Registering an Animal as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

In the USA and some European countries, you can register a dog, a cat or any other pet as an emotional support animal. A registered pet than has some advantages over regular pets. However, it isn’t an assistance dog.

An emotional support animal or ESA is a pet that is considered (by mental health experts) beneficial for people suffering from mental diseases. Therefore, people with an anxiety disorder, panic attacks, clinical depression or other conditions that may disrupt their everyday activities can register an ESA.

Some of the mentioned benefits of such animals for their owners are the abilities to comfort them, help them relax, reduce anxiety, stress and depression. Other advantages include reducing loneliness, strengthening social engagement and interaction and normalizing heart frequency and blood pressure.

While service assistance animals have to go through training for their mission (detecting an attack, assisting blind or disabled people, etc.), ESAs don’t need any training. Moreover, there aren’t any qualification requirements which would determine whether the animal is a suitable ESA. Dogs are registered most often, but there are no rules limiting the species. A cat, a parrot, a horse or any other pet can therefore be an ESA.

In contrast to an assistance animal, an ESA doesn’t need any special vest or any other visible feature in public. There is also no official list where your pet should be included. You will only need a confirmation from your therapist.

The fact that calling a pet an ESA is so easy also has one downside – you may encounter fraud companies who will claim they can officially certify your pet even though it’s not true. And you will pay for a illegitimate document or fake certification.

And what advantages does it mean to have an ESA? The law says it can live with you in dormitories, university apartments or any other facilities where animals are usually prohibited. A landlord can’t forbid you from its presence if the pet’s behaviour is not destructive or aggressive. The second federal law related to ESAs allows these pets to be with you on the board of an aircraft.

However, the advantages unfortunately don’t include other things such as the access to healthcare institutions, official buildings and so on. It’s also because there are no assessments of the animal’s behaviour and the level to which it is safe for the public.

What do you think about ESAs? If the law develops further, animals will be assessed with regard to their suitability and safety. On the basis of these assessments, they might be allowed to enter schools and workplaces. I believe it would be great therapy in the Czech Republic as well.

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