Anxiety Emotional Support Animal

Mental health is a problem that often goes overlooked in modern society. The most common mental illness today is anxiety, with nearly 300 million sufferers worldwide, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Many anxiety sufferers are led to believe by society that their issue is a character deficiency as opposed to a real medical problem. Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, many people are hesitant to seek treatment or even admit that they have a problem.

Many anxiety sufferers are prescribed medications to help them, but these medications can have negative side effects, and many of them pose the risk of causing addiction. An alternative to prescription medication for treating anxiety is a service animal or emotional support animal (ESA).

Key Facts About Anxiety Emotional Support Animals

  • Requirements: To qualify for an ESA, you must have a verifiable emotional or mental disability, and a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that you would benefit from the support of an ESA.
  • Benefits: An ESA can provide comfort and support to individuals with anxiety by reducing feelings of loneliness, helping to manage stress, and providing a sense of security.
  • Rules and Regulations: ESAs are not service animals and do not have the right to public access. However, under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), people with ESAs are entitled to live with their animals in most housing, regardless of no-pet policies.
  • Training: Unlike service animals, ESAs do not have to be trained to perform specific tasks. However, they should be well-behaved and not pose a direct threat to others.
  • Types of Animals: Any animal can be an ESA, but common choices include dogs, cats, and small animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals, unlike service animals, do not require any special training to qualify and your pet can act as an emotional support animal. Official recognition of an animal as an emotional support animal is still required to allow you to bring your animal with you into housing that would not otherwise allow animals. Also, your ESA can be denied housing rights if they are destructive or dangerous, so you’ll want to make sure they’ve mastered basic training.

Emotional support animals come in all shapes and sizes and are not limited to dogs, even though dogs are some of the most commonly used animals for emotional support animals for anxiety sufferers.

The purpose of an emotional support animal is to provide its owner with a sense of comfort and safety through its presence. They are not specially trained to perform specific duties but instead offer aid to their owner in the comforting nature of their presence. This means that all sorts of animals from dogs to gerbils and snakes to canaries can be used as emotional support animals.

Emotional support animals are much more affordable and easy to come by when compared to highly trained service animals. Obtaining an emotional support animal is fairly straightforward and relatively easy to accomplish.

What Is a Service Animal?

Service animals are often associated with seeing-eye dogs for the blind and police force canine units, but service animals are capable of performing a vast array of services for people with all kinds of needs.

Service animals can even be used for sufferers of anxiety who have a need for assistance from furry friends. Service animals are highly trained and are most often dogs that are trained to perform specialized tasks. Service animals are distinct from pets in that they are working animals who have specific duties that they perform for their owners.

Service Animal Training

The training which service animals must undergo requires the presence of the person who will be using the service animal. This means that the process is expensive and can be somewhat time consuming initially as the would-be service animal owner must learn to use the commands the animal is taught and must also learn all proper handling techniques to ensure the animal’s safety as well as the safety of those around them.

Getting a service animal is not something that should be taken lightly and isn’t something that will happen overnight. However, training your own service dog can make the process faster and significantly more affordable.

Service Animal Tasks

Service animals are used to guide people with vision impairments safely around town. They are also used for aiding those who suffer from epilepsy and are capable of keeping their owner safe during seizures. Service animals are also commonly used to alert deaf owners in case of something going unnoticed, such as an emergency vehicle coming down the road or a smoke detector alarm going off, which the deaf person would otherwise be unaware of.

Rules and Regulations

A service animal is an officially designated and recognized classification of animal that must meet rigorous training requirements. Your pet can not be used as a service animal because the training for a service animal is completely different from the training of a pet. Due to this, service animals can be prohibitively expensive to purchase and tend to not be a practical option for sufferers of anxiety.

However, emotional support animals can offer many of the same benefits of a service animal at a considerably lower cost to the owner and with much less strict regulations.

How Do You Get an Emotional Support Animal?

In most cases, the only requirement needed for obtaining an emotional support animal or classifying one of your preexisting pets as one is a letter from a medical professional. This letter is essentially a prescription for an emotional support animal.

Many physicians appreciate the value that an emotional support animal can provide to those suffering from mental illnesses like chronic anxiety. Not all doctors are willing to give out these letters, but services like ours are available for getting all the information you need to obtain a letter approving your animal as an emotional support animal.

The steps you need to follow to get an emotional support animal letter include:

Consult With a Mental Health Professional

The first step in obtaining an ESA letter is to consult with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. This person will evaluate your mental or emotional disability and determine if an ESA could help.

Provide Medical Documentation

You may be asked to provide medical records or other documentation of your disability to the mental health professional. This will help them determine if you qualify for an ESA.

Schedule an Evaluation

Once you have provided the necessary documentation, the mental health professional will schedule an evaluation appointment with you. During this appointment, they will assess your mental health and discuss your need for an ESA.

