Archive for the ‘Emotional Support Animal’ Category

Emotional support animals are allowed on college campuses, but the rules vary from school to school. Emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits to individuals diagnosed with psychological disorders including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression,  depression, eating disorders, and insomnia to name a few. 

The mental health community has found that animals can offer unconditional love and support that can help to alleviate the symptoms of psychological disorders. Psychological disorders can leave individuals feeling isolated, and they may have a harder time coping with stressful situations like attending college, by having an emotional support animal these individuals have the support they need to function and thrive in these stressful environments. 

It is important not to confuse emotional support animals with service animals there are different rules and laws that they fall under so make sure you know what they are before taking your emotional support dog with you to college.  

Listed below are some helpful tips to follow when bringing an emotional support animal with you to college.

Americans With Disabilities Act

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, emotional support animals and service animals are not the same and do not share the same protections.  Service animals are dogs, or miniature horses that have been trained to perform specific tasks for disabled individuals and must be allowed to accompany an individual anywhere the general public is allowed to go.  Emotional support animals are not specially trained and do not have the same rights as service animals and may not be allowed to accompany an individual wherever they go. 

The one exception is housing. Under the Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals must be allowed to live with an individual regardless of community rules regarding no pets or breed restrictions. If you plan on taking your emotional support animal with you to college, they must be allowed to live with you under the law, but they may not be able to accompany you to other places on campus or in the community. 

Documentation for an Emotional Support Animal

To avoid any confusion when traveling or living with your emotional support animal it is important to make sure you have your documentation with you at all times.  To qualify a pet as an emotional support animal an individual must have a letter from a licensed mental health provider that includes the following:

A prescription or ESA letter on the letterhead of the current mental health provider that is less than one year old and is signed and includes their licensing information. The individual with the emotional support animal has been evaluated by the mental health provider that has signed the letter. The individual requires the emotional support animal for a disorder that can be found in the DSM IV or V.

This documentation is easy to carry and will avoid any doubt as to whether you have an emotional support animal with you or if you are trying to bring your pet with you.

University Forms for Emotional Support Animals

Some Colleges and Universities are now requesting more documentation in addition to your ESA letter. The University forms and documents can sometimes request too much private information that a student is not legally required to provide.

For example, some University forms will request private medical information or the length of time a student has seen the licensed mental health provider. This information is private and can go against HIPAA privacy rules. Make sure that you are aware of your rights and don’t let your school force you into completing every part of an ESA University form.

Emotional Support Animal-Friendly Colleges

Since emotional support animals do not have the same rights as service animals, you may have to jump through some hoops to get your emotional support animal with you on campus.  To avoid unnecessary stress and aggravation, it may be better to find a college that is more animal-friendly some examples include:

Eckerd College Lees-McRae College Stephens College Stetson University Washington and Jefferson College University of Northern Colorado University of Idaho University of Washington University of Illinois MIT Caltech

The above is a list of just a few animal-friendly colleges; if you require an emotional support animal, it is important to do some research to find out what college is not only best for your area of study but is also best for your emotional support animal.

Living with an Emotional Support Animal on a College Campus

Once you have been accepted to a college and approved for housing where you can have your emotional support animal with you, it is important to prepare yourself for living with your ESA on campus.  Below are some tips that will better prepare you for college life with an emotional support animal:

Dorm Room

It is important to make sure your emotional support animal will be comfortable living in a small space.  Small spaces are generally not a problem for cats, birds, or small animals that live in cages, but dogs especially large dogs may have an issue living in a space as small as a dorm room.  It is recommended to do a test with your emotional support animal and keep them in a small space to make sure they can adapt to dorm life.

Roommates

If you will be living with a roommate or roommates, it is important to communicate with them about your emotional support animal.  Under the law, you cannot be denied housing, but your roommate may have an allergy or fear of the type of emotional support animal you have so it is important to contact them and make sure they understand and can live with you and your ESA. It is important to understand that your ESA is your responsibility and if you have room or dorm mates that offer to help that is great but do not count on them taking care of your ESA.

Care

Regardless of the type of emotional support animal you have, it is important that you have the time and ability to care for your support animal while living on campus properly.  Properly cleaning up after your pet is essential as dorms are small and animal smells can travel.  If you have a dog make sure you have time to walk them and take them to do their business and clean up after.  If you have a cat or other small animal make sure you keep up on cleaning their litter box or cage.  You will also need to be prepared to clean and vacuum if your pet has fur that can accumulate in your dorm room.

What Is an Emotional Support Dog?

Anyone who has owned a dog knows the unconditional love and support they give.  There’s nothing like coming home from a bad day at work and waiting for you at the door is your furry friend waiting to give you all the love you need and turn your day around. 

Because of their ability to provide support and unconditional love, the mental health profession has begun using dogs (and other animals) as emotional support for individuals with varying mental health issues.  Emotional support dogs have been shown to help individuals suffering from the following:

Agoraphobia (the fear of leaving the home) Anxiety Depression General Anxiety Disorder PTSD Social Shyness Stress-Induced Situations

With the help of emotional support dogs, those suffering from the above disorders have been able to begin recovering and regaining the confidence and freedom with the help of their emotional support dog.

How Can I Make My Dog An Emotional Support Dog? Get an ESA letter from a licensed medical healthcare provider. Provide your ESA letter to your landlord. Get your ESA identification card and register your Emotional Support Dog. Enjoy living with your Emotional Support Dog.

In order to receive the rights under the laws afforded to emotional support dogs, the dog must be prescribed by a mental health professional for an individual who is suffering from a disabling mental illness. 

