Author Topic: Torn on registering an ESA  (Read 1688 times)

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Offline gooak

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Torn on registering an ESA
« on: August 20, 2017, 08:22:12 PM »
This site is amazing to help weed through the do's and don'ts of ESA's. I have a blind acquaintance (from my past) from whom I've learned so much, so I really do not want to get this wrong. I do have a therapist and dog willing to sign the required letter if needed.

About me:  major impending surgery (have to fly cross country for it, while in serious pain), in treatment for anxiety largely coming from this, and minor depression.  Can't take traditional anxiety meds due to all of the other medications for pain.

About my dog:  well trained compared to most [pets], 30lb so larger than a lap dog, young enough (< 2 yrs) to have some impulse control issues.  Very treat motivated and I can use that to keep her in line usually, but she's not 100% yet - too young.  Very sedate when around others, but had separation anxiety as a pup.

I have housing already.  So far I understand that the only other thing an ESA affords me is allowing her in cabin when flying. 

I guess my questions to confirm are:
1. ESAs are not allowed in hospital rooms, correct?  Really it just gets you flying + housing?
2. I have so much anxiety over this trip, I can't decide whether having her will help me (I time my breathing to her - one breathe for me is two for her), or cause more anxiety about how well she will handle it all, and having to carry bring her stuff (crate, etc) while not being able to lift or carry anything myself.
3. Because of her separation anxiety history and exercise needs, it might be more stress for my husband to bring her while I'm hospitalized and/or recovering in the hotel.

So I want her, but am leaning towards the idea that maybe it's not the best idea...
Anyone want to chime in?  It's so silly to HAVE ANXIETY about an ANXIETY RELIEVING DOG.  Or are my concerns legit?

I know that no one can answer this for me, but had to ask.  Thanks in advance!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2017, 09:36:57 PM »
There is no legitimate registry for ESAs, so save your money.

If you are disabled and in treatment for mental illness with a mental health professional who feels an emotional support animal is a necessary part of your mental health care then you may qualify for accommodations to have your dog with you in most "no pets" housing and on commercial aircraft, but not in hospitals, hotels, taxis, or other forms of transportation.

Honestly, I would not expose an anxious dog to their owner's hospital treatment as this can be highly stressful for the dog. I had ankle surgery and my service dog was awaiting me in my hospital room after the recovery room. This was an experienced, calm, confident, highly trained dog. He was distressed when he could smell the blood, bone, and connective tissues excavated during my surgery. I was properly cleaned up and bandaged before being returned to my room, but to his sensitive nose I had suffered a grievous injury.

Another dog we were with in another incident encountered a stranger in a hospital room with a stoma (breathing tube in his neck) and the dog reacted with stress at the encounter with a person who smelled greviously injured to him.

I would not subject any anxious dog to an experience like that, and would not subject a confident dog to such an experience without his human partner being there and fully capable of supporting and removing the dog from the source of stress should the need arise.

The human partner gets a lot more choices than the dog gets so when I make decisions for my team I always put my dog's needs before my own. I can't be content with a choice that causes my dog distress that could have been avoided. His own veterinary care cannot be avoided, but witnessing distressing (to him) episodes of my own care can be. I can rely on human family and friends to make do in a pinch...for the sake of his mental health and safety.

How about videoing your dog sleeping for your breathing exercise or doing some grounding exercises and/or breathing/relaxation exercises with your therapist and then taking recordings of this with you to play over and over again as needed in the hospital and hotel?
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Offline Moonsong

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2017, 09:53:19 PM »
I think that if you're that anxious about it now, you'll probably only get more anxious as the trip approaches. It sounds to me like you're very anxious about the training level and potential distress of your dog, and honestly there isn't really a solution to that. If you had the time, you might be able to put in the training before going, but we're talking about at LEAST months worth of training to do it right, which is assuming that your dog is already well trained to pet standards. I don't know if you have the time to train and proof your dog.

However, that only addresses your training concern. As for the dog's anxiety, Kirsten addressed that pretty well. It can take years to mellow out an anxious dog when they are anxious for reasons such as lack of proper socialization, poor owners in the past, traumatic experiences etc. If the dog is naturally anxious as a part of their personality, I personally feel like there is only so much you can do. You can work with them to try to make them feel as confident in possible, but if it's a personality trait I don't think it'll ever go away.


