. They have the education, experience, and legal authority to work with you on an individual, case by case, basis.
Legally, there are no restrictions on the type of animals can be classified as ESAs. You can have an emotional support cat, an emotional support dog, an emotional support turtle, bird, snake, tarantula, ferret, chicken, pig, donkey, or squirrel. Even fish count as emotional support animals, though traveling around with your pet goldfish might not be such a great idea.
The point is, though, that there isn’t a lot of specific legal definition relating to emotional support animals. That’s both a good and a bad thing. Part of the good is that even unusual animals can count as ESAs, though taking a penguin or kangaroo with you in public places may attract unwanted attention. That’s something to think about if you don’t already have an support animal and are planning to get one. If you have social anxiety or other social phobias and limitations, bringing an attention-getting animal into a public space might not actually help to soothe your discomfort.
Don’t forget to consider your pet’s comfort and safety as well! Part of the reason why an emotional support fish might not be a great idea is that transporting a tank can be quite difficult, and fish often experience health issues as a result of stress. A pet who is uncomfortable in public areas is likely not the best option to help you cope with your anxiety. Likewise, if you feel stress when your pet acts up or if you feel unable to control or train your dog, that is something that also will not help you feel better. The goal is to provide greater comfort and freedom for you, not to add another element of worry into your life.
As we mentioned before, emotional support animals must be well behaved. If you have a puppy that is currently going through a rebellious phase, you might want to wait until after it has grown out of that phase before taking it on a commercial airline flight. Emotional support dogs don’t necessarily need to have the stoic, zen-like focus of a service dog, but they should behave in a professional manner.
The most common pets that are first considered to be support animals are those that are part of the family already. Emotional support dogs are the #1 example. Dogs and cats have the benefit of being domesticated already and therefore make them easier for a person to have around. Both cats and dogs often have strong bonds with their owners which translates into being great support animals.
Birds are great pets for many reasons. For starters, they are extremely smart creatures with some even having the ability to speak and repeat words in our spoken language. They also require very little room and grooming, so caring for one does not take very much work. Lastly, they have long lifespans so they will remain part of your life for many years. And just like cats and dogs, there are many species of the avian species to choose from.
Having other animals is not unheard of, but it is important to keep the well-being of the animal in mind. If you live in a more rural area with acres to roam, a horse may be suitable to work as your therapy animal. If you have an ample backyard with a ton of grass area, a pig may suit your needs. If you live in a small apartment, maybe a snake or hamster works best for you.