Emotional Support Animals

Dogs have shared their lives with humans for at least 14,000 years and possibly much longer. During those millennia dogs have been man’s helper, protector, and companion. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39% of U.S. households include one or more dogs and 34% include one or more cats.

An Emotional Support Animal is a dog or other common domestic animal that provides therapeutic support to a disabled or elderly owner through companionship, non-judgmental positive regard, affection, and a focus in life. If a doctor determines that a patient with a disabling mental illness would benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal, the doctor writes letters supporting a request by the patient to keep the ESA in “no pets” housing or to travel with the ESA in the cabin of an aircraft.

ESAs are not task-trained like service dogs are. Little training at all is required so long as the animal is reasonably well-behaved by pet standards. This means the animal is fully toilet trained and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors such as frequent or lengthy episodes of barking. The animal should not pose a danger to other tenants or workers. But there is no requirement for fancy heeling or mitigating tasks since emotional support animals are not generally taken anywhere pets would not ordinarily go without permission (the exception being to fly in the cabin of an aircraft, even if the airline does not ordinarily accept pets).

For more information about the differences between emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals, read the related article: What Is The Difference Between A Psychiatric Service Dog And An Emotional Support Animal?

It is important to note that having a diagnosis of a mental illness, by itself, is not sufficient to qualify a person for an ESA unless that illness is so severe it disables them. Only a judge can truly determine whether a person is legally disabled. However, a doctor can probably make a medical determination of a person’s disability and on that basis prescribe an ESA. To qualify as disabled under federal disability rights laws, a person must experience substantial limitations on one or more major life activities because of their mental illness.

Studies have shown real health benefits for those living with pets, including:
* lower cholesterol
* lower blood pressure
* lower triglyceride
* reduced stress levels
* reduced feelings of loneliness
* better mental health
* increased activity
* more opportunities for exercise
* more time spent outdoors (for dog owners especially)
* more opportunities for socialization


Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *