The need for a prescribed emotional support dog(Animal) for treatment grows yearly because, Statistically every year, about 18.2 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from some mental health disabilities and enduring conditions such as depression, Anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
According to statistics by Mental Health America
- 1 in 5 Adults have a mental health condition. That’s over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of New York and Florida combined.
- Youth mental health is worsening. Rates of youth with severe depression increased from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. Even with severe depression, 63% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment.
There are new statistics saying that by 2020 these numbers are expected to fall due to the advancement of technology in recent years.
Ps: For the purpose of this article, I will be using Dogs and Animals interchangeably, because dogs are the most used therapeutic animal. Although cats and pigs are prefered by some pet parents.
Here are a few things we will cover in this article.
- What Is An Emotional Support Animal (Dog)
- Conditions/Health Benefits Of An Emotional Support Animal (Dog)
- Emotional Support Animal Training Requirements
- Responsibilities Of An Emotional Support Animal (Dog) Handler
- Emotional Support Animal (Dog) Certification
What Is An Emotional support Animal?
An emotional support dog or animal (ESD or ESA) is a pet or an animal that can provide therapeutic and emotional benefit to those suffering with emotional issues, anxiety or mental disorders.
Emotional support dogs provides comfort, support in forms of affection and company to a person suffering from various emotional and psychiatric problems. They are prescribed therapist for emotional stability and unconditional love
An emotional support dog is not required to perform any specific task or go through training. They cannot also access all public areas.
The two legal protections for emotional support dogs are:
- They can board a flight with a person who has an emotional or psychological disability.
- They can qualify for no-pet housing.
- Under both of these laws, an ESD’s handler cannot be charged an additional fee for housing or airline access.
A letter from a certified physician may be requested by housing authorities and airlines agencies because the use of an emotional support animal has been abused by a few over the years, therefore new guideline and laws have been put in place.
Identifying An Emotional Support Dogs In Public
You can always spot an emotional support dogs because they always wear their vest, That’s how they are identified in public otherwise, their handlers will often find themselves explaining that their dog is an emotional support dog.
Businesses, such as, Restaurants, airlines, etc, prefer to see a formal letter from a certified health practitioner or a vest that indicates that the dog is an emotional support dog.
Emotional support Animals (Dogs, Cats, Sometimes pigs) can can assist persons with conditions such as:
- Aerophobia (fear of flying)
- bipolar disorder/mood disorder
- Panic attacks
- Mild to severe anxiety
- Agoraphobia (fear of being outside of home)
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Stress-induced situations
- Social shyness
- Gender Identity
Emotional support dogs have brought about tremendous improvements in and these beneficial results have been recorded by doctors over the years. Here are a few
- Patients are more relaxed and comforted
- They feel more safe and in control
- Significant Improvements in the symptoms of the diagnosed illness
- They are more social
- Improved Self-esteem
Emotional support animals are also useful in care homes or nursing homes. People residing in these homes are more relaxed and active when there’s an animal involved in their daily routine which has also led to improved health and reduced medications.
Emotional Support Dog Requirements
An Emotional Support Dog does not require specialized or extensive training like a Service Dog does, however they must perform certain tasks to aid in their handler’s disability. An emotional Support Dog must comply with the following guidelines:
1). Your ESD must be well behaved and under your control at all times.
2). Your ESA cannot cause harm or a disturbance either at home, public places or on the airplane.
Responsibilities Of An ESA Handler
As a Handler, you are responsible for ;
1) The care and control of your service animal, reckless behaviour (Insubordination or uncontrolled barking by your ESA in public places like restaurants, malls is highly prohibited. If your ESA’s poses a direct threat to the health or safety of persons in public or business places due to bad behaviour, The business has the right to deny you and your animal access. The ADA requires the animal to be under the control of the handler at all times.
2) State and local laws requires your animal to be vaccinated
There is a story that ran on fox 5 news mid 2017. A Delta spokesperson said a passenger was bitten by an emotional support dog aboard a Delta flight. Delta said the passenger had to be taken off the flight to receive medical attention
According to an eyewitness account of the story, a passenger on the flight, Bridget Maddox-Peoples said it appeared the man was attacked by the dog and was badly injured.
“The gentleman’s face was completely bloody, blood in his eyes, cheeks, nose, his mouth, his shirt was covered in blood,” said Maddox-Peoples.
Although It was an unfortunate situation, I would blame the handler for the ESD’s reckless behaviour.
