The presence of a dog can be a calming one that can help you get through the toughest of days. If you are living with an emotional disability, you may even be eligible to have an emotional support animal -- a canine who can remain with you on plane journeys and live with you in apartment units that don't usually permit pets.
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
Purpose of Emotional Support Dogs
The main purpose of emotional support animals is to offer emotional assistance to those who are disabled due to various types of conditions. Some examples of conditions that qualify people for emotional support animals are panic attacks, bipolar disorder and manic depression.
About Emotional Support Dogs
Since emotional support dogs do not require the extensive training of service dogs, you can get one simply by selecting one that you believe might be able to manage your therapeutic requirements the most effectively. In many cases, an emotional support animal is an owner's pre-existing pet. In getting one of these dogs, consider various factors -- think physical size, especially if you plan on traveling a lot. The basic requirement for emotional support animals is positive and docile behavior, whether it comes to staying relatively quiet in public to being totally housebroken. Emotional support animals, unlike service dogs, are not permitted entry into "no pets" public places such as restaurants. They are only granted special permissions in airplane cabins and in housing. Service dogs, on the other hand, are generally allowed to visit most public places. Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs do not need to undergo any specific training.
If you want your dog to be classified as an emotional support animal, you must first have the approval -- in letter form -- of a licensed medical professional who works closely alongside you -- say a therapist, psychiatrist, doctor or similar. In the letter, the professional must indicate that you do indeed have an emotional disability that calls for this type of help, with information regarding your disability and on the benefits that having a companion animal by your side might provide. You must then present said letter to the appropriate individual -- think the airline or your apartment building's landlord, for instance.
Positive Aspects of Being With Animals
Emotional support dogs aim to provide stability and comfort to their owners. If a person is suffering from overwhelming social anxiety, unhappiness, phobias, loneliness or trauma due to an incident or incidents from the past, or anything else along those lines, she could be allowed to attain this canine assistance -- but only with prior permission. Animals are often linked to positive health and emotional effects such as reduced blood pressure or cholesterol, elevated mental well-being, more time spent outdoors, decreased stress and nervousness and minimized isolation. Senior individuals are also sometimes permitted to have emotional support animals in airplanes and in housing situations -- even if they do not have any emotional disabilities. If you have an emotional disorder and believe that you would benefit from getting an emotional support animal, speak to your doctor to proceed.
By Naomi Millburn
Mental Health Assistance Dogs: Question and Answer
Service Dog Central: Emotional Support Animals
The New York Times - Sunday Styles: Wagging the Dog, and a Finger
National Service Animal Registry: Emotional Support Animals
West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources: ADA Service Animal Booklet
CDC: Health Benefits of Pets
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.