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Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dog

Emotional support animals provide comfort, affection and meaningful companionship for people suffering from either a mental or emotional condition. The bond created between an owner and their emotional support dog can be unwavering, and hugely beneficial to the mental well being of the owner.

These canine companions can aid with conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, fears and phobias, and other emotional conditions.      

Providing support in non-physical ways

Unlike service animals, emotional support dogs aren’t tasked with specific duties that help their owner conquer a physical disability. Instead, they provide comfort to aid their owner’s emotional or psychiatric condition. The animal can provide emotional support by alleviating one or more symptoms associated with a mental or emotional disability.

For a dog to be registered as an emotional support animal, one must show verifiable proof of a disability. Sadly, you cannot register a pet as an emotional support animal strictly for companionship.

It’s important for owners of emotional support animals to understand their rights. The law protects owners of emotional support dogs through the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Housing rights

The Fair Housing Amendments Act says if an animal is viewed as an emotional support animal, a landlord cannot discriminate against a potential tenant for having a pet. This act allows for emotional support dogs to live in designated non-pet rental spaces without requiring a pet deposit fee.

Renters do not need to have their animals certified to exercise this right, though they do need documentation from a mental health professional stating there is a legitimate need for an emotional support animal. 

Travel rights

The Air Carrier Access Act allows emotional support animals to travel with their owner by plane outside of a cage. Airlines require small animals to travel in cages beneath their owner’s seats on an aircraft, and for large animals to travel in crates in the cargo underbelly of a plane. If your pet is registered as an emotional support animal, they can ride with you at no additional charge.

Any dog can be a support dog

An emotional support dog may be recommended by a doctor or mental health professional, like a counselor or a psychiatrist. If you’re worried your teacup chihuahua won’t fit the bill, don’t be – dogs of all breeds and sizes can be legally deemed as emotional support dogs if they alleviate pain for owners with mental or emotional conditions.

If you qualify for having an emotional support animal, choosing the specifically designated pet is your choice as the owner. Federal law does not require that emotional support animals be formally trained or certified, so there is potential risk involved for how an emotional support animal may act in public. Ultimately, registering your dog as an emotional support animal is a choice you and your doctor can make together about what will be most beneficial for your health.

Emotional service animals can be registered online through the United States Service Dogs

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