Certifying an Emotional Support Dog
For many of us, dogs are more than just pets- they’re there to provide support in ways that not even fellow humans can. While we regard our furry friends as playmates and sleep buddies, they can do more than provide us with good company.
For example, dogs are blessed with the innate ability to provide emotional support, a godsend for those struggling with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
A canine’s presence makes a world of difference, especially if you suffer from an emotional or mental disability. It could even mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
What Should I Know About an Emotional Support Dog?
Some people use the phrase “certifying a dog” interchangeably with getting an ESA letter. But here is where the confusion lies. You do not actually “certify” an Emotional Support Dog. Certifications are meaningless when it comes to qualifying your dog as an Emotional Support Dog. This is a common mistake, and there is a very important distinction between “certifying” a dog and obtaining an ESA letter.
There is, in fact, no such thing as a certificate or a certification program that officially qualifies a dog as an emotional support animal under law. The only legitimate way to qualify your dog as an Emotional Support Animal is by obtaining a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.
Service dogs are typically trained to perform specific tasks for their human partners and need to be registered in order to be legally recognized. Although they aren’t required to wear an identification vest or harness, it is considered good etiquette to do so. However, employees of an establishment are permitted to ask what tasks the dog are trained to perform.
An emotional support dog, on the other hand, is a pet that has been identified by a licensed mental health professional to provide companionship, relieve anxiety, promote emotional stability among other things.
Unlike service dogs, ESAs don’t require specialized training.
While emotional support animals are not required to have any specific skills, some common tasks that they perform include:
• Providing comfort and affection during periods of anxiety or depression
• Reducing stress and blood pressure
• Serving as an “anchor” during panic attacks or flashbacks
• Arousing their companion from nightmares or night terrors
• Waking their companion from sleep disruptions
• Calming their companion during periods of heightened anxiety
What are the Steps To Get an Emotional Support Animal?
Here are the steps to get an emotional support animal.
1 – You must meet the criteria to “need” an ESA.
To qualify for an emotional support animal, you must first be diagnosed with an emotional or mental disability by a licensed mental health professional. This professional must then provide a letter stating that you have a mental health condition and that the animal is necessary for your treatment.
The challenge of living life normally is indicative of your need for an ESA. A mental health disability ranges from conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD to more. The mental health professional will determine if your condition makes it harder for you to participate in day-to-day activities.
2 – Find a pet that suits your needs.
Remember that not all animals can naturally provide emotional support. The most common is the dog. The key here is to find an animal that you’re comfortable with and suits your needs.
If you haven’t had a dog before, this endeavour could prove challenging, even overwhelming.
3- Get a ESA letter from a mental health expert.
Lastly, the professional who prescribed your emotional support animal will have to evaluate the success of the animal in treating your symptoms. He or she will then write an ESA letter.
The best way to increase your chances of success is by working with a qualified professional who understands the process and can help you every step of the way.
As the saying goes, dogs are born to be our best friend, and there’s no denying the fact that they provide us with emotional support. Our four-legged buddies carry the instinct of compassion, making them the perfect ESAs. Talk to a trusted health professional if you’d like more information about certifying an emotional support dog.