Request an ESA Letter

If the mental health professional determines that an ESA would be beneficial for you, they will write an ESA letter on your behalf. The letter should include the following information:

  • A statement indicating that you have a qualifying emotional or mental disability.
  • A description of how the emotional support animal helps alleviate your symptoms.
  • The date and signature of the mental health professional.

Keep the ESA Letter With You

Once you have obtained an ESA letter, it’s important to keep it with you at all times, especially when living in rental housing. This letter serves as proof that you have a legitimate need for an ESA and are entitled to certain rights and privileges under the law.

If the above seems like a lot, you can schedule a risk free consultation with USSA to get the process started, and our team will help you every step of the way and make each step simple and stress-free.

What Training is Required for an Animal to Qualify as an Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals require very little if any training depending on the type of animal and their natural tendencies.

Other types of emotional support animals require virtually no training as they pose no natural threat to anyone around them and are incapable of causing any real harm. For instance, a guinea pig used as an emotional support animal wouldn’t require much if any training as they would mostly be kept inside a habitat and have minimal potential to cause harm.

How Do You Register Your Animal As an Emotional Support Animal?

Registration of an emotional support animal can be done through services such as USSA’s emotional support animal registration forms. The process is fairly straightforward and obtaining registration is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Registering your emotional support animal will aid you greatly in dealing with people who question your right to live with your emotional support animal.

Registration, in addition to an animal ID card, a service vest for your animal, and a collar tag, will go a long way in avoiding issues of people questioning your rights. While none of these elements are legally required, they can be worthwhile since they may help you avoid conflict – which can be especially important to those who live with anxiety.

Registration with services such as USSA come with other benefits such as access to legal help if a landlord or other proprietor doesn’t respect your right to keep your emotional support animal with you. Registration also includes informational cards that can be shown to others which proves the rights you have in addition to photo ID for your animal.

Emotional Support Animal Legal Information

Federal law requires that you only have a prescription letter for your emotional support animal from a licensed physician or mental health care worker; however, obtaining additional documentation will greatly aid you in avoiding complications or even being questioned by others in the first place.

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords and building managers are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for your emotional support animal even if the housing establishment otherwise disallows pets from living there. Essentially, under most circumstances, you are legally allowed to have your emotional support animal live with you at no additional charge, regardless of the establishment’s pet policies.

The only time this doesn’t apply is if accommodating your animal would place an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider in cases such as if your emotional support animal were a horse and there simply isn’t room for the horse to fit.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, you used to be legally permitted to travel with your emotional support animal in the cabin with you. However, since the recent changes, emotional support animals are now treated the same as standard pets.

Emotional Support Animals and Quality of Life

Those who suffer from anxiety are no strangers to suffering. The good news is there are many avenues of finding help for those who are suffering. Mental illness is becoming a more openly accepted topic to discuss and find help. This has led to a swell of understanding and acceptance of treatment methods such as using emotional support animals. The benefits of emotional support animals are numerous and the drawbacks are much less than that of pharmaceutical approaches.

Drugs can help people who suffer from mental illness, but they may also pose a harmful risk to long term health. Many of the drugs prescribed for mental illnesses like anxiety can have severe side effects that may drastically impact the patient’s quality of life. Some of these drugs also pose the risk of being habit-forming and leading to addiction. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, present no harm to the health of the patient and can act as companions and friends for those suffering from mental illness.

An emotional support animal is a great way to help with anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The added benefit is bringing your loving animal with you wherever you go. Having an animal that you take care of while it looks after your mental wellbeing is a wonderful, grounding experience that offers great benefits and adds meaning to your life. If you are an animal lover suffering from anxiety, an emotional support animal might be the perfect treatment.

How Can Emotional Support Animals Help With Anxiety?

An emotional support animal (ESA) can provide comfort and support to individuals with anxiety by performing several key functions:

  • Providing comfort: An ESA can act as a source of comfort and reassurance, helping to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Simply petting or cuddling with an animal can release oxytocin and other feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Providing a sense of security: An ESA can provide security and protection, which can be especially helpful for individuals with anxiety disorders. Knowing that your ESA is with you can help reduce fear or nervousness in anxiety-provoking situations.
  • Encouraging physical activity: Owning an ESA can encourage individuals with anxiety to engage in physical activity, such as walking or playing with the animal. Exercise is an effective treatment for anxiety, as it can help to reduce stress hormones and promote feelings of relaxation and well-being.
  • Promoting socialization: An ESA can also serve as a conversation starter and help individuals with anxiety to engage with others and form social connections. This can be especially helpful for individuals who struggle with social anxiety or other types of anxiety that make it difficult to form close relationships.

Find Out More About Emotional Support Animals for Anxiety

Learn more about service animals and emotional support animals by checking out all the resources available from USSA here.

Contact us today with any questions you might have or to get help registering your pet as an official emotional support animal that you can take with you wherever you go.