Emotional support dogs do not have to be licensed or registered, but you do need to have an ESA letter written by a mental health professional (on their letterhead) that states that you are suffering from an emotional disability and the emotional support dog is vital to your wellbeing. 

The letter must be signed, dated, and include the mental health professional’s license number and the date and place where their license was issued. It is important to note that the letter prescribed by your mental health professional is only valid for one year. 

Emotional support dogs do not require any specific training and the only difference between them and a pet is a letter from the prescribing mental health professional. While emotional support dogs are not required to be registered many individuals choose to register their support dog and carry an identification card and have their dog wear an ESA (emotional support animal) vest because it makes it easier to travel with their emotional support dog.

Click Here to Qualify for Your ESA Letter

What Rights Do Emotional Support Dogs Have?

Emotional support animals do not have the same rights as service dogs and psychiatric service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service dogs have been specifically trained to help perform tasks for individuals with disabilities and have the right to accompany them into any place the normal public has access to. 

Because service dogs are trained and are needed by a disabled individual to perform tasks like pulling a wheelchair, alerting an individual they are about to have a seizure, or assisting a visually impaired individual across the street they are afforded more rights than are emotional support dogs. 

There is also a difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs as again they are specifically trained to help assist individuals suffering from a disabling mental illness. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to detect and recognize the beginning of a psychiatric episode and then help to ease the effects of that psychiatric episode, once again because they are specially trained and licensed they are afforded more rights than emotional support dogs. 

When out in public establishments including restaurants, theaters, stores, etc. have the right to ask two questions:

Do you need the animal because of a disability? What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?

If an individual is unable to answer these two questions then they do not have a service animal that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the establishment has the right to refuse to allow the animal on their premises.

Emotional support dogs do not have the same public access rights as service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under this federal housing law individuals with emotional support animals are allowed to have them in their residence even if there is a no-pet rule in effect. Emotional support animals owner are protected against discrimination and property managers are required to make reasonable accommodations for them.

Conclusion

While emotional support dogs provide an essential service to many individuals suffering from certain mental health issues, because they do not require any specialized training, registration, or licensing they are not afforded the same rights as service dogs are. 

Having said this, ESA owners are protected against discrimination under federal and state housing laws, so you can live with your emotional support dog even if you can’t take them to the local restaurant with you. 

Since qualifying for an emotional support dog only require a letter from your mental health professional you can receive the benefits from your own animal saving you time and money searching for a dog that provides you with the emotional support you need.

Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that animals are often our best source of comfort when we are feeling down or unwell. For people who struggle with emotional or mental illnesses or disabilities, emotional support animals provide much-needed companionship, comfort, security, and love. Animals have a remarkable way of making us feel better, and emotional support animals truly do provide emotional support to the people who need it most.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

There is some confusion surrounding what an emotional support animal, or ESA, is and is not. By definition, an ESA is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits and helps alleviate the symptoms their handlers experience due to a mental or emotional disability. They require minimal training, and, unlike service dogs, they do not need to perform a specific task to help their handlers.

The most important job of an emotional support animal is to provide companionship and comfort to its owner to make it easier to accomplish one or more major life activities, including caring for oneself, working, performing manual tasks, sleeping, walking, and numerous other activities. Emotional support animals are commonly prescribed to persons struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, etc.

Who Qualifies for Emotional Support Animals?

Roughly 18% of American adults live with some type of emotional or mental disability, many of whom could benefit from owning an emotional support animal. Unfortunately, many of them do not realize that they may qualify for one. Mental health professionals prescribe ESAs to people living with a wide variety of disabilities and illnesses. In addition to helping people with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, emotional support animals can help people of all ages who struggle with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.

Emotional support animal letters are provided by licensed mental health workers and other medical professionals. The letter indicates that the patient is limited by their disability and requires an emotional support animal as part of their treatment.

How Emotional Support Animals Provide Emotional Support

Emotional support animals provide emotional support simply by being there for their handlers. They provide unconditional love, and just spending time with a loyal companion can really make someone who suffers from a mental disorder feel better. They also create a sense of purpose and responsibility. Feeding, talking, bathing, and taking care of an animal can make a person feel valuable and important. This can be extremely helpful for people who struggle with depression and may not feel a great sense of self-worth on their own. Because they need to be taken care of, animals also help keep their owners more active. It’s nearly impossible to spend all day curled up in bed when there is a furry companion relying on you to provide for their every need.

While they can’t talk back, emotional support animals are great listeners. They are never too busy to lend an ear when their owners need them, and they never judge. They’re also great at keeping secrets, so they act at furry therapists that people can talk to about absolutely anything. Having another living being to confide in – even in that being isn’t human – helps people work through their problems. It also helps alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation that many people who struggle with depression and other mental health problems experience.

Talking with a therapist or counselor is beneficial and highly recommended for people who have mental and emotional illnesses and disabilities. Those people aren’t always available, though. With an emotional support animal, you always have someone by your side that you can talk to at any time of the day or night. There is no waiting room or expensive co-pay to worry about – just a loving companion who will always be there to provide a shoulder to cry on when you need it most.

Emotional support animals provide support when their handlers must face difficult situations. If anxiety prevents you from traveling, for example, an ESA can provide the comfort you need to make it through a long flight. They help their owners feel more confident in anxiety-inducing situations, and they can even make it easier to meet new people. For people with mental or emotional disabilities or illnesses, emotional support animals help provide the support they need to live full, independent lives.