As time goes on, emotional support animals (ESAs) are becoming more accepted by people in the U.S. Owning an ESA can entitle you to certain rights (including flying with your ESA and less housing restrictions) so that you won’t be discriminated against. More businesses and retail locations are also becoming more understanding about allowing emotional support animals on the premises. These entities have become more accepting of ESAs in large part because of the work several celebrities have done to advocate for individuals who own an emotional support animal. Here’s a look at some celebrities who have spoken up about the importance of ESAs in our society.
1. Carrie Fisher
The late actress/writer did more for the ESA community than perhaps any other celebrity. Before passing in 2016, Fisher was very open about her struggles with mental illness and addiction. Because of these issues, she got her dog, a French bulldog called Gary, certified as an emotional support animal to help with her symptoms of bipolar disorder. Gary became a constant by Fisher’s side before her death, even showing up at autograph-signing events and making red carpet appearances. This transparency helped many people take note of what an ESA can do to help their owner and helped them feel like they shouldn’t be ashamed to own one. Even after Fisher’s death, Gary is still pretty popular – he even has his own Twitter account!
2. Selena Gomez
While Gomez has not officially stated that she has a certified emotional support dog, she has spoken about getting comfort from her pets during the more challenging times in her life. Gomez has been vocal about her mental health struggles, including her experiences with therapy and inpatient treatment facilities. One thing that indicates Gomez understands the usefulness of emotional support animals is the fact that she helped organize therapy dogs to be on the set of the Netflix drama Thirteen Reasons Why, which she executive-produces. Because the series deals with heavy emotional issues (like teen assault and suicide), she knew the cast could benefit from having time to play with the dogs in between shooting scenes.
While Oprah is not specifically the owner of an ESA (she actually said she has to calm her dog down when they fly!), she has been a proponent of using pets to improve health and wellbeing. Her website and magazine have both included articles that list the many ways that animals can make us healthier and lessen our symptoms of mental illness.
4. Ryan Gosling
Gosling used his dog, George, as an emotional support animal when he would travel, even making an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with him a few years ago. Unfortunately, George passed away in 2017, but him accompanying Gosling in front of the cameras helped other people see that owning an ESA was an acceptable thing.
5. Henry Cavill
The Man of Steel actor proves that even superheroes like Superman need a little extra support sometimes. Cavill has been photographed with his ESA, Akita Ka-El, in airports when he’s traveled in the past. His dog typically travels with a certified ESA vest that states: “Working. Do not pet. Emotional Support Dog.” Although Cavill hasn’t mentioned in interviews what his specific diagnosis has been, it’s been suggested that he has a fear of flying and that his ESA helps make these trips more bearable for him.
6. Ariana Grande
The pop singer has been open about her struggles with mental illness (particularly her diagnosis of PTSD after the brutal terrorist attack in Manchester during one of her concerts). Grande always travels with her dogs as part of her entourage, and it’s likely they serve to alleviate some of her symptoms. Recently, Grande also acquired a tiny pig named Piggie Smalls. When someone pointed out on Twitter that these pigs are illegal in New York City, Grande responded that the animal is actually an ESA for her. Plus, Piggie Smalls is pretty famous now – the pig starred in Grande’s “Breathin’” music video! Hopefully, her pig, along with her dogs, work to help lessen some of Grande’s mental illness symptoms.
7. Kristin Chenoweth
This pint-sized actress/singer had a pretty public incident involving her ESA several years back. Chenoweth owned a dog named Maddie (who has since passed) who was refused entry to an American Airlines flight about six years ago. Airlines have since become more accommodating regarding emotional support animals because of federal regulations, but at the time, the airline gate agents claimed Chenoweth didn’t have the proper paperwork. After an argument broke out and Chenoweth became upset, the airline staff was able to fix the problem – however, Chenoweth still documented the bad experience on Twitter. Chenoweth has since adopted her dog, Thunder, in 2017, who also now serves as an ESA for her. Chenoweth’s outspokenness about the airline incident helped to demonstrate to other ESA owners that they have a voice if something similar happens to them.
These seven celebrities have shown that owning an ESA can be a hugely beneficial experience. Hopefully, as a growing number of celebrities become open about their own mental health struggles, they’ll be able to influence even more people to become accepting of emotional support animals.