What is an Emotional Support Dog?
An Emotional Support Dog is a dog that a licensed mental health professional has determined provides some benefit to an individual with a mental or emotional disability. They do not require specific training and provide emotional or mental stability to their owner through their love and companionship. Emotional Support Dogs are also commonly called Companion Dogs and are a specific type of Emotional Support Animal (ESA). They are not service dogs.
Curious to know if you could potentially qualify for an emotional support animal? Get started by taking our free, 5-minute screening survey and receive an instant result.
What Disabilities Qualify for an Emotional Support Dog?
Social Anxiety Disorder
Your emotional support dog could help you overcome social anxiety fear and boost your self-confidence.
General Anxiety Disorder
Whether you’re constantly worried or have trouble concentrating, your ESA or emotional support dog can be there to relieve some of the daily anxiety.
Your emotional support animal or dog is there to comfort you if you struggle with depression and will be there to get you out of bed each morning.
Your emotional support dog could be there to calm you (sometimes this just means having them by your side) when you face a panic attack.
Having postpartum depression can be extremely tough, but your ESA or emotional support dog could help ease the pain you are going through.
No matter your alter in moods, energy or activity levels, your emotional support animal or dog could be your constant in the midst of irregular change if you suffer from bipolar disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Having OCD is a real disorder and affects your day-to-day life. By being a pet owner to your emotional support animal or dog, you could have a furry friend to help you relax.
Your emotional support dog can help you with your urges and impulses not only with their sweet faces but also their ability to comfort you in need.
Phobias and Fears
It could be a fear of heights or fear of social situations; your emotional support animal or dog is there to reduce some of the stress.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD can be anything from nightmares to extreme worry/anxiety of past experiences, but your ESA or emotional support dog can be by your side during hard times and help you with your mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
It’s difficult when dealing with depression at the same time every year so having your ESA or emotional support dog at your feet, hip, or head (it’s not just the small pets that do it either), you can start to feel a little bit better.
Emotional Support Animal Prescription
An Emotional Support Animal Prescription is actually a letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional or Physician. This is the ONLY requirement for your dog or cat to be an Emotional Support Animal, nothing else (this includes certifications, registrations, emotional support dog registry, etc.).
Common Myths about Emotional Support Dogs, Service Dogs, And More
When searching on the Internet about ESAs, psychiatric service dog, emotional support animal prescriptions, emotional support dog letter, and emotional support dog registration, there is sometimes a blurred line.
So to help you understand more about the full definition of an emotional support dog, let’s debunk some myths.
“The only thing different about emotional support animals and service dogs is one is for mental health disabilities and one is for physical disabilities.”
While it’s true to some extent, it’s not the only that separates the two assistance animals apart.
Like other emotional support animals, emotional support dogs do not require any specific training and there aren’t any qualifications or requirements for an emotional support dog.
It’s true! It’s a great way to distinguish a service dog and therapy dog, which are both trained in their own separate ways.
Also, service dogs are guide dogs who have public accommodation and permission to enter a lot of public establishments. Emotional support animals or dogs do not.
“Service dogs can assist your whole family, and emotional support dogs can only be your support animal.”
If your dog helps with your emotional or mental disability and your mom’s AND/OR other family members in the household who too has an individual disability on the list above, then he can be an emotional support animal to all.
However, service dogs are strictly one to one. A seeing-eye dog or any other service animal can only do its full-time job if he has only one person to care for.
This seems pretty straightforward but is a common misconception when dealing with service animals and emotional support animals.
“An emotional support animal prescription is your ESA letter AND a certification of your emotional support animal registration.”
An emotional support animal prescription is ONLY the ESA letter.
Emotional support animal registration? Not a real thing.
There are a number of websites and companies that offer to “register” your animal or dog – this is not required and does not legally allow you to live or travel with your animal.
Legal Protections for Emotional Support Dogs: The 2 Laws You MUST Know
Two Federal Laws primarily protect the rights of people with Emotional Support Animals.
Although the rights are not as expansive as those granted to Service Animals, there are still two very important points to be aware of.
Living With Your Dog
The Fair Housing Act ensures that an individual requiring an Emotional Support Dog will be allowed to live with their animal.
Furthermore, it prevents landlords and rental companies from being able to charge pet fees or deposits.
Disclaimer: If the landlord/owner witnesses neglect of the emotional support dog or significant damage done, they may be able to charge fees later on.
Traveling With Your Dog
The Air Carrier Access Act ensures that people are able to fly with their Emotional Support Dog without having to pay additional fees.
The airlines do require that they are informed in advance and that a recent (less than one-year-old) medical letter is provided as well.
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