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The Pros And Cons Of Registering An Emotional Support Animal

Written by: Hannah Brents, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Have you ever seen someone with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)? Chances are you have. In this article, I break down what classifies as an ESA and the pros and cons of registering an animal. It may seem like a great idea, but will it serve you where you need it?

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) and psychiatric service dogs could be the best thing that could happen in your life. Having an aminal who is certified to be happy, supportive, and provide affection may seem like a plus; however, when encountering mental issues, trauma, PTSD, or other personal psychological issues, some pros and cons need to be discussed with your psychotherapist.

What is an ESA (Emotional Support Animal)?

What was once called Emotional Support Animals are now called assistance animals, and for airlines, they are called psychiatric service dogs (PSD). In the United States, the laws have changed for airlines for psychiatric service dogs, so ESAs are no longer allowed on flights. Regardless of the title name, an ESA is an accommodation made by the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Fair Housing Act. Essentially, this certification states that if somebody has a functional limitation to their day-to-day life, they can have the accommodation of a support animal and an ESA.

Now, not every animal can be an ESA. The law doesn't specify this, but you will struggle to find a clinician or a doctor willing to write a prescription or certification for an ESA for your pet peacock or snake. Many people also choose not to disclose their diagnosis in the application for certification as it is not a federal requirement for an ESA; however, doing this may allow the more predisposed to refuse your request for an ESA.

What is a PSD (Psychiatric Service Dog)?

A PSD is specifically for dogs who undergo specific training that airlines require for a dog to pass what's called the public access standard; a list of behaviors that they need to be able to perform in a public and crowded space and to perform a task specific to helping a person manage their psychological symptoms.

Pros to registering an ESA or PSD

The best advantage that no one can deny is that they are helping with your psychological impairment. These animals comfort you and have the skill to answer when you are vulnerable. They help you through your troublesome stretches and into your extraordinary times. And assuming you have an ESA or PSD, they understand social dynamics are difficult for you and aid in helping you create social buffers in certain situations.

These animals are trained to sense anxiety and stress and can be trained to apply pressure to lower hyperarousal symptoms to distract you from panic symptoms. With that, they create a sense of all-around safety, giving you the relief you need now. But with every extraordinary thing, you should be aware of at least a couple of stresses too.

Cons to registering an ESA or PSD

Registering your animal as an ESA and PSD can be controversial. Within the United States, many tenants and landlords are not often accommodating to having an animal on their property. There have been times when tenants have come into legal disagreements with landlords, and it may be more beneficial financially to agree with the landlord and break the lease rather than take legal action.

If you are looking for a place to rent and have ongoing providers, a therapist or a primary care doctor may write you a letter so you can have your ESA or PSD stay with you. Still, in my experience, it is very unlikely due to liability reasons.

With that, doctors will only sometimes write a certification or refuse to due to lack of education or liability reasons because the criteria for an ESA is that it must have a functional limitation to your day-to-day life. This criteria is easy to meet because it is so generic, you must demonstrate more than simply a bond with your animal, and the ESA or PSD must aid in reducing psychological symptoms.

If you have a PSD, they require training where the dog must be focused on you, no vocalizing, no pulling on a leash, and can't engage with any other person or animal. It must perform tasks to manage your symptoms.

This training does not have to be done professionally, however; legally, this would limit access to this accommodation.

Who Should Consider an ESA or PSD?

Emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs are ideal for anyone who feels socially isolated or suffers from trauma, PTSD, or mental illnesses. Seniors, kids with mental health issues, and anyone struggling with anxiety or depression are some of the common candidates for ESAs. If you feel left out of society or have problems navigating it alone, consider an ESA.

If you or someone you love would benefit from an assistance animal, an ESA or PSD, you may want to speak to someone about your options.

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Hannah Brents, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Hannah Brents is a LICSW with a virtual therapy practice in Massachusetts. Many of Hannah’s adult clients come to her to address anxiety, trauma, life transitions, existential questioning, and relational difficulties. As Theology Therapist, Hannah serves as a resource for anyone looking to connect ‒ to yourselves, to others, to the divine and the natural world). She holds an extensive background in Theological Studies, allowing her to combine meditation, yoga, and clinical expertise to encourage deeper connectedness of the whole person as a means of healing and coping with suffering.



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