Getting any kind of pet is a big step in a person’s life. They’re likely going to be with you for some time, and suddenly you’re responsible for their wellbeing – they depend on you for all sorts of things, from food and water to a warm, safe place to sleep at night. This can be a big, sudden responsibility, so before anyone gets any type of pet, they should consider the impact on their lifestyle carefully. The advantage of this upheaval is that you gain a constant companion who will fill your life with endless moments of joy. To some degree, this is true of any pet, but it’s especially relevant to dogs. It’s no coincidence that these loyal animals are the most popular pet in the world. Accordingly, an emotional support dog is also the most popular ESA, fitting perfectly into the role with no training whatsoever.
Emotional support animals are a progressive new treatment for common mental health disorders experienced by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. The therapy or management path for disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and autism are often long and complicated, varying for each patient and taking multiple approaches. Studies have shown that emotional support animals can be a vital part of that approach, regardless of what species they are. People often gravitate towards dogs because they have numerous qualities that cover many of the symptoms of the above disorders; their simple passion for life, the need to be walked, the constant companionship and the sense of fulfilled responsibility are a few of the main ones. But where exactly should an ESA-approved patient go to source their new furry friend?
First things first: you need an ESA letter from a mental health professional. You can opt to be assessed over the internet and have your letter sent to you at home, or you can consult with your regular therapist or doctor – whichever is easier for you. Once you have that all-important document, it’s up to you to decide what type of ESA you want. Bear in mind that ESAs can be a pet you owned previously to receiving your letter; they can simply be “upgraded” to the status of ESA. It can also be an entirely new animal of any different species, whichever is going to offer you the most comfort. But as stated, many patients feel like an emotional support dog is the best option for them.
When it comes to where to find your ESA dog, you’ve essentially got two choices: a puppy farm or a shelter. Unfortunately, the former is quickly becoming the go-to option for many prospective dog owners, despite it being the worse option of the two. Many puppy farms (and kitten farms, for that matter) treat their animals very poorly. Usually the puppies are born into these badly-equipped institutions, and are crammed into cages much too small for them. Many suffer from malnutrition and anxiety, and can even exhibit signs of destructive tendencies due to not being reared properly from birth. Even if you avoid the actual farms themselves and purchase a puppy from a store or online, there’s a good chance that these animals originated in farms anyway, so you’re still facilitating their operation.
There is simply no need for puppy farms when there are already dog shelters across the country brimming with colorful candidates. While you may think you’re helping a dog by taking it out of the squalid conditions of the puppy farm, in actuality, you’re helping to keep the puppy farm open and justifying their business. It’s actually far more useful to rescue a dog from a shelter, because hundreds upon thousands of these unfortunate animals are euthanized every year, simply because there aren’t enough facilities to cater to all the stray or abandoned animals that need a home. When you adopt your emotional support dog from a shelter, you’re potentially saving that animal’s life, while freeing up a space in the system so another one can take its place.
There’s also a financial difference. When you adopt an animal from a shelter, you pay a small flat fee that covers all the preliminary vaccinations, the neutering of the animal, and microchipping. These can really add up if you have to do them all separately, which would certainly be the case if you decided to purchase from a puppy farm. It’s just another reason that opting for a shelter dog is the best choice, both practically and morally. The only other thing left to do is to pick the pup that’s right for you! Your new ESA dog is going to be with you for years to come, so be sure to make the right choice, and start getting to know your furry companion ASAP!