Based off of what you described, if I were in your shoes, I would be looking into options to assuage my anxiety without the dog. I would talk to your therapist about possible options.



I'm concerned for you that

1. Bringing the dog will only cause more anxiety than it would alleviate. I remember a few months ago when my family was going to take a trip to Sedona; we were only planning on hiking (this was back when it was still cool) and spending time outside remembering my recently deceased grandmother. I have severe, crippling travel anxiety and considered bringing Max, but was more anxious at the thought that he might be stressed and my having to deal with his stress while I was stressed than I was at the idea of the trip at all. In the end, Max stayed home.

2. If you did choose to bring the dog, it might overwhelm her and cause her to become even more anxious in the future.



Anyways, I'm sorry that you're in such a sucky situation. I hate decisions like this. I hope that whatever you choose to do, it's the best decision for you and your dog, whatever it is (you know better than any of us what you and your pup are capable of) and I hope that it all works out for the best.
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Offline Azariah

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2017, 10:07:45 PM »
I had a very stressful two week trip last July. Funeral. Lots of driving in short periods. Could have really used my service dog in training. But we made the right choice not to bring her. It would have pushed her past her threshold at her age amd training and we did not want to wash a great candidate. Plus the hassle of hauling all the stuff back and forth to multiple hotels.
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Offline gooak

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2017, 10:38:26 PM »
Thanks everyone! I think you are all echo-ing my concerns, and adding some inputs about being injured/wounded that I had not previously considered.  My therapist was pretty much telling me to go for it, so it helps having others share my reservations that have had more direct experience with this all.

thank you!  you are helping me listen to my gut...

[FWIW her training is pretty good - just not service dog good.  I have high standards.  One environment she does poorly in is shopping - she follows her nose instead of me in that situation, but it is a good example of how a dog can be really solid in a heel on a walk or in a neighborhood, but NOT solid in a more overwhelming environment, thus my concern.  And puppy impulse sometimes means she wants to pull to meet another dog - not great on a plane.  Plus she's bigger than normal ESAs, not easily tucked into a lap.

We have heel, stay, up-up (onto bed/chair), down, off, heel-up (gotten out of position, so get back in position), left (we are turning), stop, roll-over, shake, left-shake. Work in progress: cuddle (come to me and put head on my chest); come - not off leash trained for this, only in the yard; and she still breaks her stays.]

Offline Suse

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2017, 02:59:50 AM »
An ESA would not be allowed in a store.  Unless it is the kind of a store that lets pets in, some hardware stores, most pet stores, etc. 

Offline Moonsong

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2017, 11:03:04 AM »
My therapist was pretty much telling me to go for it, so it helps having others share my reservations that have had more direct experience with this all.

Yeah, in my experience I've found that unless someone actually has experience/knowledge of dog training standards, they don't really understand the implications of pushing the dog too far or taking it where it shouldn't go. They tend to have a "hey, it'll be fine, just go for it!" attitude. Did you know that something like 90% of pet dogs are undertrained? (got this statistic from a Zak George video, can't recall which one at the moment) This is because Joe Average doesn't really know what is best (training wise) for their dogs. They use the excuses "but he loves it" or "it's just a dog being a dog" (which is the one I hate the most) or some kind of statement that suggests that their dog isn't trainable, or "but isn't it so cute?" to not actually train their dogs.

So that's kind of the mentality that people like family members, friends, doctors, etc are coming from who don't have the knowledge/experience with dog training standards to make a fair judgement on what's actually best for your dog in situations like this where behavior, temperament, and training are crucial.


By the way, I'm not saying that the people with undertrained dogs are necessarily bad. Some do very irresponsible things, like letting their dogs roam around off-leash, but I don't mean to vilify or judge anyone. I'm just saying that they are uneducated, for the majority. Some do know what they should do, but still refuse, others believe things like that a dog shouldn't have to work or train, but most are simply uneducated.
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Offline Azariah

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2017, 11:03:33 AM »
My experience with therapists is they don't have a solid understanding of ESAs or service dogs.
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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2017, 02:29:17 PM »
I concur with Azariah. Most therapists are ignorant of the necessary risks involved, the dependency issue and the legalities.

