Life has never felt as stressful as it does now. People dealing with or suffering from mental or emotional health know this well. Knowing how to get an emotional support animal might be exactly what you need.
Emotional support animals help you cope and go through the challenges of life. They’re a shoulder to lean on when times are tough, and they brighten many people’s lives. To turn a pet into an emotional support animal, you need to follow the appropriate steps.
An honest conversation with your therapist and a signed letter is where you start. From there, you have to know your rights and pick a pet that fits what you need. Training for good behavior will make things easier, as will picking practical pets.
To find out more about getting an emotional support animal, read this guide.
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
The rise in awareness of mental health challenges echoes the rise in support animals. Emotional support animals are pets that perform an essential service for their owners. They provide comfort to those suffering from depression, anxiety, or other conditions.
There are many benefits of emotional support animals. Unlike service dogs trained to guide the blind, emotional support animals help deal with less visible issues. They provide love, support, companionship, and a crucial coping mechanism.
There is no hard minimum or limit to how severe a condition needs to be either. Anyone who suffers emotional or mental distress can enjoy the benefits of emotional support animals. These include learning disabilities such as ADD to a variety of anxiety disorders.
Dealing with PTSD or strong phobias is also easier, thanks to ESAs. You also have a legal right to have emotional support animals in your home. This is thanks to the Fair Housing Act.
In fact, by federal law, those with the qualifying conditions have a right to have support animals with them in general. In addition, many states have supporting laws that strengthen this.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter
Now that you know the benefits of getting an emotional support animal, the next step is finding out how to get an ESA letter. Only those with conditions requiring a support animal can get this letter. That said, it isn’t as difficult as it seems.
The first step is always seeking help and support for your condition from a professional. Usually, this would be a therapist or other specially trained counselors. You need to talk to them about your struggles and ask if they think an emotional support animal would help.
If your therapist or mental health care professional agrees with this remedy, they’ll draft you a letter. Known as an ESA letter, this gives you the right to have a support animal with you at all times. It isn’t enough that they only write a letter, though.
Making Sure the ESA Letter Is Legitimate
For your letter to be legitimate, it must conform to a few rules. First, it has to get written and signed by a licensed health care professional. These include clinical therapists such as psychologists or psychiatrists.
Nurses, medical doctors, social workers, and counselors also count. The letter also has to be on the official letterhead of the licensed professional. This letterhead should have all the necessary medical licensing info from the writer so it can get verified if needs be.
Finally, the letter must establish that the patient has a condition that an ESA would help. Keep this letter with you and show it to anyone who challenges you. As previously mentioned, by law, you’ll have a right to keep your support animal with you.
What Counts As an Emotional Support Animal?
Getting an ESA letter gives you the right to have an emotional support animal, but you still need to find one. The first step in this process is knowing what counts as an emotional support animal in the first place. In a general sense, almost any animal can serve the role of an ESA.
That said, the Fair Housing Act refers to traditionally domesticated pets. These are usually dogs, cats, birds, rodents, and reptiles like snakes or lizards. You’ll have a hard time trying to swing an emotional support bear or alligator.
While definitions are widening and support is increasing, you’ll still find resistance for some pets. For example, many airlines won’t take kindly to spiders or venomous animals as ESAs. There are practicality considerations here as well as public health and safety.
The Most Common ESAs
The most typical and easy-to-have ESAs are emotional support dogs. The benefits of dogs are that they’re already well adapted to human company. They’re easy to manage in public settings if trained the right way.
You’ll find that this removes a huge reason why some places have a problem with ESAs. A well-trained dog causes few problems.
There’s no reason you can’t have a different ESA, but cats are usually more independent. Many reptiles also have specific environmental and dietary needs. This makes taking them outside of your home more difficult.
In terms of public support and acceptance, you’ll have the most luck with dogs and cats as ESAs. That said, you shouldn’t let the perspectives of others stop you from getting the animal you love. Make sure you’re prepared to work around any resistance you may face with atypical ESAs.
Getting Your Emotional Support Animal
The final question is how to get an emotional support animal physically. If you have a pet at home and get an ESA letter, then congratulations, you already have an ESA. No extra training or paperwork is necessary, but good behavior in public is still a good idea.
Adopting a pet also works. The key is to find a pet that matches your temperament and needs. Making sure energy levels and personality are compatible is crucial.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal
ESAs are pretty beneficial for those suffering from mental or emotional conditions. Knowing how to get an emotional support animal is essential and straightforward. All you need is an honest conversation with a medical professional and a letter.
The rest is picking an animal that’s right for you and practical enough for daily life. Of course, dogs are a great choice, but you have other options. For more info on ESAs and mental health, please take a look at our site.