These days emotional support animals (or ESAs) are becoming increasingly popular for people of all ages. Of course, there’s also been quite a bit of controversy surrounding them as well. But could you benefit from having one? Let’s go over a little bit about them and what they actually are.
ESAs vs. Service Animals
There are a few significant differences between emotional support animals and service animals. ESAs are a relatively new thing that have taken off in the last ten years or so. As we know, many pets provide us with emotional support. However, declared ESAs provide critical support that aid in their owner’s ability to function on a daily basis.
Service animals carry out specific tasks for people with disabilities and are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. These can be seeing eye dogs, animals that aid a hearing-impaired person, or even psychiatric service dogs. In all cases, however, they are trained to perform tasks that help their owners cope with an illness or disability.
ESA’s have fewer rights and are not covered by ADA, though they are recognized by many businesses and organizations.
Controversy Over ESAs
The trend has led to a number of unfortunate incidents, and accusations that some are trying to “game the system.” And some folks likely do. Claiming a pet as an ESA can mean traveling with them for free and sometimes even subverting “no pets” policies.
As such, many airlines, schools, and cruise ships have been cracking down on their acceptance of ESAs. Southwest Airlines, for example, now limits them to cats and dogs only.
Do You Need an ESA?
In considering adopting an ESA, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions. Is an emotional support animal something that’s appropriate for you? Will it be a good fit in your home? Can you handle the necessary care and expense that comes with having a pet? You’ll also want to consider what purpose your ESA will serve.
If you feel you have a need for an ESA companion, you’ll need an official letter certifying the need. Such a letter can sometimes be acquired via a doctor or therapist.
If you’re unsure, it’s possible you just need a pet. It may lack some of the perks of having an ESA, but might also be more practical.