Emotional Support Dogs: More Than Your Best Friend
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When I was a Resident Assistant in college, it was the first time I had ever heard of emotional support dogs or animals. How do you get an emotional support dog? I did not quite understand it and I thought it was just a ploy for students to have their pets in the dorm room. Now that I am out of college, I understand the
importance of mental and emotional health much better.
What is an emotional support animal? According to the American Kennel Club
“Emotional support animals (ESAs) refer to dogs and other pets that provide
emotional support and comfort to their owners on a daily basis. ESAs legally must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional like a therapist,
psychologist, or psychiatrist.” ESAs are not the same as Service Dogs, services
dogs are trained and perform specific tasks. For example, some service dogs are seen in grocery and or shopping stores leading someone who is blind. Service dogs can go in places such as restaurants, emotional support animals can not. Airlines allow both service dogs and emotional support dogs.
Service dogs don’t have to be German Shepherds
As a dog owner, you know what benefits your dog brings to you. When I am having a bad day, my dog, in his own way, comforts me. I know that no matter what he will allow me to cuddle him and rub him. It offers a stress reliever. The days I am crying, he will come to me to make sure I am ok. It helps reduce stress and anxiety.
While emotional support dogs have no specific training in dealing with mental and emotional disabilities, they are afforded two (legal) protections that allow them to be with you. They are allowed to fly with you, but you must have a physician’s letter. They are also allowed in apartment complexes that have a “no pet policy”, with a physician’s note.
Emotional support dogs are not breed-specific, but it is best to select breeds that are temperament controlled. Their characteristics are a key indicator if the dog would make the ideal ESA. For example, King (my dog) is mild-mannered. He is not happy, he is sweet, and he likes to be cuddled. His demeanor is much similar to mine, so it helps me during those tough, sticky, emotional situations.
How does one get an emotional support dog? You can’t go pick up any dog or even just your current dog and declare it an emotional support dog. ESAs are prescribed by a mental health professional. It is a signed letter from them stating
that you have a mental health condition and your pet is a remedy. Once your therapist or psychiatrist has provided you with this letter, your dog is now a certified Emotional Support Animal.
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