A guide to owning emotional support animals

Emotional support is one of the foundations of mental health and well-being. Recent studies suggest that 74% of pet owners believed their mental health improved after buying a pet. Thus, it is believed that emotional support from animals plays a therapeutic role in helping one navigate tough times. As of 2019, there are nearly 2,00,000 emotional support animals in the country. Here are the answers to some key questions on emotional support animals:

What are emotional support animals?
Emotional support animals are animals that provide comfort to individuals through companionship. Individuals with mental health conditions are typically able to manage their symptoms better in the company of such animals.

What animals are typically classified as emotional support animals?
While dogs and cats are typically classified as emotional support animals, other animals like ferrets, guinea pigs, and rabbits are also becoming popular in this category.

Dogs are popularly referred to as a human’s best friends and for a good reason. Studies have shown that the company of dogs can reduce stress and anxiety and help manage depression and loneliness.
Many individuals find the company of cats to be soothing and comforting. Their stress-reducing effect can elevate one’s mood. A study has demonstrated that cat owners have better psychological health than individuals without pets.
These tiny, energetic animals are becoming popular emotional support animals today. Ferrets love cuddling in the arms of their owners, which helps lower one’s anxiety and stress levels.
Guinea pigs
Guinea pigs are classified as highly effective emotional support animals for individuals with mental and emotional issues. Classroom activities involving guinea pigs can help enhance children’s social skills and are beneficial to children with autism spectrum disorder and other conditions.

What is the difference between service and emotional support animals?

Service animals are those trained to perform specific services, such as assisting individuals with disabilities or special needs in daily activities, altering their owner to low blood pressure levels, etc. In contrast, emotional support animals provide therapeutic support to their owners through companionship, structure, and comfort. ESAs do not require any training.

Who qualifies to own an emotional support animal?
Any individual with a mental or emotional issue may benefit from being in the company of an emotional support animal.

How can one own an emotional support animal?
Individuals receiving professional assistance for their mental health conditions should consult mental health professionals, who can recommend the adoption of an emotional support animal for therapeutic purposes if needed.

It is crucial to gauge if one has the ability to provide and care for an emotional support animal when considering pet adoption.

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