What Is An Emotional Support Animal?


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Have you ever wondered how some people can have their animal on a plane, on their lap and out of a carrier? How do residents in “no pet” housing still have a dog or cat? They have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).

Emotional Support Animals are not service animals or therapy animals, nor are they ordinary pets. An ESA is an animal that provides a therapeutic benefit to a person with a psychiatric or mental disability by helping to mitigate or alleviate some symptoms of the disability.

To qualify for an ESA, a licensed mental health professional must verify your diagnosis based on a federal definition of disability. The condition must significantly limit at least one of life’s basic activities, including emotional, social or work functioning. The ESA is usually a cat or dog but may include other animals. They do not need specific training to become an ESA.

Federal laws require airlines and housing to modify their pet policies to allow ESAs. However, documentation is required in the form of a letter from a qualified mental health professional stating that the person has a disability and the ESA provides a benefit for that disability.

At my psychological private practice, I find that most people do not understand the federal laws or what it really means for people with a psychological diagnosis to have an ESA with them—it can be life changing. I understand the laws and how to help people get the additional rights to have their ESA with them. If you take medication for depression, anxiety or ADD, you would qualify. If you have symptoms of anxiety in social situations, in crowds, or going on planes or being in enclosed places, you may qualify.

I do phone evaluations and have helped countless people have their furry friend beside them on planes and keep them in “no pet” housing. Otherwise, you may have to give up your animal to a shelter. Now you can fly to see family, because you can have your animal with you and it can be on your lap to calm you. It is up to the individual how they feel calmed, comforted and emotionally supported to lower their symptoms. If you would like more information or an evaluation, you can email: ESA@ESAevaluation.com. Call Joanne S. Williams 760-485-6784, go to www.NextGenPsychology.com.

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