A Guide to Emotional Support AnimalsOn October 19, 2021 by Kellan Thomas
An emotional support animal is usually a cat or dog that provides therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. Some people use other animals as their emotional support animal; it is not required to be a dog or a cat. An emotional support animal can help you calm down or remain calm, and it can help you relax and sleep soundly at night. It can help you feel safe throughout the day when you would otherwise be filled with anxiety and fear. There are nearly endless mental and emotional benefits to having an emotional support animal.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get or believe you would benefit from an emotional support animal.
To ensure protection for your emotional support animal under United States law, you need to have a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that you require your emotional support animal. If you believe you would benefit from having an emotional support animal, you can find a licensed counselor in your area to talk to about it. If you are unsure how to find one, you can search “counseling near me” online, and you will find many options both in-person and online. Many conditions may qualify you for an emotional support animal, but you need to go over them with your counselor.
Your emotional support animal does not need to be trained with unique skills. People often confuse emotional support dogs with service dogs, which receive special training to help with specific tasks. Your support animal does not need to wear a special vest, but you should keep the letter asserting your need to have one with you at all times. When taking animals into public places, you will be subject to people questioning you about your animal. If you are only with your emotional support animal at home, many of these concerns won’t apply because, in reality, all pets can provide emotional support.
While the emotional support dog does not require special training, the animal does need to be trained well to be in public places. For example, barking or acting aggressively towards other people or animals will cause problems and prevent your emotional support dog from being allowed in public areas. While there are legal protections for an individual’s right to have an emotional support dog with them in public, there are also protections for others from aggressive animals. Working with a professional trainer on basic commands and skills will help you and your animal work well together. Ensuring your animal is well trained will also reduce the potential stress that comes from owning an out-of-control animal.
Choosing an Animal
There is no right or wrong way to choose an animal for your support animal. However, you want to keep in mind the overall stress of owning, training, and caring for an animal. Choose one that will be reasonably easy to train and take care of. For example, Smoky Mtn Labradors are relatively low-maintenance and easily trainable dogs, and they are also very loving and calm. Choose an animal that you will be comfortable with. For some, that means a large dog, while others may be afraid of large dogs and are more comfortable with a small cat. Choose what is best for you regardless of what others may tell you.
The emotional support an animal can provide has been well-documented through research. From children in hospital wards to the elderly living alone, there are clear mental and emotional benefits to living with animals. An emotional support animal is just one of the many ways animals can help humans live their best lives.