Choosing a new pet can be an exciting experience. It is going to be a companion of yours for many years to come, so selecting the right one can be a serious endeavor as well as a thrilling opportunity to make a new friend. There are many things to consider — what type of animal you want being the primary factor. But then there’s the breed of your chosen animal, how it fits in with your lifestyle and home, and even how it will get along with your other family members. All in all, it’s an exciting yet critical time.
For people suffering from mental illnesses, the choice can be even more important because a pet is sometimes more than just a pet — it’s an emotional support animal.
Emotional support animals are a relatively new, progressive treatment designed for long-term sufferers of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar or autism. They work in much the same way as therapy animals, only ESA animals require no training to do their job. Their “patient,” or ESA owner, benefits from their companionship and presence and uses that to combat symptoms of their mental disorders.
All that’s needed to avail of an emotional support animal is what’s known as an emotional support letter from a medical health professional. It can be a new animal or an existing pet you choose to be your specific ESA animal. But the best part is, it can be any animal you like. Whether you go for one of the big two — cats or dogs — or choose something a little more wild and exotic, it’s totally up to you.
The status of an ESA animal is protected by two key acts: the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act, which exist for people with disabilities and ensure they can bring their emotional support animal with them wherever they go, specifically into rented accommodation or airplanes, where pets are usually forbidden or restricted.
Although the most popular emotional support animals are also the most popular pets, it can be worth your while to think outside the big two and see what weird and wonderful pet might be right for you.
The Different Types of Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals can be any species of animal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should choose the most outlandish animal possible. It’s best if you actually love the animal in question and are sure you’re going to continue loving it well into the months and years to come. It’s here to support and comfort you, so it’s best if you feel totally comfortable with it.
Looking beyond cats and dogs, a whole range of possibilities open up. Maybe the only animal in the world that provides relief for you is a snake. Well, that’s totally fine! As long as you can keep control of your scaly friend and make sure it doesn’t bother anyone around you, then a snake is a perfectly acceptable emotional support animal.
Now, you may have heard of Snakes on a Plane, the cult movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. If you own an ESA snake, it is your right to recreate that film to some degree, albeit your snake remains caged and under control at all times.
But forget snakes. How about Duck on a Plane? Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt is the full name of an ESA duck that accompanied his nervous owner on a flight and became a bit of a sensation. His owner is Carla Fitzgerald, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by a car accident a few years ago. Carla has reared Daniel since he was a duckling. Because he is a certified emotional support duck, he is allowed to accompany her anywhere she goes.
Daniel isn’t the only weird and wonderful ESA animal to accompany its owner on a flight and capture the fascination of other passengers. A pig, turkey, miniature horse, even a baby kangaroo have all been spotted and snapped aboard flights across the U.S. There really is no limit to the type of animal that can qualify as an ESA animal. As long as you keep it under control and don’t let it roam freely around the cabin or disturb other passengers, it’s your right to have it accompany you wherever you may go.
What Makes a Good Emotional Support Animal
Despite the total freedom you have to choose an ESA animal, it’s important not to get carried away. Make sure you choose the right animal for you. You need an emotional support animal that’s genuinely going to support you and ease the symptoms of your particular mental disorder. Make sure you have a long, hard think about what type of animal you can provide for and look after before you go mad and register an emotional support mountain lion as your new companion.
At the end of the day, animals can be a lot of fun, but it’s the effect they have on you that matters.