Emotional Support Animal
Source: “Skylos” by the Humane Society of the United States

There has been much talk about emotional support animals in recent years, particularly pertaining to airline flights. An emotional support peacock was even brought to board a flight not too long ago! So, what is an emotional support animal? Are they the same as service animals? Who qualifies to have one? Read on and find out!

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal, also called a comfort animal, is a pet that provides support to a person with a mental or emotional condition like anxiety or depression. The unconditional love and bonding with a pet can be calming and mood-lifting. Caring for them also provides a sense of structure and a feeling of being needed. The mere presence of an animal can make people with certain conditions feel more comfortable.

Where can emotional support animals go?

Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals are not allowed to go anywhere the public can go. Admittance to public places such as restaurants, movie theaters and hotels is left up to the business owner. A wide variety of pets are currently allowed to fly in airplane cabins as emotional support animals, but unusual pets are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Airlines can refuse to allow animals to fly for a variety of reasons including being too large, being poorly behaved or posing a threat to other passengers. If you are planning to fly with an emotional support animal, it’s a good idea to look into the airline’s policy first.

Emotional Support Animal
Source: “deadsleep3” by Roy Maloon

How can I get an emotional support animal?

Any pet that you have already could become an emotional support animal. All that is needed for a pet to be identified as an emotional support animal is a letter from a doctor or mental health professional indicating that the animal is needed to help you with a mental or emotional condition. If you are looking for a new pet that could be an emotional support animal, be sure to choose one with a calm temperament that would be easy to train. Although no formal training is required, emotional support animals are expected to behave well in public and not cause disturbances.

How are emotional support animals different from service animals?

Service animals are always dogs while emotional support animals can be any type of animal. However, if you intend to take your animal around with you to public places often, you should consider having a more conventional pet like a dog or a cat. Also, service animals undergo intensive training to perform certain tasks for disabled people, but emotional support animals do not need to have any special training. To find out more about service dogs, check out this article.

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