ESA 101: What You Need to Know

You’ve heard of service animals, but what are Emotional Support Animals? ESA’s are pets that provide therapeutic benefits to their owners by alleviating or managing the symptoms of a mental disorder. Let’s talk about some things you should know before getting your first pet!

Emotional support animal guide
Source: Pinterest

1 What are ESA’s, and what do they do?

Emotional support animal guide is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits to their owners by alleviating or managing the symptoms of a mental disorder. They are not required to have any specialized training but may be required to demonstrate basic obedience skills. Emotional Support Animals do NOT have the same rights as Service Animals in most states. You must check ESA’s at the door of businesses and establishments.ESA’s are NOT required to wear any identifying gear or harnesses.

However, many people choose to outfit their pets with a vest or scarf that says “Emotional Support Animal.” it is not mandatory for your ESA. Still, it may end up protecting your animal from being asked to leave if they don’t have any other form of identification. An Emotional Support Animal may be any animal, so long as it is legal to own the pet where the owner lives. It includes dogs, cats, birds, horses, ferrets, really anything! It does not include exotics like rodents and lizards.

2 Why might you need them?

ESA Emotional support animal guide
Source: Pinterest

ESA’s are only available to people with verifiable mental disorders. It may include social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, etc. If you suffer from a disabling fear of heights, you might not be able to fly on an airplane or visit very tall buildings. Having an ESA helps people with these kinds of worries by providing them with the comfort and calm of their pet.

People are often afraid they’ll need to provide extensive medical information when getting an ESA letter, but mental disorders are not always medically diagnosable. It means that you don’t have to visit a therapist every time your condition changes. You will only need an updated letter if your diagnosis changes or your emotional needs do.

3 How to use them effectively?

Sometimes, pet owners will say an ESA helps them because their pet distracts from their anxiety. That makes sense! Pets provide a mental break and can ease stress in times of crisis. However, this reason for using an ESA isn’t compelling if the person uses it all the time or as a crutch. If your pet calms you often, it’s more likely that you’ll need to see a therapist than get an ESA. Pets can help manage moods or arousal levels; however, people sometimes want their pet because they think it will make them happier. A happier person is not always a healthier person. If happiness does improve your health, then go for it! Happy people live longer than sad people.

4 What can’t an ESA do?

It is essential to know before getting your first pet. An ESA won’t help with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder because the animal replaces professional help. They also don’t replace other types of necessary services like someone to help with your bills. If you need help with those things, that’s okay! There are plenty of different ways to get the benefits of a pet without getting an ESA.

5 What is a mental disorder?

Emotional support animal guide do you need esa
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A mental illness is a psychological pattern or anomaly characterized by mild to severe dysfunction of thought, feelings and behaviors. Mental disorders are diagnosed based on specific signs and symptoms, distinguishing them from developmentally appropriate behavior or normal human responses.

6 How do you know if a pet is right for you?

ESA’s are not strictly prescribed for everyone with a mental disorder. ESA’s can provide therapeutic benefits to their owners, but that doesn’t mean an ESA will help you. It would be best to first talk to your doctor about whether or not having a pet could benefit you.

7 Who qualifies as a person with a mental disorder?

The person who has the mental illness does not have to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. In addition, you do not need to have been formally diagnosed for this to qualify as a temporary disability. If you feel that an emotional support animal could benefit your mental health, then it is very likely that you will be eligible as a person with a mental disorder.

8 How does ESA benefit people?

Emotional support animal guide ESA
Source: Pinterest

ESA’s can provide therapeutic benefits to their owners by relieving or managing symptoms of a mental disorder. Unfortunately, this is the only thing that you should use an ESA for. You should not expect your emotional support animal to take care of other things such as household chores or be a service animal. ESA’s often aren’t the best at what they do, and if you want an animal that can help you around the house, then you’ll probably need to get a different pet!

ESA’s can’t go on the plane without their owner. If you’re bringing your ESA onto an airplane, they must be trained to behave inside an airplane cabin and not disturb other passengers. Your ESA may not go on crowded/noisy/restrictive areas of the plane, and you may only be allowed to board after everyone else.

9 Common misconceptions about ESAs

There are some misconceptions regarding getting an ESA for your help:

    1. “You don’t need an ESA if you have a dog already.”: You can have both! If your pet is there for you emotionally, but it doesn’t always help enough. An ESA helps with more symptoms of certain mental illnesses than dogs are capable of doing.
    2. “An ESA is like a service animal.”: Service animals are dogs that help with physical disabilities; ESAs only with mental. Most of the time, they’re not even dogs!
    3. “You can take your pet anywhere with an ESA letter and documentation.”: Most places don’t allow pets for any reason (I’ve been to a few that do, but those are rare). You can’t take your ESA into pet stores or restaurants, as only service animals are allowed.
    4. “You have to be afraid of flying to need an ESA.”: ESAs help with other mental disorders as well. They’re not just for anxiety sufferers or people who have to travel.
    5. “ESAs are just for anxiety.”: Emotional support animals help with a wide range of mental disorders, including severe depression and schizophrenia.


With all your questions answered and misconceptions cleared, you may want to take your first step towards getting an ESA for your help – consult a therapist and get their recommendation.

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How do you emotions affect your mental health