I am lucky enough to have a therapist who is well versed in ESAs and SDs. He's been in practice for a decade and received innumerable requests for ESA letters but has only written two in his entire career. He is very firm and very strict about the qualifications, as he had one client receive a PSD through a program and had to watch the codependence form and further disable the client. He loves Azkaban and approves of his use but I have also displayed to him my understanding and ability to cope independently from my dog. Azkaban is also a very resilient and calm dog who has displayed his tasks.

I would go with your gut even if your therapist approves. They might not fully understand what is required of a dog during such a stressful situation and how anxious you seem to be of your dog's training level.

Also, what kind of shopping are you doing with your dog? As Suse said ESAs are not granted public access and should not be taken into non-pet friendly venues.
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Offline Suse

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2017, 08:49:02 PM »
I too agree that the majority of Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Doctors really have no understanding of either ESA's or SD's. Most definitely don't know either the laws, nor what the dogs might actually do, or not do, to help their client. 

This is very sad. They definitely need to  receive training about both before being able to recommend, or deny, either to a client.

Offline TherapyPals

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2017, 08:32:08 PM »
This site is amazing to help weed through the do's and don'ts of ESA's. I have a blind acquaintance (from my past) from whom I've learned so much, so I really do not want to get this wrong. I do have a therapist and dog willing to sign the required letter if needed.

About me:  major impending surgery (have to fly cross country for it, while in serious pain), in treatment for anxiety largely coming from this, and minor depression.  Can't take traditional anxiety meds due to all of the other medications for pain.

About my dog:  well trained compared to most [pets], 30lb so larger than a lap dog, young enough (< 2 yrs) to have some impulse control issues.  Very treat motivated and I can use that to keep her in line usually, but she's not 100% yet - too young.  Very sedate when around others, but had separation anxiety as a pup.

I have housing already.  So far I understand that the only other thing an ESA affords me is allowing her in cabin when flying. 

I guess my questions to confirm are:
1. ESAs are not allowed in hospital rooms, correct?  Really it just gets you flying + housing?
2. I have so much anxiety over this trip, I can't decide whether having her will help me (I time my breathing to her - one breathe for me is two for her), or cause more anxiety about how well she will handle it all, and having to carry bring her stuff (crate, etc) while not being able to lift or carry anything myself.
3. Because of her separation anxiety history and exercise needs, it might be more stress for my husband to bring her while I'm hospitalized and/or recovering in the hotel.

So I want her, but am leaning towards the idea that maybe it's not the best idea...
Anyone want to chime in?  It's so silly to HAVE ANXIETY about an ANXIETY RELIEVING DOG.  Or are my concerns legit?

I know that no one can answer this for me, but had to ask.  Thanks in advance!

ESAs are only good for travel and housing.

You can try to make your dog a service dog and then you could take it to a hospital...and pretty much wherever you want.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2017, 09:43:47 PM »
The only transportation covered is commercial aircraft.

ESAs and SDs perform different functions.  Which you choose to get is based on what help you need, not where you can take it.  If the original poster (OP) needs emotional support, then s/he needs an ESA.  We have some members with ESAs, some with SDs, and others with an interest in animals assisting the disabled.  We accept ESAs and ESA partners as equals of SDs and SD partners, not as less than.

The vast majority of lovely pets are not going to be well suited for service work but they probably can provide emotional support.

OP stated surgery is impending.  S/he is not going to be able to complete service dog training in less than a year and I'd expect that surgery to be a lot closer than a year off for him/her to be this worried about it.
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Offline Moonsong

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2017, 02:04:25 AM »

ESAs are only good for travel and housing.

You can try to make your dog a service dog and then you could take it to a hospital...and pretty much wherever you want.

No. The solution to the problem of not being able to have access with your ESA somewhere isn't to "upgrade" to a service dog. Absolutely not.


First off, you MUST be legally disabled to have either an ESA or a service dog. To not be disabled and bring an animal with you into situations where only ESAs or SDs are allowed is breaking federal law.