Emotional Support Animal Certification
“There are a lot of Scams going on online about certification and Documentation”
According to ADA, covered entities may not require documentation or certification, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.
This is not to say that some entities will not ask for documentation but it is not required under the law that you must show proof that your pet has been certified.
However people prefer to register their dog to avoid questions and delays when dealing with airline employees or landlords.
Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds
So, you’ve been diagnosed with having an Emotional Support Disorder and your mental health professional has recommended that you try an Emotional Support Animal as part of your treatment.
Your journey as an ESA handler has just begun and it’s always fun and adventurous.
There is no doubt that emotional support dog breeds are the most popular ESAs in the world today. The bond these pawly animals make with their patients is amazing.
They are supportive, caring and loving. They are perfect companion for anyone – especially someone with an emotional or mental disability.
As with any other emotional support animal, picking the right emotional support dog is not always the easiest decision.
There are some breeds that are naturally made to be the perfect emotional support dog due to the character and Intelligence but most dog breeds are lovely and cuddly and would make excellent ESAs.
Golden retrievers are lovable and caring dog. This classic American family dog is famously well-behaved, In fact golden retrievers were the first ever American Kennel Club Obedience Trial Champions.
They are very easy to train, they are also fun and athletic. They are great around children, making them excellent emotional support dogs for those with a family.
The only downside to Golden Retrievers may be their tendency to shed, but this is easily remedied with frequent brushing and washing.
Recommended For Patients Suffering From: Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Stress-induced situations. etc
The population of people that own Labrador Retrievers in america has reached an alltime high owing to the fact that they are the most happy, loyal and energetic dog breed.
Labradors are naturally gentle and incredibly intelligent. This breed can be easily trained and they make perfect ESAs.
Recommended For Patients Suffering From: Anxiety,, Autism, Panic attacks. Etc
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This breed of dogs are very affectionate, easy to train and they love to cuddle. They are particularly vulnerable to heart issues, so routine health checks and vet appointments are vital.
This breed is also a great Emotional Support Dog and they require a lot of grooming.
Recommended For Patients Suffering From: Depression, Social shyness, Panic attacks, Autism Etc
Other Great Emotional Support Dog Breeds Include: Poodles, Yorkshire Terrier, Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, Bullmastiff, Pugs, Chihuahua. etc
Scams and FAQs
Q:How can get an authentic animal certification
A: You can get it from a Licensed Mental Health Professional.
If you believe that having an emotional support animal would be beneficial to you, then your first step is to have a mental health diagnosis, with the results, a prescription of an ESD can be made.
An Emotional support animal therapy prescription or ESA dog letter must include:
- Name of the patient
- Details about the animal (name of the animal, breed, etc) and will also mention that the licensed mental health professional believes that the designated animal is needed for the mental well-being of the patient in question.
- The ESA letter should be on your therapist’s official letterhead.
- The ESA letter should include the therapist’s license number, date, and direct contact information
Q: What Qualifies a Person To Have an Emotional Support Animal?
A: An emotional or a psychological condition entitles you to an emotional support Animal. Consult with your physician for more information.
Q: Does my service animals require certification?
But it is recommended to have proof that the animal has been certified and trained to help staff and the public recognize the dog is working
Q: Can the landlord charge me a pet/security deposit for my emotional support animal/assistance animal?
According to HUD.gov, an emotional support animal may not be charged a pet fee by a housing provider because these animals are not pets and cannot be subjected to pet fees. HUD.gov specifically states the following:
“Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals.
For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal.”
Q: Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?
“These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.
Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.
You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.”
Q: Is an emotional support dog the same as a service dog?
Therapy dogs and emotional support animals are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA.
Q: Is an emotional support dog vest required for my ESD when in public?
An emotional support dog does not need to wear a special vest. However, some handlers prefer to have one.
The ESD vest is a great way to identify your canine as a “working” dog and will help eliminate the confusion and questions you may encounter from the public
Q: How can I file a complaint with HUD?
A:You can file an online complaint with the HUD.gov if you have experienced discrimination in housing. You may access this Here
Q: What if I live in a city or county that has a ban on certain breeds of dog?
A: According to HUD.gov, size, weight, and breed limitations cannot be applied to assistance animals.
- Beware of any health care professional who cannot provide/use his or her license number or direct contact on the letter is probably a SCAM.
- Anybody who tells you, “I run an official emotional support dog registry” is lying and probably a SCAM.
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