Are you considering registering your pet as an emotional support dog? Maybe you don’t have a dog and want to adopt one in order to register them, and you need to educate yourself before moving forward. Whatever your situation, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started with this process. Emotional support dogs are an integral part of many peoples’ lives and are able to provide security for those who struggle mentally in their day-to-day. If you are looking to bring one into your life, or officiate your current pet, read on to discover all you need to know. Today we will discuss the role an ESA plays in an owner’s life, how to qualify, the best agency to register through, and more!
“You know, a dog can snap you out of any kind of bad mood that you’re in faster than you can think of.” – Jill Abramson
What Is an Emotional Support Dog?
An emotional support dog is an animal who provides comfort and support for its owner. They are used for mental or emotional conditions in order to give the owner a sense of security while lessening the symptoms that affect them in their day-to-day lives. An Emotional Support Dog is prescribed by a mental health professional, a psychiatrist, for example, if they feel this is an appropriate next step for you in your treatment plan. It is important to note that ESA’s are not the same as service dogs. They do not perform any specific duties for the owner beyond emotional support.
Who Can Prescribe My ESA?
Any licensed mental health professional can do this for you. Some examples of LMHP’s include but are not limited to:
1.) Licensed Professional Counselor: An LPC helps mental health clients by evaluating their issues and behavior and coming up with a treatment plan to solve their problems. They will have a Master’s in professional counseling and need a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised practical experience.
2.) Licensed Psychologist: A psychologist will have a doctorate in psychology. They aim to understand and manage human behavior to ensure the best quality of life for the client.
3.) Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health patients. They are able to prescribe medicine if necessary and aim to focus on the chemical aspects of the mental illness.
4.) Licensed Mental Health Counselor: The primary goal of an LMHC is to aid the client in setting goals and implementing a plan that involves treatment, resolution, and preventative care for their mental or emotional struggles.
Does My Emotional Support Dog Need Special Training or Clothing?
Emotional support animals do not need to be trained, nor do they need special vests or identification like a service dog does (although a vest or badge is recommended, just to avoid potential conflict). They only need to be able to provide comfort. Given that your pet is calm and well-mannered, especially around other people, you will be just fine. It is important that your emotional support dog not show aggression or act out by being loud and disruptive. They should also be potty-trained. They should be able to behave appropriately, especially around strangers, to avoid any issues. A well-behaved emotional support dog will also limit your anxiety in public situations. Having to calm them down and correct them constantly would not beneficial to your mental health in the slightest. Also, if you do decide to have your dog wear a vest or a badge, make sure they look professional. While there are no “official” colors for ESA’s, red and green are most common for leashes and vests.
How Do I Qualify?
You need a prescription letter from your LMHP in order to qualify; this is the crucial element of the entire process. An ESA is not considered legitimate without this letter. You cannot prescribe your emotional support dog. In order to obtain this letter, your LHMP will have to conclude that an ESA would be beneficial to your treatment process and your specific needs. To maintain eligibility, an annual assessment is required to ensure your determination stays valid, and you retain your qualified status. Staying up to date on these things will allow you to remain stress-free and avoid any issues.
What Are My Legal Rights?
It is imperative to note that an emotional support dog does not have the same legal coverage as a service dog. If you decide to utilize a vest or badge, you will typically be able to slip by in public places since most people don’t ask questions or are unfamiliar with the aspect of ESA’s. It is also the legal right of any business to deny access to your emotional support dog. A prescription letter is not legal protection for you and your pet; it only serves to validate your ESA. You can fly with your dog next to you without paying any fees, and in this case, your letter will come in handy. Typically, airlines will ask for prior notice if you are flying with your emotional support dog, and you can submit the required information at that time. If you are applying for housing, your landlord should accommodate you and your ESA. You shouldn’t be asked to pay any pet deposit or monthly fees, and all you will need is your prescription letter. Some landlords may request a verification form from your LMHP.
What Are the Benefits?
Here are four key benefits of owning a certified emotional support dog:
1.) Calm Your Nerves: An ESA will minimize your anxiety and allow you to have peace of mind, contributing to an overall more relaxed mental state. Having your dog around will allow you to get through the anxious-making aspects of life much more seamlessly.
2.) Love and Support: As much as you love your emotional support dog, they will love you back tenfold. Your ESA will support you through the most painful of traumas; loving and caring for your pet will allow them to continue to provide the same in return.
3.) Physical Improvements: Did you know that there are studies proving how ESA’s can lower blood pressure? Having a positive influence in your life in the wake of your inner stress can provide immense relief for many troubling symptoms. Not to mention, dogs need exercise, and regular activity will benefit you as well.
4.) Companionship: If you live alone, or spend most of your time that way, the seclusion can take a toll on your mental health. Loneliness can contribute to symptoms of depression or even anxiety due to fear for your safety. Having your emotional support dog around to be your companion will help you with these draining symptoms.
Does My ESA Have to Be Registered?
It is not legally required for your emotional support dog to be registered. Since it is not a law, there is no government agency for this. Many companies offer registration services online, should you decide to register your ESA. It is essential to look out for illegitimate companies, to avoid being scammed and denied access to the places you need to go. The National Service Animal Registry is the longest-running agency for registering service dogs and emotional support animals. They have been in business since 1995 and can educate you as well as guide you in the right direction towards registering your emotional support dog. NSARCO even offers an unconditional, money-back guarantee on any of their products, no matter the reason. While registration is not legally required, the benefit is that your emotional support dog will look professional and legitimate. This will make public encounters go much easier for you, reducing your overall stress. You can rest easy knowing that you and your ESA are in good hands if you decide to utilize The National Service Animal Registry.
As you can see, there many benefits to owning an emotional support dog, notably if they are registered. ESA’s provide love and comfort for so many people struggling with debilitating mental or emotional health issues. Remember that you cannot prescribe your ESA, you must have a letter from a licensed mental health professional to validate your ESA status. You will also be required to submit to an annual assessment. Obtaining the prescription letter is the first step you need to take in this process. Without it, your ESA is not valid, and you cannot register them, fly commercially with them, or avoid pet fees from potential or current landlords. If you want to make your dog an emotional support animal officially, speak with your LMHP about adding them to your current treatment plan. They will have the final say when it comes to this decision.
If you are on the fence about registering your emotional support animal, look into all of the resources discussed in this article. Comfort and peace of mind are essentials, especially for those struggling mentally every day. Take the extra step to make your dog official by getting a prescription letter and legitimizing your ESA status. This will allow you to register your dog if you so choose, which will make all of the difference in the long run.
“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.” – Gilda Radner