Secondly, you need to figure out where you are in treatment. Are you still expected to get better with treatment, or have you maxed out on treatment? If you are still in treatment, you should NOT get a service dog, but an emotional support animal may be helpful. Speak with your doctor about it.

Thirdly, in order to get an ESA or a PSD (psychiatric service dog), you MUST be currently seeing a health professional with experience in your psychiatric disability. If you aren't, case law has shown us that your SD isn't legally legitimate. This health professional must be the one treating your disability and must be the one who 'prescribed' the ESA/PSD

Fourth, if by this point you truly are disabled, not expected to get better, and have a doctor who agrees with both of those things and that an ESA/PSD will help you, you need to decide between an ESA or PSD. An ESA provides emotional support only, while a PSD performs tasks that their owner cannot do for themselves. So the question is of whether there are any TASKS that a person cannot do for themselves that is NOT emotional support and IS related to their disability. If yes, then they should get a PSD. If no, then they should get an ESA.

Also, not all service dogs are meant for public access. There are at-home service dogs who do not go into public, like many hearing dogs. They do still apply as service dogs under the law, though.


Also, just because a service dog CAN go "pretty much wherever you want", doesn't mean that you SHOULD take them everywhere. Here are a few examples of where it's completely unethical to bring a SD, even though you MIGHT be able to:

*Going inpatient to a hospital; specifically when you aren't able to steward the dog
*Taking your dog somewhere they are unprepared for, i.e. Disneyland three months into training
*Taking your dog anywhere that is a public accommodation if they are not yet fully PA trained, unless it's specifically for a training session and training session ONLY
*And much more


It's also important to note that SDs CAN be denied access if they are untrained. If the dog misbehaves, eliminates inappropriately, causes a fundamental alteration, or causes an undue burden/danger they can be kicked out/denied access.
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Offline SandyStern

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2017, 12:21:46 PM »
Jumping in here, even though it has been said.
Please!

None of this "make her a service dog." That's not how it works. Either you are disabled and need the tasks, or not. It's binary.  Why has this dog been shopping with you, OP? (Forgive me if it was an outdoor venue where pets are allowed.)

Trust me, air travel with even the best trained dog is really hard.  You'll have to deprive her of food and water for a long time.  That can cause vomiting. If she doesn't fit in your lap (and you really shouldn't have a dog in your lap on a plane unless the person next to you is a friend/family member) she will need to curl up at your feet and stay out of the adjacent footwell.  This is really hard for both of you. If she's scared, submissive urination or adrenaline pooping is likely.  She may vocalize when she sees another dog.  The engines get really loud, and some dogs howl.  She'll be on the floor where the angle is acute on takeoff and landing, and the HVAC currents tend to run along the floor.

I understand that having to do a 6-hour flight while in pain and facing surgery-- wow, that's tough.  I think you'd do better with a medication plan and a support human to help you. Of course you can't just add anxiety medication on top of pain medication, but I bet your doctor can figure out a special dosage or combination schedule to make you more comfortable when flying.  Please let us know how it works out for you.

Offline TherapyPals

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Re: Torn on registering an ESA
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2017, 12:28:45 PM »

ESAs are only good for travel and housing.

You can try to make your dog a service dog and then you could take it to a hospital...and pretty much wherever you want.

No. The solution to the problem of not being able to have access with your ESA somewhere isn't to "upgrade" to a service dog. Absolutely not.


First off, you MUST be legally disabled to have either an ESA or a service dog. To not be disabled and bring an animal with you into situations where only ESAs or SDs are allowed is breaking federal law.

Thirdly, in order to get an ESA or a PSD (psychiatric service dog), you MUST be currently seeing a health professional with experience in your psychiatric disability. If you aren't, case law has shown us that your SD isn't legally legitimate. This health professional must be the one treating your disability and must be the one who 'prescribed' the ESA/PSD


Well, for a plane you do need paperwork.  I think for everywhere else, there is nothing required.  Same as physical service dogs, owners can only be asked two questions. 

Please show me where you need to be LEGALLY disabled to have an ESA.