February Magazines 89012 - Page 43

Emotional Support Animals– “Buddy to One” Here’s where it gets a little tricky; emotional support ani- mals (ESA) are pets that provide emotional support to an individual but aren’t trained to do so. Unlike service ani- mals, ESAs aren’t allowed access to public places but can be accommodated for in residences that may have a “no pets” rule through the Fair Housing Act. Documentation from a health care provider citing how the animal helps your respective issue is typically required by the building or land- lord, but once proof is issued, there are laws that protect your animal against housing rules prohibiting pets. Of course, these laws have specifications and requirements that exceed our word limit, so always do the necessary research to clarify any questions you may have. What becomes difficult is that, to their owners, ESAs walk the line between service dogs and therapy dogs but, to the public, they’re not trained to do either. To owners of emo- tional support animals, their pet is their medicine and they sometimes think it’s okay to bring their pet places that they shouldn’t go. As a result of this confusion, more and more public places are restricting therapy dog access to avoid people bringing untrained dogs into places claiming they are ESAs. For those who own emotional support animals, or even owners with a strong attachment to their pet, it’s important to respect existing restrictions or consider getting your pet certified as a therapy animal so everyone can be at ease with their temperament. To recap the difference between the three: Service dogs act as an extension of a person, performing duties they can’t do themselves, and their space should be respected. Therapy dogs are docile little volunteers who literally work for pets and cuddles. Emotional support animals are any pet that brings their owner comfort, but shouldn’t necessarily go everywhere their human does. For those interested in contributing to the success of these amazing animals as a trainer or observer, hop online or talk with a veterinarian or trainer to find the best organization for you! ◆