In any given year in the United States, approximately 26% of American adults deal with a mental disorder that is diagnosable. Now, there is some very good news for these one out of four individuals. Pet therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment in rendering emotional support, since pets trigger a release of serotonin. Known as Emotional Support Animals, or ESA, here are the answers to five frequently asked questions about them.
1. How Can My Pet be an ESA?
To get your pet registered as a certified emotional support animal, you first need an ESA letter from a mental health professional. This ESA letter states that you have a disability and serves basically as a prescription for an ESA. Once you have this, registering a dog or your pet as a certified ESA can usually be done online.
2. What Types of Disabilities Qualify an Individual for an ESA?
An individual qualifying for an ESA requires a letter from a mental health professional that states they have a disability. Some disabilities that would qualify an individual for an ESA include depression, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others such as panic, mood disorders, phobias, and stress.
3. What is an ESA Letter and How Do I Get One?
Many individuals wonder how to qualify for an emotional support animal. The first step is to get an ESA letter. An ESA letter is a document written by a mental health professional on behalf of an individual requesting their pet be given the status as an Emotional Support Animal. In the letter, the mental health professional states that the individual requesting the ESA has a disability and the emotional support animal will have a positive effect on the patient, usually related to the release of serotonin associated with interacting with the ESA.
4. Who Can Write an ESA Letter?
A mental health professional must write an ESA letter. In essence, the mental health professional has determined that the individual has an intellectual, psychiatric or physical disability that is in compliance with standards set by the Federal government. The ESA letter is like a prescription, but it is for a support animal, not a pharmaceutical drug.
5. What Else Can I Use My ESA Letter For?
Your ESA letter will be very helpful if you want to live in a building with a policy that states “no pets”. Also, flying restrictions will be different if you show your ESA letter when you want to fly with your pet. Then, your pet can be in the cabin of the plane, and the release of serotonin associated with your pet will calm you down. It is good to remember that the ESA letter for flying usually needs to be no more than one year old. Always check with your airlines for their rules.
If you have a therapy cat for depression or service dog for social anxiety, whatever your situation is, it is good to know there are laws surrounding ESA ownership. ESA training is readily available for dogs and other animals. And at the end of the day, just think: what could be more of a win-win than adopting a shelter dog ESA? There really is a sense of purpose with ESAs and ESA training.