How To Get An Emotional Support Animal As Part Of Your Healing Process: 5 Essential Things to Consider

how to get an emotional support animal

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Are you unsure how to get an emotional support animal or if you could benefit from having one?

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, an emotional support animal (ESA) can be a valuable part of your healing process. ESAs provide companionship and unconditional love, which can help reduce anxiety and promote calmness and well-being. Whether you currently have a pet or are looking for a new one, getting an ESA approved for an emotional support animal letter is a relatively simple process – here’s what you need to know.

Talk to your doctor about whether or not an emotional support animal would be beneficial for you

The first step is understanding what an ESA can or can’t help you with. Your doctor or therapist can help you determine if an ESA can ease symptoms of mental health stress and conditions and discuss what kind of animal might work best for your lifestyle. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician – having an ESA by your side is one way to improve your life and start feeling more positive now.

What an ESA is and isn't

When considering if an animal companion can help your mental health, two types of animals are common: Service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals receive training to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as alerting and responding to cues for people with diabetes.

An example would be a service dog alerting a person that their blood sugar is low and that they should eat something to prevent a severe drop in blood sugar. This type of training is costly and, therefore, harder for people to get. In addition, only certain types of animals or breeds can be considered for service animal training.

An ESA is different from a service animal because these animals require no special training. Almost any animal can be considered as emotional support; however, most choose common domesticated animals like dogs, cats, or birds.

Training your emotional support animal

Training your emotional support animal is an essential part of ESA ownership. Teaching your ESA basic commands such as sit, stay, lay down, or come can be great starting points for establishing good behavior. Additionally, controlling any bursts of barking in public settings can be essential, as those sounds can create unwanted attention and uneasiness.

Especially when it comes to larger animals such as dogs, owners should address any anger or aggression shown to people immediately since it speaks directly to public safety. For example, an aggressive or loud dog may revoke your rights to an ESA with regard to housing or the ability to take your animal with you on a plane. You can help keep yourself and your pet safe and protected with consistent training.

What laws protect me and my ESA?

Knowing you are legally protected and supported can be a great relief for those with an ESA. In the United States, two major laws work to do just that: Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The Air Carrier Access Act allows people with disabilities to travel on airlines with an ESA. For full details on this act, click here

The Fair Housing Act grants ESA owners the right to have their ESA in housing that normally may have restrictions against pets.

If you want to read more about the Fair Housing Act, access the entire document on their website.

If you want to read more about ESA specific guidelines, access information here

These laws make it easier for us to live our lives with less stress and make living life fully that much more accessible.

What is an ESA Letter and how do I get one?

Emotional support animals are not always offered the same protections as service animals, so it is crucial to ensure you have a valid Emotional Support Animal Letter. This document is prescribed by your physician and certifies that you need emotional support from an animal companion to improve your emotional well-being. 

These letters are often required to access pet-friendly housing or travel accommodations with your emotional support animal, so having one in place is vital to uphold your rights according to the law.

Simply saying an animal is an ESA is not enough to be protected. For instance, a landlord can request to see your ESA letter to verify their need to comply with your request if they do not usually allow pets in their building. If you fail to produce the emotional support animal letter, they can deny you accommodations for your ESA. It is essential to check with other businesses and services to understand their rules regarding support animals.

An important note about online support animal registries

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with information regarding ESA. A simple google search will show many options to put your ESA on a registry and get an ESA registry card. Sometimes they show your pet’s picture and look legitimate. Still, know that these registries are invalid and do not protect you and your support animal. Those sites also usually ask for money, which is unnecessary. 

Your pet does not need to be on any registry. Therefore, the only document you need to uphold your rights is the Emotional Support Animal Letter from your doctor.

Get started with your emotional support animal today!

Having an emotional support animal can be a great way to manage feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. If having an ESA could benefit you, talk to your doctor to see if this option is right for you. If you’re looking for a therapist who can help diagnose your state of mental health as well as write an ESA letter for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Visit our Emotional Support Animal Evaluation page to get more information to get started!

If you have any questions or want to talk to someone about how to get a support animal or an animal support evaluation, don’t hesitate to give us a call today.

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness Research Team.

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