Emotional Support Animal
Animals can quickly become our children, siblings, or even best friends. They can also give us support when we need it the most. A growing trend amongst pet lovers is choosing a furry companion to be our emotional support animal. There are some questions about what this means, exactly, and what it doesn’t.
WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
According to Very Well Mind, “An emotional support animal is an animal companion that offers some type of benefit to an individual with some form of disability.” The benefits of having a furry companion to help alleviate your stress include trauma support, fewer feelings of loneliness, and fewer feelings of anxiety.
An emotional support animal doesn’t require training, so you don’t have to worry about getting it from a specialized trainer. You can go to your local animal shelter, and visit with each animal until you find one you connect with. If you want your support animal to be trained, this is always an option, but isn’t a requirement.
For your companion to be considered a true emotional support animal, however, you must get a prescription from a licensed mental health professional. Without this, you may say that the animal is there for your emotional support, but some facilities aren’t required to honor this without the prescription.
ARE EMOTIONAL ANIMALS CONSIDERED SERVICE PETS?
Unfortunately, no. According to the American Kennel Club, service animals are trained for specific tasks. They can be trained to recognize when someone is about to have a psychiatric episode, search a room for someone with PTSD, remind someone to take medication, or guide a visually impaired person around obstacles.
While there can be little doubt that the service a support animal provides is crucial, it doesn’t qualify it as being a service. The AKC states, “Behaviors such as cuddling on cue, although comforting, do not qualify. The tasks need to be specifically trained to mitigate a particular disability, not something instinctive the dog would do anyway.”
WHERE CAN I TAKE MY EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS?
Because a support animal is not considered a service dog, there are some public locations such as shopping malls and restaurants that aren’t required to allow your emotional support companion inside. This goes for airports as well.
The Fair Housing Act does require that your emotional support companion be accommodated when looking for housing, however. As long as you have a prescription, of course. For more information about emotional support animals and how to properly care for them, contact Andes Straley Veterinary at (423) 378-4443.