6 Things To Know Before Getting An Emotional Support Animal

People love their pets, but emotional support animals care for their owners differently. They help them heal and experience a better quality of life. There are many things to consider if you think you would benefit from having an emotional support animal.

1. You’ll Need Legal Documentation For Approval

Unfortunately, people often abuse emotional support animal accommodations to avoid paying things like boarding or other pet fees. You must get an emotional support animal (ESA) letter from a licensed mental health professional, which requires providing information such as:

  • Your mental health history
  • Your contact information
  • Your pet’s information

Once the mental health professional approves an ESA as a recovery resource, you’ll get a letter with their signature. You’ll need that letter to prove your animal’s support purposes when applying for paperwork to bring them on planes or into housing facilities.

2. You Won’t Have A Service Dog

Licensed organizations train service dogs to help people with various conditions. They learn how to sense anxiety or PTSD attacks, which is why 38.1% of veterans and active military members own one. These trained dogs can also support those with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Emotional support animals don’t receive the same training. Instead, they match their owner’s personalities and may provide comfort by cuddling during overwhelming loneliness, anxiety or sadness.

3. You Can Get Almost Any Pet

Since emotional support animals don’t require specialized training, your future pet can be any animal you love. Dogs and cats are commonly preferred, but you can also get a bunny, ferret, bird, guinea pig or any other creature that captures your heart.

4. You’ll Need To Pay Vet Bills

Before choosing an animal you love, remember that you’ll need to care for them long term. Research shows that U.S. pet owners pay over $30 billion annually for their animals. Ensure your pet’s veterinary needs will fit your budget. A small, young animal could be easier to care for than an older one with existing medical conditions. It depends on your income and how much you can adjust your budget for their appointments.

5. You Might Get Housing Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires housing providers to accommodate service animals because they serve an essential need for that person’s health care. ESAs don’t have the same coverage because they don’t have specialty training. However, the ADA allows for animals that provide emotional support to relieve a disability or condition.

The licensed mental health professional providing your ESA letter may indicate that your pet serves this function if you are managing a critical diagnosis or chronic mental health condition with your pet’s help. For example, the property manager might allow you to have a bird in your apartment even though it’s not an approved pet.

6. You Can Travel Together

Even if you’ve found ways to care for muscle aches after long flights or anxiety before boarding, your pet may give you the extra emotional support you need to travel with less stress. Many airlines allow ESAs to sit beside you instead of under the seat by your feet.

You’ll need your updated ESA letter a few weeks before your flight to give yourself enough time. Depending on the airline you’ll use, you might apply online with an uploaded copy of your letter or get approved for flying over the phone. You should also find out if you must present your original letter when boarding, along with a copy of your pet’s updated vaccination records.

Prepare for Your Emotional Support Animal

Understanding everything you need to know before getting an emotional support animal will lead to a better experience once your pet arrives home. Plan for their daily requirements and consider when you’ll need them most. Simple adjustments to your housing or travel accommodations could set you up for a lifetime of love with your pet by your side.

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