If you or someone in your family is struggling with a mental illness, it may be time to consider getting an emotional support dog. These dogs are specially trained to help people with social anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses by providing unconditional love and comfort. They can also provide companionship for those who live alone or deal with loneliness due to their job. This article will discuss five things that you need to know before deciding if an emotional support dog could benefit you.
ESAs Are Not Service Animals
One thing that you need to know about emotional support dogs is that they are not service animals. Service animals, such as guide dogs for the blind and hearing impaired, have been specially trained to assist those with disabilities.
Emotional support or therapy pets can only provide comfort and companionship. Emotional support animals provide comfort to their owners in public places, are not trained for any specific disability, and have no special rights under the law.
Consult Mental Health Professional
If you’re considering getting an emotional support dog but aren’t sure if your pet can be certified as one, there are a few things that you need to do. One is consulting with a mental health professional to determine if you or your loved one have any disability that would qualify for certification as an emotional support animal. Once it’s determined that the dog can be registered, there will likely be some costs involved in the registration process and training.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog
Service dogs are highly trained to help those with a disability or disorder. But what exactly is the difference between an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog? As you might expect, there is quite a big difference in training as well as state legislation that affects these two breeds of pups differently. Here’s everything you need to know about both types of service dogs.
As a regular service dog, a psychiatric service dog is trained to perform specific tasks that will help their partner with a mental disability or disorder by guiding them, acting as an early warning system for panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, and even interrupting self-harming behaviors.
These dogs are often trained to help their partners with symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD by performing tasks such as waking them from a nightmare or flashback, blocking people/objects that may cause harm (i.e., standing in front of an individual who is about to walk into traffic), countering compulsions (i.e., touching a door frame to interrupt an OCD compulsion of not stepping through the doorway) and many other tasks that can be specific to each individual’s symptoms or triggers.
An ESA dog doesn’t need to be a particularly large breed or even fully trained in order for their partner with anxiety/depression, etc. To benefit from having one. These dogs are most often well-trained pets that have been prescribed by a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist. State laws vary when it comes to the qualifications for an individual to obtain a note from their mental health professional, but in general, they must have a verifiable disability as listed by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
The main task of an emotional support dog is simply just being there. These dogs are often brought into doctor’s appointments and other places their owners must go but may not feel comfortable being alone. They provide a feeling of safety and comfort in intense situations, which is especially helpful for anxiety disorders or phobias.
Having an emotional support dog does not necessarily mean that you cannot function without one by any means. It simply just provides extra help and comfort when it is needed.
These animals are also used for those who have phobias, paranoia, hallucinations, or any other number of mental disorders where they could benefit from having a four-legged companion to help them get through the day.
If you feel that an emotional support dog could help improve your life, talk to a mental health professional and see if they can prescribe one.
The last thing that you need to know about getting an emotional support dog is that you have the right to be accompanied by it in places where animals are generally not allowed. This includes no-pets buildings, airlines and other forms of transportation, hospitals, and schools. However, there may be some limitations on your rights when flying if the airline has a policy regarding service animals.
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