Emotional support dogs are different from service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks which provide assistance to an individual who has a disability. For example, a guide dog leads a blind individual, but that is just one example. Emotional support dogs are more for companionship and affection, and they are not required to be trained to do a specific task. However, an emotional support dog is afforded protection under the ADA when the owner has a specific condition in which the dog provides comfort or support.

Common Conditions Assisted by the Use of an Emotional Support Dog

Many people benefit from having a pet, but an emotional support dog is more than just a pet. This kind of dog should be part of a person’s treatment plan to minimize the negative consequences of mental illnesses. A person who uses an animal for support generally has to qualify as having a mental illness which disables them from daily life. This could include, PTSD, anxiety, or panic attacks. However, emotional support animals also help other conditions like arthritis, phobias, and hearing or visual impairments.

How Does an Emotional Support Dog Help?

Research has proven that when people hold an animal, it provides many benefits. It can decrease loneliness and increase self-esteem. It also gives someone the ability to be more extroverted and vocal. Animals support calm emotions, and they give the holder something else to focus on during high times of stress and anxiety. When dealing with a mental illness, this can be especially beneficial and allow the animal owner to be in situations that might otherwise be unavailable.

There is a lot of clinical evidence and research which supports the healing power of animals when it comes to dissociative disorders and agoraphobia. An emotional support dog decreases anxiety and lets the holder be more comfortable in social situations. One study even demonstrated that nursing home residents had a decreased need for medication when pets became part of the environment.

What Kind of Dogs Qualify?

Although specific task-training is not required, dogs which serve as emotional supports animals should be well-trained to behave in public. They should also be toilet-trained. No specific breed is necessarily better than another, but the handler should take into account their own lifestyle. Find a breed of dog which matches the energy level of the owner and will fit into the owner’s residence. For example, a senior citizen living in a small apartment may want to think twice about getting a golden retriever. A cocker spaniel or Pekinese might be a better fit.

Registration and Certification

Registration is not a requirement for emotional service animals, but it can make life simpler when going into businesses. You do not have to identify your disability under the ADA. You should know the laws, but you also need to respect the environment where you’re taking your animal and make sure your dog acts responsibly. When your dog misbehaves, even if it is an emotional support dog, the business can ask you to leave. They cannot ask you to leave if someone is afraid of dogs.

Although emotional support dogs are protected under Federal law, you may be required to present a letter from your doctor or an emotional support dog certificate when flying or renting to be able to bring your dog along. It’s also a good idea to identify your dog with a vest or tag, to let those in public know they should not pet your animal and to prevent multiple explanations. We provide emotional support dog registration to help make it easier for you to demonstrate the necessity of the animal without having to go into a lot of explanation each time.