Children go through stressors just like adults. When your child cannot resolve these stressors or needs help coping with something, emotional support animals (ESAs) can be helpful to bring some comfort into your child’s life.
If you’re new to the world of support and service animals, learning about the rights you do and don’t have or how to go through the process of getting an emotional support animal can be overwhelming. Keep reading for more information about emotional support animals to help get you started on the right foot, hopefully.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an emotional support animal is any animal that provides emotional support in alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. A specific animal and person are not matched up together, similar to the process of a psychiatric service dog. There are relatively loose restrictions regarding what animals can serve as emotional support animals.
So, if you are thinking about starting to work with an emotional support animal, but you’re worried about being able to find and afford one. Don’t worry. You can adopt an animal or register your pet as your emotional support animal.
How do I get a certification for an Emotional Support Animal?
Now you know what a support animal does, read on to learn how to get certification for your emotional support animal and a step-by-step guide on how to receive an ESA letter.
Decide If You Need An Emotional Support Animal
Suppose you aren’t already seeing someone for a condition causing you emotional distress. In that case, you have to decide for yourself to begin the process of getting an emotional support animal. Although you can’t technically petition for emotional support animals on your own and get one, you are responsible for beginning the process.
Speak with a Licensed Mental health professional
For your support animal to be recognized legally as an emotional support animal, you have to have a formal letter from a mental health professional declaring that you have a condition that requires the assistance of an emotional support animal to manage.
Having this documentation is essential to get the full benefits of having an ESA, especially when it comes to housing.
This professional can be a therapist or a psychiatrist, but they have to provide you with the letter. For this letter to be deemed legitimate, the letter must include three things:
- The name of the individual the psychiatrist offers help for
- A clear statement that the named individual has an emotional or psychiatric disability
- A recommendation by the health professional for the named individual to have assistance from an emotional support animal
Your letter will not include the specific condition you are dealing with in the letter. Just make sure that enough information provided in the letter requires an emotional support animal for your health benefits.
If you think you’ll need help getting a letter, resources can help you.
FAQs About Emotional Support Animals and Children
Does my child need an ESA?
It depends. If you feel like your child is dealing with emotions or mental health issues that they can not manage on their own, it’s at least worth researching. You will need the help of a healthcare provider of some sort for an ESA letter so that your support animal is certified for housing protections.
Do schools allow ESA?
It depends. Because the ADA doesn’t provide any federal protections for non-service dogs, there is no set procedure from state to state. The school will likely be allowed to decide whether or not a student can bring an emotional support animal to class.
At what age should my child get an emotional support animal?
There is no specific age that a child should get an emotional support animal since ESA are supposed to be a tool to deal with some emotional issue or other condition. At whatever age your child is dealing with an overwhelming emotional issue that they need help coping with, is the age they should get an ESA.
But, there are alternative treatments and therapies you can decide to use for your child if you think that your child can’t handle having an ESA.
What animals are best for being emotional support animals for children?
It depends on what your child needs. Dogs and cats tend to be popular choices, but the breeds could make a big difference.
Energetic, playful breeds of dogs and cats could be good for kids who need something to distract them from their thoughts or lift their spirits. Calm, gentle breeds of these animals could be helpful for children who need something to hold on to while they process their emotions.
Do we have to adopt another animal if we already have a pet?
Since emotional support dogs aren’t required by the ADA to go through any training, any animal you already own can serve as an emotional support dog. If you have a family pet already, they are eligible as long as you get an ESA letter from a mental health professional.
Can a pediatrician prescribe an emotional support animal?
Technically, yes. But the child has to have a diagnosed mental health condition that they’re being treated for before they can write an ESA letter.
A pediatrician is able to diagnose mental illnesses in children, but they often outsource if they feel like a child psychiatrist would be more appropriate for the situation.
Do ESAs have the same federal protections as service dogs?
No. Handlers of emotional support animals can not bring their animals in public spaces where pets are not allowed.