Pet Vs. Emotional Support Animals: What’s the Difference?
Everyone typically feels better when they spend time with their pets because they provide love and companionship. For some people who struggle with mental disorders, that love and companionship are actually vital to their well-being and can help alleviate symptoms of their condition. An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides its owner with support and comfort that alleviates the symptoms of their mental disorder or helps them to live a more confident life. ESAs are legally seen as “assistance aids” and therefore are given more rights than a typical pet.
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Who Can Get an Emotional Support Animal?
People who struggle with mental health disorders can get an ESA. In order to get one, a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) must write a letter prescribing one. This happens when the LHMP sees that the patient’s symptoms are less intense when the animal is around. Many different types of mental disabilities may qualify for an ESA, common disorders that warrant an ESA include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and more.
What is the Difference Between and ESA and Service Animal?
A service dog is trained specifically to help do tasks that benefit a person with a disability. The training is usually targeted and intense and begins at puppyhood. Because they are trained to do tasks that help their owners live more independent lives, they are given access to public areas.
Though ESAs help their owners with the symptoms of their mental illness, they do not have any specific training. They often are normal pets who are skilled at providing comfort to their owners when they need it most. Though they do have more rights than regular pets, they are not typically granted public access rights.
What is an ESA Letter, and How Can You Get One?
In order to get an ESA, you must have a letter written by an LMHP. This letter will detail the mental ailment and how the animal fits into the treatment plan. If you have a legitimate mental health concern such as depression or anxiety, getting an ESA letter can be easy. An LMHP will evaluate your mental state and determine if you qualify for an ESA. You may visit your own LMHP or use a service that connects you with one online.
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ESAs Are Protected by Two Federal Laws!
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) are two federal laws that protect the ESA owner’s right to their pets. The FHA ensures that ESA owners never have to choose between their mental health and safe, affordable housing. It prevents landlords from denying housing due to an ESA regardless of “no pet” policies, charging additional fees for them, and enforcing breed and weight restrictions.
The ACAA protects ESA owners’ rights to fly with their pets. It requires that airlines allow ESAs to fly with their owners without any additional fees or fuss. This allows ESA owners to fly worry-free with their pets by their side.
When Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed in Restaurants?
Typically, ESAs are not ever allowed in restaurants. Though they do provide important emotional support for their owners, they are not trained to do tasks that are directly related to a disability. ESAs are allowed to live with their owners even in “no pets” housing and may fly with their owners, but they are not given public access to places such as restaurants and grocery stores.
Why Service Animals are Legally Allowed in Restaurants and ESAs are Not
The reason that service animals can enter restaurants and ESAs cannot come down to training. Service dogs are trained by puppies to do specific tasks that help their disabled owners live more independent lives. Their training is thorough and specific, and what they do is considered to be a job. Because their owners rely on them to do things they cannot do on their own, service dogs are given public access to restaurants and other places that dogs are not typically allowed into.
ESAs are important to their owner’s mental health and may help them live a more normal life. Even so, they do not have any specific training that would allow them into public areas such as restaurants or grocery stores.
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If You Need an ESA Letter: ESA Care Has You Covered
ESA Care is a legitimate, genuine ESA service that can help connect you with an LMHP that is licensed in your state to write you an ESA letter. If their LHMPs believe that you qualify for an ESA, your letter will be provided right away and it is easy to renew it whenever necessary. Every professional at ESA Care is properly licensed and can legally practice in your state so you can fly and live with your dog worry-free.