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Why would your therapist write you a prescription for a pet?

An emotional support animal is a domesticated pet (typically a dog) that has been medically recommended by a licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The person’s pet is prescribed to comfort and minimize problematic symptoms associated with their psychological/emotional disability. It is often incorporated in the treatment planning process and provides multiple benefits to a broad spectrum of individuals.

Here are a few reasons why people get an emotional support animals:

FOR CHILDREN: •helps teach children and kids responsibility •helps foster healthy attachment •helps learn social skills, impulse control, & increase self esteem •helps kids get more exercise through play and walks •promotes sibling/familial bonding. •provides comfort + soothing for sensory issues •provides emotional support and regulation

FOR ADULTS: •Emotional Support. •Constant Company. A good friend can help you get through the toughest times in life. •Decreased Levels of Stress. •Reduces Anxiety. •Healthy Distraction. •Creates a Sense of Purpose.

Are service dogs and emotional support animals different? Yes!

According to the American Kennel Club, “Individuals with ESAs are afforded some additional rights, such as the ability to live in otherwise non-pet-friendly housing under the Fair Housing Act. Additionally, the Air Carrier Access Act allows both service animals and ESAs to accompany their owners in the cabin of an aircraft during flights. Emotional support animals provide a valuable service to those who need it, but misrepresenting a pet as an ESA is both unethical and illegal in some states.”

And, it doesn’t have to be a dog! There are a list of animals that are considered emotional support animals here:

All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person’s psychological/emotional disability. The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.

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