The Truth about Emotional Support Animals
I’ve very open about my depression. I don’t really care who knows. It is an illness, one I can treat but not cure. We don’t shame people for having Type 1 diabetes or breast cancer, so why do we for mental illness? I feel VERY strongly about this.
Part of treating my depression is my emotional support animal – Ursula! There are a ton of misconceptions about emotional support animals.
Support animals are the same as service animals.
This is totally false. A service animal is trained to do specific tasks. A support animal can’t warn you of a stroke or bring you your meds. Support animals are there to help with mental health. Also, service animals are thought of more as helpers and support animals as pets.
For a support animal to be legit, I must register it online.
I can not stress this enough. IT IS TOTALLY FALSE. There are a couple of websites out there to “register” your animal. What you are really doing is throwing $75 away to get a card in the mail. A card that is not legally registered anywhere or officially accepted by anyone. All you really need is a note from your doctor. If you buy one of these cards without a letter from your doctor, you are basically committing fraud.
I can take my emotional support animal anywhere.
This is mostly false, with exceptions. Personally, I’ve taken my cat shopping, even grocery shopping with me. I’ve taken her to a couple restaurants and to a doctor appointment. I’ve yet to be told she is not allowed. But, she is also a black cat in a black purse. If someone does ask, I’ll just tell them she is my emotional support animal.
BUT, legally, stores, restaurants, offices, etc have every right to make you leave. Emotional support animals are not covered by any laws in this way. Only service animals.
Having an Emotional Support animal lets you live in housing that doesn’t allow pets.
True + some. There are only two real laws covering emotional support animals. The first deals with housing. If you have somewhere that doesn’t allow pets, you are legally allowed one. Remember, a LETTER from your doctor is what gets you in – NOT a card you bought online.
The other law covers airlines. Legally, you are allowed to take your pet on an airline for free. But again, you need a real documentation.
You don’t have to have a mental illness to have an Emotional Support Animal, as long as it makes you feel good when you are sad.
FALSE, FALSE, FALSE, AND MORE FALSE. This really bugs me. Just because an animal makes you smile when you feel sad doesn’t mean it should be an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals are for people with mental illnesses. I hate when people say they have an emotional support animal just because they want to tote their animal around everywhere. These animals are for people with mental illness, period. You can have any flavor of mental illness, but you MUST have one. And I’m sorry, but getting sad like a normal person isn’t having depression.
Think of them as a prescription. You aren’t going to get a script for Xanax if you have a cold. So, you aren’t going to get a script (aka your letter) for an emotional support animal if you don’t really need it. They are meant to alleviate a mental illness, just like a pill would.
Any animal can be an emotional support animal.
Yes – kind of. Technically, yes, any animal can be considered a support animal. But it is a lot more likely you will get hassled if you bring your horse, pig, or boa constrictor, compared to a dog or cat. If you plan on making your less common animal species your emotional support animal, really only the housing and airplane laws are going to cover you.
I have to carry proof that my animal is an emotional support animal.
This is false. You don’t have to carry your doctor’s note. Remember, that online registration is not considered real proof. BUT, personally, I do. I figure if there is every an issue, it would be a lot easier just to pull out my letter.
If someone asks why you have an emotional support animal, I have to disclose my illness.
Heck no! This is totally false. While I really don’t mind sharing, I don’t have to. Either do owners of support animals. You never have to tell someone your illness, ever, under any circumstance.
So how do I use Ursula as my emotional support animal? I try to take her with me as often as I can. To me, taking Ursula is the same as going with my mom. It is the company. I don’t feel as stressed when I can pet her. Or when I can talk to her, even though it makes me look like a weirdo talking to a purse. If I have high anxiety, holding her close helps calm me down. I’ve also found I’m not so much as an angry driver if she is with me. Plus, it gives me a reason to dress her up!
I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions about emotional support animals. If you have any more questions, let me know in the comments below!