Senator George Graham Vest, of Missouri, won a court battle over the shooting of a dog with a speech that included the line, "The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog." Read more of this moving eulogy at: http://www.warrensburg.org/drum.htm .
Dogs have shared their lives with humans for at least 14,000 years and possibly much longer. During those millennia dogs have been man's helper, protector, and companion. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39% of U.S. households include one or more dogs and 34% include one or more cats.
An Emotional Support Animal is a dog or other common domestic animal that provides theraputic support to a disabled or elderly owner through companionship, non-judgmental positive regard, affection, and a focus in life. If a doctor determines that a patient with a disabling mental illness would benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal, the doctor write letters supporting a request by the patient to keep the ESA in "no pets" housing or to travel with the ESA in the cabin of an aircraft.
ESAs are not task trained like service dogs are. In fact little training at all is required so long as the animal is reasonably well behaved by pet standards. This means the animal is fully toilet trained and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors such is frequent or lengthy episodes of barking. The animal should not pose a danger to other tenants or to workmen. But there is no requirement for fancy heeling or mitigating tasks since emotional support animals are not generally taken anywhere pets would not ordinarily go without permission (the exception being to fly in the cabin of an aircraft, even if the airline does not ordinarily accept pets).
For more information about the differences between emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals, read the related article at: http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/76
It is important to note that having a diagnosis of a mental illness, by itself, is not sufficient to qualify a person for an ESA unless that illness is so severe it disables them. Only a judge can truly determine whether a person is legally disabled. However, a doctor can probably make a medical determination of a person's disability and on that basis prescribe an ESA. To qualify as disabled under federal disability rights laws, a person must experience substantial limitations on one or more major life activities because of their mental illness.
Studies have shown real health benefits for those living with pets, including:
* lower cholesterol
* lower blood pressure
* lower triglyceride
* reduced stress levels
* reduced feelings of loneliness
* better mental health
* increased activity
* more opportunities for exercise
* more time spent outdoors (for dog owners especially)
* more opportunities for socialization
To read more about the health benefits of pet ownership and the human/animal bond, check the list of suggested reading on the Pet Partner's Human-Animal Bond Resource Center.
NOTE: On March 15, 2011 changes to the definition of "service animal" under the Americans with Disabilities Act became effective. These changes do not affect the use of emotional support animals in housing or on commercial aircraft because those two situations are covered under different federal laws that were not changed when the ADA regulations were changed.
See the attachment below for an official statement by HUD regarding emotional support animals under housing law.
|HUD FHEO 2-17-2011 Assistance Animal Memo.pdf||48.84 KB|