In the United States, emotional support animals are very common. In fact, there were nearly 200,000 emotional support animals in 2019. They are not common in other countries, but their effectiveness has led other countries to adopt this culture. For those who don’t know what they are; an emotional support animal is a type of animal that provides comfort to help relieve a symptom or effect of a person’s disability. In the United States, 61 million people have some kind of disability, so emotional support animals should be considered important. However, that is not always the case. There are public places in this country where emotional support animals are still not allowed to enter. According to US law, emotional support animals are not pets and are usually not restricted by species, but people seem to discriminate against those who need them in their daily lives and have a negative impact on them.
Emotional support animals can be identified by wearing an emotional support dog vest or tag. They should not be confused with service animals, because service animals are trained to perform specific tasks, such as helping blind people navigate. However, emotional support animals do not need training, nor do they need to undergo formal training to perform many tasks to alleviate mental illness. A very common ESA is a dog, but this doesn’t mean all are dogs. Even if they do not need specific training, ESA must have certain characteristics. They must behave in public and obey simple commands such as sit down and stay, must not bite, and respond to your call. Any animal that provides support, comfort, or help to an individual through companionship, unconditional positive attention, and affection can be considered an ESA. These animals are widely recommended for people with recurrent panic attacks, anxiety, or social phobias. Likewise, many post-traumatic stress therapies are enhanced with the help of a dog capable of transmitting tranquility to its human.
In order to get an emotional support animal, you need a pet and a signed letter from a mental health professional stating that you have a mental health condition and how your pet can help you to deal with it. You have to keep in mind emotional support animals need basic maintenance like other pets, such as walking, playing, feeding, or bathing. The person in charge assumes the role and responsibilities of a caregiver.
According to psychologists, having an emotional support animal is not enough for the majority of mental health problems; the best option is to get the psychological treatment indicated for the type of problem you are encountering. Emotional support animals cannot replace psychotherapy but can be implemented as part of the treatment. Emotional support animals can bring a series of benefits to people. For example, they can help produce neurotransmitters, they can provide people with spiritual and emotional encouragement, they can help people stabilize strong emotions, and more importantly, they can provide unconditional love.
For Wyatt Moser, a Greenville University student who has an emotional support animal, “There really isn’t any cons to having an ESA” as he stated; “My dog helps me feel comfortable in difficult situations like right now with my fibula being broken; it’s been depressing dealing with it and my ESA around helping me a lot.”
There is no doubt emotional support animals bring more positive than negative into the world, but not everyone is on the same page. The definition of ESA in the United States has always been controversial, and some people think it is a scam. This situation often occurs when boarding an airplane. Many people want to abuse their pets as an emotional support animal, trying to take their pets anywhere. This behavior is very undesirable, and it also deteriorates the image of emotional support animals in people’s minds; it will cause great distress to people who really need ESA. Those who use emotional support animals for their intended purpose, benefit of receiving emotional and physical support that psychotherapy and mental health professionals cannot provide.