What exactly is an emotional support animal? How do you get one?

By on April 12, 2018

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It may seem like there’s a giant trend in calling a dog or cat something more than just a pet. Service animal. Therapy animal. “Working dog”. It’s not a new idea, however. Recent research shows that our dogs in particular have learned and been taught to be of service to us for centuries or more. What is new is our ability to not only train animals to do specific jobs, but to recognize and acknowledge the really special things they can help us with. Seldom are dogs just dogs– they are family, they are co-workers, they are service providers. All this is great and has elevated their place in society.

A title that’s relatively new is one you’ve undoubtedly heard- “Emotional Support Animal” (ESA). This post, with the help of CertaPet, a site that can help educate people and certify dogs as emotional support animals, will explain what an ESA is and provide resources you may find valuable as you consider an ESA for yourself.

First, what’s an ESA? According to CertaPet, an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal (of any kind) meant for those who suffer from an emotional or mental disability. An ESA is prescribed to a patient by a Licensed Mental Health Professional. The job of an ESA is to provide support, relief, and help to individuals through their presence. 

An ESA is different from a service animal. Both kinds of animals can accompany their owners (according to federal law) on flights and in apartments (even if pets are not allowed). That’s where the similarities end. Service dogs, as their jobs are more specific, are trained to help a single person (someone without sight, who experiences seizures, etc.) while ESAs are seen as being generally helpful to anyone. Service dogs are allowed nearly everywhere a human can go as well. Service dogs often are registered; ESAs don’t have anywhere they must be registered.

The ESA is, in effect, kind of like a medication. While it’s not medically necessary all the time, it can certainly help. People who experience anxiety, PTSD, depression and other mental health issues are almost certainly going to benefit from having an ESA around.

So how does one go about getting an ESA? First, see a mental health practitioner and see if an ESA is right for you. CertaPet can help connect you with these professionals. For more information on getting in contact through CertaPet, find the website above, get pre-screened for an ESA, or give CertaPet a call at 877.207.0561.

A really helpful resource available through CertaPet is its frequently asked questions page. Here’s a quick view of the page’s table of contents if you are interested in pursuing their resources today:

Table of Contents


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