Yes, I have an Emotional Support Animal. No, he is not a turkey, a peacock, a lizard or something crazy, like a mini horse. He is a 12 pound Yorkie named Stark and he keeps me centered.
There is a lot of talk and confusion when it comes to Emotional Support Animals for mental health. A lot of people have taken advantage of the fact that ESA can travel with their owners. However, having an ESA is not like having a service dog. Let me explain what I mean and why I have an Emotional Support Animal.
Why I have an Emotional Support Animal
I live with a lot of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, that at times, can make it very hard to deal with certain aspects of daily life. I tend to get sad, when I am alone, and my thoughts take over. With Borderline Personality, I tend to disassociate, which means I leave my emotions behind and try to escape the thoughts that make me want to hide. My ESA makes sure that I am mindfully present and have to come back to reality when I drift to far.
Why an ESA is not a Service Dog
Emotional Support Animals are pets that bring comfort to those that cannot always comfort themselves. A Service Animal, usually a dog, is an animal that has been specifically trained to assist a person’s specific disability. Service Dog training is a lengthy, expensive process in which the dog is trained to respond to their person and help them with their daily living.
Differences between a Service Animal and an Emotional Support Animal
- Recognized by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as a medical necessity.
- Can accompany their person everywhere, even places that animals are not usually allowed, because they serve a specific service to their person’s disability.
- Service animals are trained for many hours and are taught assistance and life-saving services specific to their person.
- Service animals are meant to be with their person 24 hours a day.
Emotional Support Animals:
- Emotional Support Animals are family pets, that can be used to bring comfort to their owners in times of need. Many of these pets have owners that live with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
- ESAs are recognized by the ADA, but not to the same level as Service Animals. However, Emotional Support Animals are allowed to live with their owners, even in pet free housing, and are allowed to travel along side of their owners, rather than being in the cargo hold.
How Do You Qualify For An Emotional Support Animal?
- ESAs do not need to be certified, but do require a letter/prescription from a license therapist or psychiatrist.
My Emotional Support Animal
My ESA is not a turkey, peacock, lizard, or even a mini horse. This emotional support animal is a 12 pound Yorkie named Stark and we are slightly obsessed with each other.
We both suffer from separation anxiety, so being together is better for both of us. You see, Stark is a rescue and we found each other when we needed each other the most. I bring him calming comfort and he does the same for me. That is why my therapist and psychiatrist thought it was important for me to use him as an emotional support.
If you have any questions about emotional support animals or about my own mental health issues, please feel free to ask. I really believe that being open, honest and normalizing the conversation around mental health, is the best way to end the stigma.