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Which Pets Make the Best Emotional Support Animals?

The use of emotional support animals has become more and more prevalent in the last decade or so, and often controversially so. Stories of pigs and peacocks that people have designated their emotional support animal make great headlines and sell stories.

But which pets actually make the best support animals? It comes down which type of animal provides therapeutic value to a person, which type of animal is practical for that person to keep, and often the type of animal recognized as the most appropriate.
Song Joong Ki for Marie Claire, 2016.
Consider the therapeutic value
An emotional support animal is one that is of therapeutic value and companionship to some with one of many different mental health conditions. So how can you determine the best ESA for a person to get a therapeutic effect?

The presence of the pet should help with symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and stress. For example, the physical act of caressing and cuddling a pet can help calm a person and lift their mood. The caring involved in looking after a pets food and exercise needs can help a person establish regular routines. The care a particular pet needs can also help people focus on, and understand, the needs of another. For someone with a mental health condition, feelings of isolation and aloneness can accompany the illness. An emotional support animal can provide the unconditional love the person may feel is lacking in their life.
Song Hye Kyo and her Bichon Frise, Pink.
Consider the practicality of keeping a pet
Emotional support animals live with a person. This means there are some very practical considerations in which type of animals make the best ESAs. The accommodation needs to be appropriate for the type of animal. An ESA needs to be kept safe and sheltered and in an environment that gives them a good quality of life.

For example, a large dog is likely to need to share a large house and yard. A small dog or cat may be perfect for an inner city apartment dweller. The costs of looking after different types of animals vary. Someone’s choice of emotional support animal should be one they can afford to care for in terms of food, healthcare, and accessories. A size comparison is relevant here too, big dogs and cats eat a lot more than smaller ones!
Song Joong Ki for Marie Claire, 2016.
Consider the types of animals most recognized as ESAs
Technically, any animal can be an emotional support animal, but there are many that shouldn’t! The most commonly recognized emotional support animals are the type of pets most people are already familiar with – dogs, cats, and sometimes other small animals such as rabbits. There are a few reasons why:

- We know cats and dogs!
People have kept cats and dogs as domestic pets for millennia. Most people already know if they personally prefer one species over another and the benefits and comfort a dog or cat can bring to their lives. If you haven’t had a pet in your life before, chances are you have an idea of the basic needs of a dog or cat and there is a ton of information available and vet professionals to give advice as and when needed.

- We understand dog houses and where cats like to curl!
Dogs and cats are able to live alongside us and beside us in our homes. For anyone in rental housing, there are also protections under the Fair Housing Act for people with emotional support animals. Under the FHA landlords have to make “reasonable accommodations” for someone with an ESA, even if they have a no-pets policy. Property managers are more likely to look favorably on a recognized domestic pet such as a cat or dog.

- Sometimes emotional support animals need to fly!
If you need your emotional support animal with you on a flight or at your destination, your right to fly with an emotional support animal is covered under the Air Carrier Access Act. However, most airlines have policies that limit species. Those that do accept animals are more accept dogs, and sometimes cats. They may also restrict certain breeds of cats and dogs for the health and safety of the pets and other passengers.
Song Joong Ki for Marie Claire, 2016.
Consider the Benefits of a Dog
For someone wanting a pet that involves a lot of interaction, an emotional support dog may be the one for them. Depending on breed, dogs regular training, grooming and exercising, along with taking care of basic needs for food and water. Dogs are pack animals, and people soon become part of their pack. They like to do activities with their people, socialize with their people, and just generally hang out.

Consider the Benefits a Cat
Cats as emotional support animals can be ideal for some that benefits from the unconditional love and companionship offered by feline company. Although cats are more stay at home kind of pets, their devotion and dedication to the people they live with can bring much joy into a home.

Consider Where to Get Your Pet or ESA
Rescue shelters can be a good first port of call when you are thinking about adopting a pet. Animals end up in shelters for all kinds of reasons, and rehoming an animal is a rewarding experience. Cats and dogs from rescue organizations have usually been assessed in terms of temperament so you will have an idea if you are the right match.

Alternatively, ask people you know if they know of anyone looking to re-home a pet. Or check with a local veterinary clinic if they know of pets, puppies, and kittens needing new homes. For specific breeds of dogs look for reputable breeders registered with organizations such as American Kennel Club and the American Cat Fanciers Association.

If you have an existing mental health condition and a pet that you feel alleviates your symptoms, take a pre-screening to establish whether you may qualify for an emotional support animal. A licensed health professional will then discuss with you whether this pet is appropriate as an emotional support animal for you.

1 replies:

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