Emotional Support Dogs: The Benefits of Companionship
Pet owners often consider their dogs and cats to be part of their families. Most people develop emotional bonds with their animals and find that they can improve their quality of life tremendously. In recent years, more and more people have been adopting dogs or training the pets they already have to be emotional support animals (ESA), which studies have found to be extremely beneficial to those suffering from mental and emotional disorders.
In the United States, any person with a disability may register his or her pet as a service animal. Those with certifiable mental and emotional disabilities may choose to have an ESA animal for a variety of reasons. Emotional support animals are most often dogs, but there are no restrictions on what type of animal can qualify, as long as the animal provides you with comfort and a sense of security, and your doctor agrees that having an ESA would be beneficial to you.
Many people suffering from disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and various phobias have benefited enormously from a relationship with a trained emotional support animal. Dogs can be trained to assist the disabled person if he should have a panic attack, for example. Some even react instinctually to certain cues in their owners and can prevent serious episodes. Even if your dog, which can be of any breed, just provides the owner with comfort in some capacity, he or she can qualify for ESA certification. The friendship and love afforded by this type of companionship are invaluable and can provide a better quality of life for those struggling to function with a disability.
There are laws in place which protect those who require emotional support animals, such as the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act. These laws allow for a disabled person to travel or to find housing with their licensed ESA without discrimination or excessive fees (CertaPet). Registering your pet as an ESA allows for you to take that pet with you into many establishments and public places, so long as he or she is non-disruptive, non-aggressive, and under your control. The most central element of the relationship between you and your ESA should be a genuine emotional bond. If you are disabled and already have a pet with whom you are close, you may already have an ESA without even realizing it. ESAs, especially dogs, are frequently empathetic and attuned to their owners naturally.
If you are suffering from an emotional or mental disorder and believe an ESA would benefit your health and happiness, contact your licensed mental health professional. The benefits of constant companionship from a trusted pet are truly countless!