Does Your Pet Qualify As An Emotional Support Animal?
Many people find the presence of their beloved pets to be a great comfort during times of distress. It can do wonders for them to simply walk beside their dog, pet their cat, or talk to them for a few moments. Science has already proven that pets can help to reduce the symptoms of major conditions like anxiety and depression. Perhaps that is why so many people are now interested in getting their own Emotional Support Animal (ESA). If you think that you might benefit from your very own Emotional Support Animal, there are a few things that you will need to know first. Check out the answers to some of these common questions below!
What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
An Emotional Support Animal is any qualified type of animal that is proven to help an individual who is suffering from some sort of disability. The disability could be qualified as physical, intellectual or psychiatric. These animals accompany their owners everywhere they go and are protected under the federal law whenever they are properly obtained. You must have a qualifying doctor’s note and register the animal with an appropriate organization in order to take them into public spaces that would not ordinarily allow pets. It should be noted that an Emotional Support Animal is different than a service animal. Service animals are trained to help with a specific task such as seeing for their owners or predicting oncoming seizures. An Emotional Support Animal provides a therapeutic outlet to their owner simply because of their presence and not due to any formal training that they may have received.
Who Uses Emotional Support Animals?
While anyone with a known disability can benefit from having an emotional support animal, they are often used by those with mental health conditions or psychiatric disabilities. Animals are well known to bring happiness to their owners and are often used in therapy sessions to brighten up a patient’s day. Having an Emotional Support Animal provides a number of benefits for the owner that go even far beyond this general sense of happiness. Owners are forced to become more social and often receive a boost in their self-esteem as a direct result of their companion animal. They tend to feel more motivated to get out of bed in the morning in order to care for their beloved ESA. Most patients report feeling safer and more comforted by keeping their pet with them throughout the day. All of these benefits make them ideal for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are great for helping someone to work through intense phobias that might be related to issues they face on a daily basis. Any type of mental health issue can often benefit from the help of an ESA.
Why You Need an Official Letter from a Licensed Psychologist
In order to register your Emotional Support Animal with the appropriate organizations, you need to have an official letter from a licensed psychologist. Without this letter, your animal will not officially be labeled as an ESA and will not be protected under federal law. You will not be able to bring them with you into public locations that forbid pets without this letter.
Are ESA Tests Covered by Insurance?
Unfortunately, obtaining an Emotional Support Animal and an official letter from a licensed psychologist is not covered by insurance policies. You will be required to pay out of pocket for the cost of your evaluation, paperwork, registration, and for the animal itself. Fortunately, the evaluation does not take a long time and is very affordable!
What Type of Animals Can be Registered as ESAs?
Most commonly, you will see Emotional Support Animals represented as dogs. However, this is not the only type of animal that qualifies for the ESA status. You may also use other common types of companion animals such as cats. Any type of animal that you and your licensed psychologist feel will be beneficial for you can be considered an ESA. Keep in mind that the same standard is not true for service animals which can only be dogs or miniature horses.
How Long Does an ESA Letter Last?
You will need to have your Emotional Support Animal letter re-evaluated every year in order to maintain your current certification. This means that you will need to stay in touch with your psychologist or remain a patient of the doctor who initially writes your letter so that you are better prepared for the following year.
Screening Process for ESA Need
Not everyone will qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, so it is helpful to understand exactly what the screening process entails. You must be able to demonstrate some substantial need that could benefit from having an Emotional Support Animal with you at all times. Many places start by collecting a brief history of your mental health and physical health through a questionnaire or a brief interview. This gives the licensed psychologist much of the information that they need in order to determine if you are a great candidate for the ESA. From there, they will meet with you and make a determination about whether you qualify for an ESA. This is done on a case by case basis with very few set standards for which conditions will automatically qualify. Once a determination is made, the psychologist will write a letter that includes all of the necessary information including:
- Official letterhead with the signature of the doctor (including license type, date, state of issuance, and number) and the date the letter was issued
- Acknowledgment of your evaluation
- Confirmation that your condition does impair your daily life and an Emotional Support Animal could improve your condition
Qualifying for an Emotional Support Animal can drastically change your daily life. No matter what type of issue you may be struggling with, a furry companion may be able to help improve your mood and spirits. Be sure to contact a licensed psychologist in your area to determine whether you might be eligible for an ESA prescription today!