What is an emotional support animal (ESA)? In what cases is it used? Can any animal be considered emotionally supportive?
It is well known that pets or companion animals benefit the psychological and behavioral part of people, help fight depression, reduce stress, fear, anguish, strengthen self-esteem, avoid the feeling of loneliness. They also increase and improve the sense of responsibility, help create routines, organize people’s schedules, and motivate them to do physical activity.
What is an ESA?
It is an abbreviation that the United States housing and aeronautical authorities created to allow companion animals to travel in the cabin, and not be considered as pets when acquiring a home or to accompany their owners or guardians in spaces such as offices, colleges, or universities.
Emotional support animals are animals that help people overcome fear, anxiety, or trauma, providing therapeutic support to their owners through affection and company. They are part of the psychological, psychiatric, or medical treatment of patients.
They differ from service animals that help people with disabilities such as guide dogs, sound-detecting dogs, or conditions such as epilepsy, among others.
Unlike service animals that help people with different disabilities and must remain close to the human being they assist, those who provide emotional support do not necessarily have to be admitted in all spaces.
Who needs them?
They are recommended for people who have recurring episodes of fear, panic, anxiety, or phobias. Also, in cases of post-traumatic stress, since they have the power to make the owners feel better in case of presenting an adverse situation.
How to prove it?
ESA laws require you to have a prescription from a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist to certify an Emotional Support Animal. They evaluate the situation of the person and the benefits that the animal will bring to the psychological or emotional condition through techniques endorsed by the medical-scientific community.
In addition to this certificate, the animal needs to be trained in basic obedience so that it does not represent a danger to other people, knows how to behave in public, and responds easily and quickly to the orders indicated.
Legal documentation must:
- Be written on a letterhead by the professional.
- Have the original signature of the health professional with the registration number. Any false information or impersonation is considered a crime.
- Contain the professional’s contact information: telephone, address, etc.
- Certification of the physical or psychological condition for which emotional support is needed, as well as confirmation that said condition prevents the performance of significant vital activities such as being in public spaces, socializing, traveling by plane, among others.
- A statement that the emotional support animal is part of the treatment.
- It is always recommended to specify the name, species, breed, and age of the animal.
How do you travel with an emotional support animal?
To travel, you must check in advance with the airlines, transport companies, or other spaces, as some require notification of this condition at least 48 hours before the trip. In addition, fill out forms and report the carrying of items such as a leash, muzzle, and toilet.
It is recommended to carry the certificate issued by the health professional, and the basic training certificate, a No regulation specifies, and a veterinary medical certificate that guarantees the health conditions of the animal to make the trip. These may be required at the time of purchasing the tickets and at the time of travel.
There is no regulation that specifies that emotional support animals must be identified in any way, beyond the aforementioned documentation; however, ideally, the owner should identify them with a collar, harness, or special tag.
In the United States, emotional support animals can travel freely in any type of transport with their owner, without breed, size, or weight limitations, and additionally, travel free on some airlines. They do not require crates or other types of transport cages.
The most recommended breeds
Any animal, regardless of its species, can be considered emotionally supportive. There are ideal breeds for this work because they are intelligent, empathetic, balanced, and intuitive such as golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, german shepherds, corgi, and poodles. They can be any size and should be close to their guardian.