Pets for emotional support


Huda Saber, Bottom line writer

Animals can provide pleasure and companionship. They can also provide reassurance, especially to those who are deprived of it. These animals are termed ‘emotional support pets’. An emotional support pet is an animal that is specifically intended for companionship purposes and exists in order to provide some comfort to a person with a mental disorder or who is suffering from a physical disability. These pets can range from the typical dog and cat or can be unusual animals such as chickens, pigs,
snakes and even insects. Evidently, the amount of registered emotional pets grows exponentially everyday, but why is that? What benefits do emotional support pets offer to their owners?

Pursuing this, emotional support pets provide a variety of advantages to the companion. Studies from American Humane’s experiment titled “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study” show that emotional support animals can provide a comforting presence to handlers that suffer from a variety of mental health issues. These issues include (but are not limited to) depression, anxiety and PTSD. In like manner, doctors report that patients who have been prescribed emotional support pets for their recovery show a boost of self esteem, becoming more socially inclined and motivated. 

Emotional support pets can also reprieve one from loneliness. It has been proven that feelings of isolation are reduced when an individual has an emotional support animal. Emotional Support Animals, or ESA’s, also help to counteract the effects that anxiety produces. Numerous studies from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University show that when an individual interacts with a trusted pet, their stress levels decrease. This is because when an individual spends time with their trusted counterpart, they keep their mind from worrying about the past or future which teaches them to make the most of their present. 

Furthermore, the legal presence of ESA’s is a fairly recent development in the United States. Under the original Fair Housing Act, individuals could not be declined housing based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1988, the FHA was extended so that the landlord or property manager had to make a reasonable accommodation to their policies, including the right of the tenant to have an emotional support animal. In addition to this legislation, the Air Carrier Access Act declared that discriminating against an individual on the basis of their disability in air travel was illegal. Since then, many people have become critical of this specific measure. 

Many critics believe that this act has been misused by pet owners for their personal convenience. “There are a lot of people abusing it. I think there has to be some perimeters.” said Mrs. Purdy, who had taught psychology at Glenbard South High School. Purdy advocated that only people who truly qualify to own an emotional support animal should own one. “There are issues with limitations,” she said, who acknowledged that it was extremely easy to order a service animal vest and print off fake documentation and credentials online. 

All in all, emotional support animals are proven to yield plenty of psychological benefits to the owner, but the limitations on them remain a controversial issue today. Emotional support animals are proven to provide a healthy coping mechanism to patients that are mentally ill. On the other hand, people believe that ESA’s are being used for selfish intentions and that they should come with more restrictions.