In today’s fast-paced world filled with modern technology, along with the pressure to do everything quicker, better and bigger, it’s no surprise that the number of illnesses like depression and anxiety have also steadily risen.
In response to this, the number of people taking antidepressants has also increased. Fortunately, those people who are conscious about the side effects of this type of medication are now considering alternatives in the form of animals.
Learn about emotional support animals and how they differ from service animals, as there are some common misconceptions between the two, and discover which one may be best to help with your type of condition.
What is an ESA?
Emotional support animals can be an ideal alternative to helping people cope with various illnesses, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to high blood pressure. They are very similar to owning a pet, except that their sole purpose is to offer companionship and help to alleviate their owner’s condition.
What is a Service Animal?
There can be some confusion between an ESA and a service animal. Service animals are normally, but not necessarily, dogs that are also specially trained. Their job is to help their owner with tasks such as guiding them if they are blind and protecting them if they are having a seizure. For this reason, they must be trained, and this can take 18-24 months.
Because not all illnesses are visible to the eye, an emotional support animal can seem like any other pet. However, this is not the case, as they have rights. For instance, ESAs are allowed to travel with their owner on a plane under the Air Carrier Access Act without extra charge, and the same applies to service animals.
Furthermore, under the Fair Housing Act, you are permitted to have an ESA or service animal live with you without incurring any pet costs. It is useful to note that under both types of animal, you will be required to present a letter written by a mental health professional that states your animal is required for your health and safety.
Under the employment laws, people with disabilities are allowed to have their support or service animal with them in the workplace if they help them to complete tasks or ease any symptoms that may prevent them from doing their work.
The main difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal is that service animals must be specially trained in order to do their job. Emotional support animals however, do not need to be trained, and it is just their presence that is required to help their owner.
In certain states such as California, there are laws in place that protect service animals, but not ESAs. For example, emotional support animals are not allowed in public places such as hotels, restaurants or government buildings, whereas service animals are.
In general, the federal law considers these two types of animals very differently. Because a service animal is specially trained, they are viewed as a medical equipment, which means that they are allowed in most places where emotional support animals are not.
Which One is Best for You?
It’s always best to visit a health professional or your doctor if you think that you could benefit from an emotional support animal or service animal, as they can provide advice on which they feel will best suit your needs and be beneficial to you as part of your treatment plan.
From the differences explained earlier, it depends on what kind of condition or illness you have. If you have a physical disability, a service animal can help alert individuals who are deaf or blind, they can retrieve items such as a telephone, and they can provide physical assistance such as pulling a wheelchair.
An ESA is more suited for people who suffer from a psychological disorder, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. They cannot assist with everyday tasks, but are there to provide comfort and companionship.
Overall, there are some similarities between an emotional support animal and a service animal, but both have very different roles. An emotional support animal is there to help mitigate their owner’s condition, and a service animal is there to help complete major life tasks. They both have rights, but service animals have more and must be trained.
It can be argued that a service animal’s role is more important, but this is not necessarily the case, as emotional support animals can help with serious illnesses too; they just may not be physically visible. Deciding which one is best for you will come down to what kind of illness or disability you have, and the best way to identify this will be to go to a health professional.