5 Things to Consider Before Getting an ESA for Mental Health

Written By Alla Levin
October 21, 2021
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5 things to consider before getting an ESA for mental health

Whenever you feel down, overwhelmed, or anxious, there’s this little voice in your head telling you that everything is ok. It means you take deep breaths and relax. You might even feel like the voice is coming from outside of yourself.

This voice is called an “inner critic.” Your inner critic can be a helpful tool for life if it doesn’t overwhelm your thoughts with negativity all the time, but sometimes things can get so bad that they need to be tamed before they become too much. If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to consider getting an emotional support animal (ESA). But first, let’s talk about some things to think about before getting one!

What is an ESA, and what does it do?

An emotional support animal is essentially an animal that provides some therapeutic benefit to its owner just by being around it. But, of course, different animals have different benefits, and there are many kinds of ESAs, including cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, etc. You can check out a more in-depth article on the subject here.

What are the requirements for getting an ESA?

To get an ESA, you have to have a mental disability that is recognized by law. Your doctor has to provide you with a letter or certificate describing your mental condition and that this animal will help ease it. This letter has to indicate precisely how the animal provides benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. The document has to be renewed every year.

  1. Although you don’t have to have a prescription from your doctor, you must consult with one first so that they can assess whether or not this animal would be beneficial for you and what kind of animal would best suit your needs. It has to be done first because some animals will require special care and medications, and others can cause allergic reactions to their owners.
  2. The ESA has to be prescribed by a medical doctor to benefit the owner’s condition. For example, if your doctor thinks it would help you control your panic attacks and anxiety, you could get an emotional support dog. If they say that having an emotional support animal would allow you to cope with depression, then an emotional support cat might be better suited for you.

Is an ESA right for me?ESA for mental health

Before you consider getting an emotional support animal, it’s essential to ask yourself why you want one in the first place! Is there a reason that a pet, in general, will not suffice? If the answer is no, then maybe an ESA isn’t necessary.

What can I expect?

When you get an ESA, you are entitled to some special rights under the law. But some places may have additional rules that they have to follow to accommodate your emotional support animal’s needs. Check with your landlord or apartment complex before getting one so that you know what to expect.

What kinds of animals can be ESAs?

The Department of Transportation does not recognize or approve any one type of animal as an ESA. So, to be covered by the law, you only need a letter from your mental health professional saying that you are under their care. However, many organizations have requirements for what kinds of animals they will let live in housing units with them (such as having to be housebroken, etc.), so make sure to check with them ahead of time.

How much does an ESA cost?

ESAs are not required to have any specialized training covered by the law, but many organizations need their animals to have this type of training. It can vary significantly in cost depending on the animal you plan to get and where you plan to take it.

Why might people not qualify for one?Why might people not qualify for one

ESAs are not required to have any specialized training covered by the law, but many organizations need their animals to have this type of training. It can vary significantly in cost depending on the animal you plan to get and where you plan to take it.

  1. No letter of prescription: The Department of Transportation does not recognize nor approve any animal as an ESA. But many organizations have requirements for what types of animals they will let live in housing units with them, so make sure to ask your doctor or therapist about getting a prescription before you go out and buy an animal.
  2. The letter is from a therapist or a social worker: If a doctor does not have the right kind of license to prescribe you an animal, they can still write you a letter saying they believe you would benefit from having one. This letter should specify what kinds of animals are allowed, and it’s best if it’s from someone who knows you well, for example, a therapist or social worker.
  3. Be specific about what kinds of animals are allowed: If your landlord limits the type of pets you can have, make sure to specify whether or not you are allowed dogs, cats, birds, snakes, etc. Many places also allow people to have rabbits and rats as emotional support animals, but some areas, such as New York, don’t. If you’re not sure, it’s best to speak with your landlord. And if your animal of choice is either of those two and they don’t allow them, maybe try an ESA rabbit or rat instead!
  4. Ensure your support animal is trained correctly: While there aren’t qualifications for an ESA, there shouldn’t be any aggressive behaviors such as biting. Even small dogs shouldn’t yap incessantly, and the animal shouldn’t urinate or defecate indoors without notice (unless it’s a service animal). Other than that, whether your ESA is potty-trained or not is up to you.

How do you make sure it’s a good fit?

 If you’ve decided that getting an ESA is right for you, it can be very beneficial to consult a mental health professional. It allows you to talk about your reasons for getting an ESA and discuss if this will help you in your journey toward recovery. If you don’t have a therapist, it’s not too late–this is something that many people choose to do before getting their animals.

ESA for mental health: conclusion

many people are unaware of their options for treating their mental health problems with an ESA, which is why it’s essential to do your research. An emotional support animal (ESA) is not a pet or companion; it is designed to offer therapeutic benefits by providing companionship to you.

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