Dog owners understand there are many benefits to having them as pets. They are loyal companions that never leave your side and will never judge you. For people with mental health conditions, Emotional support dogs (ESAs) are animals that provide emotional support for people going through difficult times in their life, including those who have depression or anxiety.
Continue reading to learn more about emotional dogs and finding the right one for you.
The Psychology of Emotional Dogs
Emotional dogs have a track record of helping people with anxiety and depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly with combat veterans. Although people have an emotional connection to their pets, an emotional support dog is different and has been trained to assist a person with a disabling mental illness. To get an emotional dog, a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, must prescribe it. However, how do you know which kind of emotional dog is right for you?
Emotional Support Vs. Service Dogs
Some people think an emotional support dog and a service dog are the same, but they’re not. The main difference is that with ESAs, they provide emotional support and aren’t allowed in public places. In contrast, a service dog is generally allowed to go anywhere the public is permitted. They are there to help serve their owners, such as people who are blind or deaf. Emotional support dogs are also not trained or required to be certified like service dogs are. Therefore, keep in mind that there is a risk that some of these animals can be unpredictable and cause harm.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) refers to service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Those ESAs are just to provide emotional support and, therefore, don’t qualify as service dogs. Depending on the state or city you reside in, there may be a broader definition, so ensure you check with local government for policy.
Is an Emotional Support Dog Right for Me?
When considering whether your circumstances warrant getting an emotional support dog, it’s important to assess your mental health. For that, you need to schedule an appointment with your therapist, or if you don’t have one, visit your doctor for an evaluation. If you’ve been through trauma or have a severe phobia and feel a support dog would help you cope, mention that to your physician. Several places train dogs to be ESAs.
A broader list of disabilities that will help you determine whether your particular condition can be improved with an emotional support dog includes:
- Suicidal thoughts/tendencies
- Bipolar disorder
- Mood disorder
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. have some form of mental disorder. The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) permits individuals with the right to live with their emotional support dog regardless of the rules set by landlords or building managers. However, you are required to have a current letter (within the past year) from a doctor or a mental health professional recommending that you have an emotional support dog for your health.
FAQ’s on Emotional Support Dogs
You may have questions about emotional support dogs and housing; therefore, below is an FAQ for your information.
Q: What documentation is needed to have an emotional support dog?
A: If a person needs a support animal to help with alleviating symptoms of a disability, they must request with their landlord or building manager, states HUD, in its FHEO Notice. The request should be in writing and explain how the reasonable accommodation mitigates or otherwise, helps their symptoms of the disability.
Q: Can a landlord or housing provider ask details about my disability?
A: The simple answer is no, but they may ask for documentation of the disability-related need for the emotional support dog. They can not access your medical records or require that you provide detailed or extensive documentation of your mental impairments.
Q: Can the landlord charge me a pet/security deposit for my emotional support animal?
A: According to HUD, housing providers, aka, landlords or building managers, cannot charge you a fee for an emotional support dog. Since these dogs are not pets, they aren’t subjected to pet fees.
Q: Is a tenant required to clean up after their emotional support dog? What about the damage done by the support animal?
A: If it’s the policy to charge tenants for damage to the tenant’s dwelling unit, beyond the normal wear and tear, then a housing provider may require them to cover the cost of repairs. The key is that both disabled and able-bodied people are treated equally.
Q: Can a person have more than one emotional support dog?
A: There’s typically no reason to have more than one support animal, and only a medical professional can make that decision. The practitioner would need to provide information that each support animal is warranted. (alleviated some symptom of the disability)
Q: Can a landlord or housing provider ban my emotional support dog based on breed?
A: According to HUD, the breed, size, and weight limitations do not apply to assistance animals. Instead, the provider may only determine if the specific support animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other tenants. This is solely based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the dog’s conduct.
Q: Can I bring my emotional support dog on-campus housing or to the university?
A: Although many college campuses have a no-pets rule for their housing, there was one case where on-campus housing qualified as a “dwelling” under the Fair Housing Act. Because of this, the college was required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled students. Since then, more campuses have adopted new policies for the use of support animals in housing.
Top 10 Emotional Support Animal Dog Breeds
Here are the top 10 breeds that do well as emotional support dogs:
- Labrador Retriever - These happy and energetic dogs are sensitive to their owner’s needs due to their intelligent and gentle demeanor.
- German Shepherd - Again, the intelligence of a German Shepherd enables them to be trained for various purposes. Because of their highly versatile breed, they make great emotional support dogs.
- Poodles - Born performers, Poodles are the perfect dog for people with emotional needs. They are great with kids and are mostly hypoallergenic. They also live longer than the typical breed.
- Yorkshire Terrier - This breed has been proven to help ease the symptoms of depression. With the Terrier’s reputation for developing strong bonds with their owners, you can be assured that they will be loyal and loving when you need it the most.
- Beagle - These little guys are very active, but are also content just to cuddle when needed. They are also very friendly with other animals and new people, making them an ideal support animal.
- Corgie - With their even-tempered and affectionate personality, Corgies make an excellent companion for people in nursing homes and those with disabilities. Their obedient and friendly nature is excellent for emotional support.
- Pug - Another breed that is energetic but also naturally intuitive to their owner’s health, Pugs get along well with other people, but may not be the ideal support dog for a child.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - Bred to be a loyal companion dog, these dogs come from royalty and are quite noble. Named after King Charles II of Britain, they’ve had centuries of practice of providing companionship and comfort to their owners.
- Pomeranian - This small breed is one you can cuddle with, and it won’t run away. Because they require minimal exercise, they will be content just getting love and affection.
- Golden Retriever - Perhaps the best breed for emotional support, Golden Retrievers, are well-known for their loving and comforting nature. They are very energetic and happy, so help to alleviate those struggling with anxiety and depression.
Have an Emotional Support dog?
If you already have an emotional support dog, contact us or visit our store to get premium car seat covers in various sizes, textures, and colors. For military members, we offer a 15% discount as our thanks to you.