In recent years, mental health has received unprecedented attention as people raise awareness on the importance of keeping people’s psyche healthy as much as the body. A person struggling with mental health tends to pull away from friends and loved ones, which aggravates its effects on the mind. One of the most realizations that people are beginning to accept nowadays is that these illnesses don’t tend to go away independently. That is why several treatments and therapy, including emotional support animals, are being applied to help patients cope.
People qualified to file for emotional support animals (ESA) are protected by law and have lesser restrictions when taking them out to public places. If you or someone you know would like to file for an ESA certificate, here are some things they should know:
Service animals vs. ESA
One of the most important takeaways from an emotional support animal compared to service animals is that the certification doesn’t require your companion to have special training. Their main difference is explained as follows:
- As mentioned, ESA doesn’t need special training because they are there only to offer emotional support and companionship, while service dogs may be required to do other things.
- ESA can help patients by providing relief from stress and anxiety. Simultaneously, service dogs also assist with the owner’s daily tasks like guiding a visually-impaired person, press elevator buttons, carrying a bag, and others.
- Although ESA doesn’t need special training, you still need to control them in public. You can train them by yourself or have them undergo training outside.
Many people mistake that they need to certify their dog to be an ESA. The truth is, there is no certifying body that examines your dog as a fit companion. What you really need is to obtain an ESA letter to qualify your dog as a support companion. In its simplest form, an emotional support animal registration only requires you to have a licensed mental health professional to recommend that you need a companion.
When you recognize that you need an ESA, get in touch with your licensed therapist, and demonstrate why you need a companion. If your doctor determines that you qualify for an ESA, he’ll write a letter that recognizes your dog as an emotional companion. The letter will have:
- Your doctor’s/therapist’s letterhead.
- An established mental disability that needs an ESA
- Recommendation of an ESA to ameliorate the symptoms
- Your doctor’s/therapist’s license number, signature, and date.
Once you’ve secured a certificate, your ESA or ESD will be afforded special permission or benefits under the protection of the Aircraft Carrier Access Act (ACA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The former allows you to carry your dog in-cabin without additional fees; however, your letter is only valid for a year, and you’ll need to renew it if you still need one. Also, airlines are allowed to have their policies to what constitutes an ESA. Currently, they only recognize dogs and cats as an ESA.
Earlier this year, the U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued new guidelines that affirm the accommodation of emotional support dogs (ESD) in housing. This basically enforces a previous directive for landlords to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with a valid ESA letter from a licensed professional. It also allows for online application of ESA and other related services, making it easy for you people who find it difficult to see their therapist or doctor. Here are some details of the FHA regarding ESA:
- Landlords are not allowed to impose a breed, weight, and size limit on a registered animal.
- Landlords are not allowed to charge fees in connection to the ESA.
- Housing providers are not allowed to ask or require details of the tenant’s medical condition or history.
- Landlords can deny an ESA if it puts an “undue financial burden” to accommodate it and if the landlord determines that they pose a health and safety issue to the other occupants.
Choosing an ESA
If you haven’t chosen your support companion yet or already have a pet, the good thing is that you can have them as your ESA. You don’t need to spend exorbitantly on an ESA. You’ll also have to be careful about online services that will hustle you for your money, offering you an ESA letter but getting a fake one. Do your research, or the only approach trusted service providers to help you get your ESA letter.
Investing in an ESA is a great long term solution to work for your mental health. It ensures a steady and supportive companion and helps you in many ways to navigate your struggles in your daily lives. We need to stop putting a stigma on mental health issues and recognize those who need help. Handling these issues can be complicated and can be so simple as having a four-legged friend holding our hand as we rise above them.