Approximately 44% of American families have at least one dog, though many dogs are tasked with more important responsibilities than fetching sticks and playing with squeaky toys. In many homes, animals provide valuable emotional support or even complete complicated tasks for people with disabilities. Although the terms “service animal” and “emotional support animal” may be used interchangeably by some people, these designations are actually very different. Each type of animal serves its own unique purpose and is subject to its own set of standards and regulations. In order to make the best choice for your needs and to ensure all requirements are fulfilled, you’ll want to become more familiar with the information outlined in today’s post.
Emotional Support Animals
- ESA training isn’t technically required: Emotional support animals (or ESAs) don’t actually have required training. In other words, there’s no specialized training course that an ESA must pass in order to qualify for their designation. However, ESA training is highly recommended. ESAs do have to be well-behaved and under their owner’s control at all times. If an ESA creates a disturbance, especially while traveling or in a place of business, the owner may be asked to leave or the dog’s ESA privileges may be revoked.
- ESAs receive fewer federal protections: Those who are curious about how to get an ESA should know that a medical diagnosis and a note from a healthcare professional will be required to qualify for an emotional support animal. But even if you have both of those things, you aren’t necessarily guaranteed access with your ESA. There are a couple of protections that apply to ESAs and owners from the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they extend only to housing laws and air travel. And even then, you may not be permitted to fly with your ESA if an airline determines your dog could be a disturbance to others. Although there’s no required training, you won’t benefit from the same safeguards service dog owners enjoy.
- There aren’t specific breeds that make the best ESAs: If you’re looking for certified emotional support animals for treating depression and other mental health conditions, the good news is that you don’t have to limit your search to a specific type of animal or breed. There’s more versatility available, which may be welcome news for people who already have an inclination towards a particular breed. While there are certain breeds that are more commonly used as ESAs, you don’t necessarily have to count one particular type out.
- Service animals are trained to perform necessary tasks: Unlike ESAs, service animals do have required training to complete. Service dogs can provide some emotional support as well, but their main purpose is to provide help with jobs that their owner cannot complete themselves. Service animals will typically undergo a rigorous training program in order to develop the skills they need to help their owner. This process can take a long time, and not every animal is able to make it through the program.
- Service dogs and owners are protected by the ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act does extend more protections to service animals than ESAs receive. The ADA requires public accommodations to allow service dogs to accompany their owners anywhere the owners can go. In contrast, those with ESAs can be denied service due to the presence of their animal. Both service and emotional support animals receive housing protection and airplane travel protection, but airlines cannot deny service to someone with a service animal.
- There are certain breeds seen as more equipped for service positions: Although most dogs could theoretically become a service animal, there are certain breeds that have been found to be more successful in completing the required training. Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds tend to be more equipped for service positions. Some smaller dogs can make good medical alert animals, but they typically won’t be appropriate choices when guiding is needed. Because the training process is so integral and so challenging, there are many dogs who simply wouldn’t qualify.
You may already consider your pet to be your BFF. But with an ESA certification, your dog can drastically improve your quality of life. For more information, please contact us today.