How Do Emotional Support Animals Work?

Emotional Support Dog
Emotional Support Dog

Here’s How Dogs, Cats, Rats, and More Are Helping People Live Better Lives

Have you heard someone joke about using their pet as an emotional support animal? This term has become increasingly popular in recent years, and you’ve probably seen an article or two pop up about someone trying to get on a plane with their peacock or pony. It seems like almost any animal can be considered a pet for “emotional support,” and it might feel as though some people are abusing the system to take their pets wherever they go. So, what officially makes a pet an emotional support animal?

Emotional support animals are service animals, but they specialize in serving people who need mental health assistance. Typically, people with anxiety or depression use an emotional support animal to provide comfort during times of emotional stress.

Flying is a perfect example of when emotional support animals are most needed. This can be an anxiety-ridden time for those afraid of flight, and having a calm, furry friend by their side can help them cope. However, there’s a difference between having your dog with your on a flight because you need help to stay calm and just wanting to take your dog with you everywhere you go. Often, people will register their animal as an emotional support dog in order to avoid costs or dangers associated with putting their pup in the plane’s cargo hold, which can distract from the actual purpose of an emotional support animal.

For people who use their emotional support pet for its intended purpose, the key benefit lies in the fact that they’re able to receive emotional and physical support that therapy sessions and mental health professionals aren’t able to provide. Not only are these animals always by their human’s side, they’re also able to provide unconditional love, which plays a huge factor in giving patients something to focus on to help ground themselves. Animals also typically have calm, even-tempered personalities, which allows them to connect with their humans and provide them with someone to depend on.

How Can You Get an Emotional Support Animal?

To get an emotional support animal, you only need a few things. First, you’ll need to be officially diagnosed with an emotional disability. Then, you’ll need to receive a prescription for an emotional support animal from a mental health professional. You might need to provide this information in writing to take your animal with you everywhere, but other than that, all you need to do is pick the right pet. However, keep in mind that the difference between emotional support animals and service animals relates to their accessibility, since things like airline regulations may vary based on your pet of choice. It’s best to always prepare in advance if doing something outside of the norm with your support animal.

For those who are dealing with emotional and mental disabilities, emotional support animals can be a life-changing solution that helps manage stress and anxiety. Much like a service animal, they will become a trusted companion. On the other hand, if you’re just trying to register your lizard so that they can come with you on a trip, consider just leaving them at home.