Emotional support animals are becoming more popular and accepted as the stigmas surrounding mental health go away, and people prioritize self-care. Millions of people have mental conditions that go untreated for various reasons, whether they can’t afford regular therapy or do not have health insurance. Having a pet is an easy way to improve mental health for anyone, but it’s extra important for those with certain psychological disorders. Emotional support animals are pets that help someone with specific mental conditions, and there are many misconceptions about ESAs.
Emotional Support Animals are Service Animals
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to ESAs is confusing them for service animals. There are many differences between an emotional support animal and a service animal regarding their purpose and where they are allowed. An emotional support animal is a special type of companion animal for those with qualifying psychological conditions. They are different from service animals and therapy pets.
Emotional support animals help reduce stress and anxiety in their owners, through their calming presence. They do not need any formal training besides basic obedience to behave in public. Service animals, on the other hand, go through extensive training to perform specific tasks and functions for their disabled owners, who are typically physically disabled rather than mentally. It’s much harder to get a service animal, as they must pass many certifications to qualify as a service animal.
Another common misconception about emotional support animals is that they’re allowed to accompany their owners into non-pet friendly places like restaurants and grocery stores. Emotional support animals can live in housing that does not permit pets and can fly with their owners in the cabin of an aircraft without a pet fee. They have no additional rights in public areas. Service animals are allowed to accompany their disabled owners in any space open to the general public, including restaurants, movie theatres, schools, and museums.
Any Type of ESA can Fly with their Owner
While service animals can only be dogs and miniature horses, any animal can technically be an emotional support animal. Many therapists only recognize the therapeutic benefit of dogs and cats, however. For the safety and convenience of other passengers, many airlines are updating their policies to only allow cats and dogs as emotional support animals. Cats and dogs are more easily trainable. In the past, airlines permitted any type of ESA, but this is changing.
Emotional support animals are an important mental health tool for those with common psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They help their owners cope with the symptoms of their disability, reducing stress and anxiety. Many people confuse emotional support animals with service animals, and there are many misconceptions about what an ESA is and where they are allowed to go with their owners. The two main rights emotional support animals have is housing and travel, where service animals are allowed to go nearly anywhere with their disabled owners and are highly trained to perform tasks.