According to the American Kennel Society, an emotional support animal is a pet “prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.” In order to legally be an emotional support animal, a “therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient.”
Emotional support vs. service animals
Emotional support animals are not the same thing as service animals. Service animals are specifically trained to help individuals with disabilities. For example, a guide dog for someone who is visually impaired is a service animal. A dog that is trained to sense the beginning of a psychotic episode and mitigate its effects is also a service animal.
Emotional support animals, on the other hand, do not need any specific training. They are often pets that an owner has already formed a bond with and, although they have not received any formal training, they naturally respond with affection when their owner is under stress.
Although some may say their role is not as “official” as a service animal, emotional support animals make a huge difference. They help relieve anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness for individuals – especially those who have experienced trauma, abuse, or poverty.
What Types Of Pets Can Be Emotional Support Animals?
Emotional support animals are most often dogs. However, they can be any domesticated pet. Cats, bunnies, birds, and even ferrets could be classified as emotional support animals if approved by a licensed mental health professional.
Benefits of Emotional Support Animals
It is easy to overlook the value of a pet! Emotional support animals provide social support for people who, through negative experiences, have learned not to trust other individuals or communities. A pet can be a first step in forming emotional bonds again.
Pets can also offer the unconditional love and support that all humans long for. While it seems cliche, this love can go a long way in helping people get back on their feet after a difficult season! Who doesn’t need a little more love in their lives?
Animals can also help calm intense emotions for those struggling with episodes of rage, fear, sadness, or guilt (to name a few). All of us have experienced these hard emotions at one point or another in our lives, and at Alliance Foundation we believe no one should have to face them alone. A pet can be the perfect companion to ease the tension.
Who Are Emotional Support Animals For?
Individuals struggling with mental health such as anxiety, depression, or phobias may find emotional support animals to offer a healing and calming presence. College students, prison inmates, veterans suffering from PTSD, or really anyone facing stressful circumstances can benefit from an emotional support animal!
Many of the individuals that the Alliance Foundation helps are coming out of abusive relationships, homelessness, or extreme financial stress. For some of them, their pet is their only reliable friend in an uncertain world.
At Alliance Foundation, we believe no one should have to give up their best friend because they can’t afford them. Many individuals living in shelters are already at rock bottom, and their pet can be their only lifeline. We help cover the cost of veterinary care, food, and more.
How To Qualify For An Emotional Support Animal
If you would like to learn how to qualify for an emotional support animal, consult a licensed mental health professional. A registered therapist or psychologist can help determine whether a pet has a measurable impact on your overall mental well-being. If you don’t already have a pet, they can also provide resources for adoption!
How Alliance Foundation Helps
Alliance Foundation is dedicated to helping struggling individuals keep their emotional support animals by providing financial assistance. As animal-lovers, we truly believe in the power of pets to provide the extra nudge of support that many people need to recover from trauma, abuse, homelessness, or whatever obstacle they need help with.
A pet is more than just a source of entertainment or fun; pets can form deep bonds with their owners and bring lasting transformation through their unconditional affection.
If you know the value of pets too, consider joining us in our mission! We can’t do it alone!