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Everything you need to know about emotional support animals

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Dan Massey

Emotional support animals have become more and more popular, and for good reason. Animals can be incredibly soothing and therapeutic, and provide a lot of value, comfort, and health to someone who needs emotional support. Here at NomNomNow, we know that our beloved best friends provide an emotional value that few people can.

dog with owner

Despite the rise in emotional support animals, some of their details are foggy. Businesses seem unsure as to what rights these animals have, and owners of emotional support animals are often confused or given misinformation. Because of this, it’s important for all of us to be well-informed about what an emotional support animal is, and how to handle emotional support animal registration if you or a loved one may need one. Here’s everything you need to know!

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal is exactly what it sounds like: an animal that supports its owner emotionally. Most people with emotional support animals suffer from depression, anxiety, or PTSD, though other impairments, such as severe phobias or panic attacks, are also common reasons to get an animal. Any kind of mental health disability or struggle can be reason to get an emotional support animal.

How is an emotional support animal different from a service animal?

While a service animal helps those with physical disabilities, an emotional support animal is strictly for mental health. Because of this, emotional support animals require no training, as they are strictly for comfort and emotional guidance.

Emotional support animals are also not limited by species. While dogs are far and away the most common type of emotional service animals, any domestic pet is allowed – it’s whatever is comforting to the owner (by contrast, only dogs and miniature horses can legally be service animals).

What rights does an emotional support animal have?

While emotional support animals have more rights than pets, they have fewer rights than service animals. Legally, emotional support animals are allowed in all homes, due to the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act. Even if the apartment or home that is being rented does not allow pets, they are legally required to allow emotional support animals, and the renter cannot be charged an extra fee or deposit (however, they can still be charged for any damage created by the animal).

Emotional support animals are also allowed on airplanes, courtesy of the Air Carrier Access Act. Unlike pets, emotional support animals do not need to be caged in airplanes, and the owner cannot be charged an extra fee. However, if the animal is in any way disruptive, the airline is allowed to deny it entry, or ask it to be caged.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not legally required entry anywhere else, such as restaurants and stores. However, many business owners are accommodating of those with mental health needs, and are willing to let emotional support animals in; others businesses are unaware of this law, and will let an emotional support animal in regardless.

What is the process for emotional support animal registration?

Contrary to popular belief, an emotional support animal does not actually have to be registered. There are numerous websites that suggest that registration is necessary, and it’s no surprise that all of these websites are trying to sell you the certification.

The only documentation necessary for an emotional support animal is a note from a licensed mental health professional, stating that an emotional support animal would be beneficial to the patient. Without such a note, neither airlines nor landlords are legally required to let your animal in.

That said, emotional support animal registration is an important step for a lot of people, as many companies sell tags, certificates, and vests. While these items are not required in any way, they do make the animal look more like a service animal, which can result in fewer questions when attempting to bring them places. However, even if this approach is opted for, owners will still need to make sure that they have a letter from a mental health professional before entering an airplane or bringing an animal into a pet-free living situation.

If you or anyone you know may be in need of an emotional support animal, pay a visit to a mental health professional for an evaluation. There are a ton of wonderful programs connecting adoptable dogs with humans in need of their companionship, should you determine you may need one.

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