Can My Pet Become an Emotional Support Animal?
Perhaps, you’ve heard of emotional support animals in the news media of late, or maybe, you’ve even seen one on an airline flight you were on.
ESAs and related issues are certainly making big headlines these days. Take, for example, the story about American Airlines banning insects, hedgehogs, and goats as ESAs on its flights! But most emotional support animals are more practical anyway – dogs and cats.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal Exactly?
An ordinary pet can become an ESA, but at the same time, ESAs are much more than “mere pets.” You have to go through a process of training and paperwork to get legal emotional support animal letters for dogs or cats, or another qualified animal.
The animals has to be “prescribed” by a licensed therapist to someone suffering from a diagnosed mental/emotional condition, like for example post-traumatic stress syndrome, clinical depression, dementia, autism, bipolar disorder, ADD, or even substance addiction.
Legally, ESA animals have “more rights” than ordinary animals. They have access to housing, regardless of “no pet” policies of landlords. They’re also permitted to fly with their master in-cabin. And both of these benefits must come without an extra fee being charged.
Can My Pet Become a Certified ESA?
Almost any dog/cat can become an emotional support animal. There’s no special breed or size or age of animal that’s needed. That even goes for pit bulls, and you could even get multiple ESAs if your therapists prescribes them.
It’s the people who have to qualify, really, by having a verifiable, qualified emotional or mental disorder. But the list of qualified conditions is very broad.
However, your dog/cat will have to go through some special training, must have a history of being “well behaved,” and must be firmly under your control at all times.
Technically, you only need a prescription and not registration for your ESA to be valid, but if you want the animal’s status to be honored quickly at airlines and hotels, it’s best to register your animal and carry a card/certificate as quick proof. An ESA vest on your animal can also help.
Only a licensed mental health practitioner can give you a letter (certificate) for your ESA. And you’ll need a new such letter each year to keep it valid.
Are There Any Limitations on ESA Animals?
Yes, there are a few limitations on emotional support animals. They cannot be permitted access into restaurants, grocery stores, or anywhere that food is being served to humans just because of their special status. Health regulations trump ESA law here.
Service dogs, by contrast, are allowed in these places that are off limits to emotional support animals because they are deemed more essentially necessary to the person whom they are assisting.
However, since there are many pet friendly restaurants to be found in almost any region or country (run a quick Google search), this limitation won’t cause much trouble even on trips if you plan well ahead.
It’s not uncommon anymore for those with psychological conditions of some kind to have the benefit and privileges of an emotional support animal. And almost any pet can become one, so as long as you follow the requirements and you yourself qualify as to your diagnosed condition.