The term ‘emotional support animal‘ or ESA is a new term, not all persons are familiar with. If you feel you qualify for a certification, which will allow you to take your pet with on travels, there is a process you must follow. These are some of the common questions asked when one considers having their pet certified as an ESA.
What is an ESA (Emotion Support Animal)?
Anxiety and stress are common mental issues people suffer today. These emotional disorders can be a result of a traumatic event that has occurred or simply your personality and your difficulty in handling day-to-day activities. Some medications can help some people deal with these emotions; for others, they need companionship to help them deal with situations. These companions are your emotional support animal or ESA.
Emotional support animals are pets that serve as your companion to help comfort you and get you through events by calming your emotions. Studies have proven pets are able to minimize a person’s negative symptoms. Therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals can prescribe an ESA for their patients who they feel will benefit from having a companion pet with them throughout the day.
Which Pets qualify for ESA?
An emotional support animal is any domesticated pet that does not require training. Their role as an ESA is mainly to be in your presence to reduce your emotional upset or psychological disability. The only training they would require is to be able to be in public settings with acceptable behaviors.
There has been a significant amount of abuse concerning the ESA program. This abuse is making it difficult for mental health professionals to know which pets work best as there have been concerns on which pets should safely be allowed on commercial airlines.
How to Qualify for an ESA
ESA certification is much like obtaining a prescription from your medical doctor. Just like a prescription, an ESA cannot legally be used unless it has been determined by a medical professional that you suffer from a qualifying health condition. A qualifying health condition can include suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other qualifying mental health condition your physician feels an ESA will address.
How to Register an Emotional Support Animal
An ESA or emotional support animal is different than a service animal which has been trained to detect specific medical conditions. Registering an ESA is done by receiving a letter from a mental health professional, which states you require the presence of your ESA due to a qualifying emotional disability. These letters are typically valid for one year from when they are issued.
Having your pet registered as your ESA is a voluntary process; however, without a letter of recognition by a mental health professional, you cannot legally take your animal into specific areas.
Legal Rights Associated with ESAs
Once you have received recognition from a mental health professional stating it serves your emotional needs to have an ESA accompany you, there are legal protections in place:
- Housing Rights- With a qualifying letter of recognition for an ESA, you are allowed to have a pet in your residence even if it is designated as a ‘no pet’ housing development.
- Air Travel- When you have the qualifying document from your mental health professional for an ESA, you are allowed to bring your pet into the aircraft cabin. Always contact your airline before the departure date to learn their specific rules regarding this privilege.
- Public Places- Private entities or commercial buildings that have posted there are no pets allowed do not have to permit ESAs in under the law. Because an ESA is not trained as a ‘service animal,’ restaurants, hotels, and other public places do not have to allow them to enter. Check ahead if you are planning to visit these places to learn their individual rules.
The ESA process is in place to help people through what they find emotional events. These pets help to keep you calmer and more able to deal with stress or activities that cause anxiety. ESAs also help you to deal with depression and other emotional life events.