An emotional support animal (ESA), or simply "support animal", is a companion animal that a mental health professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability. This may include improving at least one characteristic of the disability. Emotional support animals, typically dogs, but sometimes cats or other animals, may be used by people with a range of psychiatric disabilities.
In order to be prescribed an emotional support animal the person seeking such an animal must have a verifiable disability. To be afforded protection under United States federal law, a person must meet the federal definition of disability and must have a note from a medical professional/Licensed Mental Health Counselor stating that the person has that disability and that the emotional support animal provides a benefit for the individual with the disability. An animal does not need specific training to become an emotional support animal.
Unfortunately, this process has been abused. For example, people who do not suffer from anxiety or any mental health diagnosis obtaining letters from Internet providers, with no face to face assessment. Therefore, airlines and landlords have been cracking down to ensure a face to face evaluation (teletherapy is face to face) has been performed and the recipient of the letter is a current patient of the mental health provider.
At Oceanside Family Therapy and Assessments, we are very aware of the psychological benefits of ESAs. Therefore, we offer legitimate mental health assessments, in order to determine if clients do in fact meet criteria for a mental health disability/diagnosis, such as anxiety or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and would benefit from an ESA.
Qualifying for an ESA in America
Americans who have an emotional or mental disability can qualify for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). To get the qualification, the individual involved must have an emotional or mental disability/diagnosis that is certified by a mental health professional or expert.
College residence halls and dormitories
On April 25, 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent notice to its regional offices that public universities are required to comply with the Fair Housing Act, which includes allowing emotional support animals into college dormitories and residence halls. As of 2015, colleges in the United States such as St. Mary's College of Maryland were trying to accommodate students with a documented need for emotional support animals.
The Air Carrier Access Act establishes a procedure for modifying pet policies on aircraft to permit a person with a disability to travel with a prescribed emotional support animal, so long as they have appropriate documentation for the ESA and that the animal is not a danger to others and does not interfere with others (through unwanted attention, barking, inappropriate toileting, etc.). *Always check with the specific airline before flying to review their specific policies.
Do I Qualify?
If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, fear of flying, phobias, separation anxiety, compulsive behaviors, PTSD, or any of many other qualifying disorders and feel that you would benefit from an officially diagnosed Emotional Support Animal, contact us for a mental health assessment and clinical interview today.