Emotional support animals are becoming more and more commonplace nowadays. It’s suddenly not so unusual to see a passenger on a plane with a cat or somebody in a restaurant with their rabbit.
What makes ESAs different from a normal pet, and why are they becoming so popular? An emotional support animal is there to help people who suffer from different mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. They provide comfort, companionship and a sense of ease that is supposed to help their owners with their symptoms.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having an emotional support animal, and the laws differ depending on where you live. In this case, we will be focusing on California, as the laws there are comparable to the rest of the US. Below you’ll find several pros and cons of emotional support animals in California.
Advantage #1 – ESAs Provide Comfort
One of the main benefits of having an emotional support animal as part of a treatment plan is that they provide a sense of well-being and serenity. It is known that having a pet can reduce stress levels, and even blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you have ever owned a dog or cat, you will surely know that they are very lovable and fun to have around.
This does not mean that your emotional support animal has to be limited to a dog or cat. In fact, they could be a pig, rabbit or even a snake! It is purely down to the individual’s preference.
Advantage #2 – Emotional Support Animals are a Healthy Alternative
Another benefit of having an emotional support animal is having an ESA is that they make a good alternative to typical modern-day medication, such as anti-depressants. You can imagine that taking pills on a regular basis cannot be pleasant, and there can be negative side effects such as nausea, weight gain and insomnia.
In today’s world, where people are becoming more conscious of their health, emotional support animals can be viewed as a less harmful way of treating your condition.
Advantage #3 – ESA Benefits for Housing and Travel
Having an emotional support animal means that you do not have to give them up when it comes to housing. Certain accommodations do not allow pets, but if you have a letter written by a health professional, then you are permitted to have an ESA in your residence without incurring any extra pet costs.
Furthermore, they can also travel with you on a plane if you show the letter and inform the airline at least 48 hours in advance. When it comes to the workplace, you are also allowed to take your emotional support animal with you under certain employment laws.
Disadvantage #1 – Limited Laws for ESAs
On the other hand, there are also disadvantages when it comes to having an emotional support animal. For instance, if you’re living in California, the laws actually do not protect your pet in public places, such as hotels, restaurants or government buildings. Only service animals who help with physical tasks, such as leading the blind and helping the deaf, are allowed in these places.
This means that if you need your pet to help alleviate your anxiety, you cannot take them with you to these public places, as you would be breaking the law. This limits the extent to how much your pet can help you with your illness.
Disadvantage #2 – The Cost of Owning an Emotional Support Animal
Having an ESA pet can be costly. In order for them to look after you, you have to look after them. This means regular vet checks, grooming, cleaning, exercise, feeding and more. It can be a lot of responsibility, which you must be prepared for if you are thinking of having an emotional support animal in the long term.
Disadvantage #3 – Obtaining an ESA
Another disadvantage of owning an ESA is that you have to go through a process of getting them officially classified as an emotional support animal. This can be done by requesting a letter from a health professional, who will state that you need your pet with you in order to help ease the symptoms of your condition. If you cannot obtain a letter, or if your request is rejected for whatever reason, then this can prevent your ESA pet from living and traveling with you.
Disadvantage #4 – The Risk of the Unknown
Lastly, because emotional support animals do not have to be trained like service animals, there is always the risk that they can cause harm or damage either to yourself, other people or to your home. This is where obtaining documentation from a health professional is important.
In general, there are a fair number of advantages and disadvantages to having an emotional support animal. They can provide positive social interaction, a calming atmosphere and help lower depression. On the other hand, they can also be costly to own and care for, in terms of vet fees, food and time.
However, if you would like an alternative to modern-day medicine, and you have an open mind, then a good place to start is with a health professional. He or she will be able to provide you with further advice on whether you’d benefit from having an emotional support animal added to your treatment plan. There are pros and cons to emotional support animals, but it’s most important to understand how an ESA would impact your individual situation.