The term Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has a broad meaning and is not just restricted to dogs. It refers to a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional and can include any animals like dogs, cats, rabbit, snakes, hedgehogs or any bird of any age. The important consideration over here is that the owner and the ESA need to have a strong emotional and mental bonding responsible for the wellbeing and support of the owner. Such animals are a part of the treatment process for the disabled person and helps in bringing comfort and reducing the negative symptoms of emotional or psychological disability. They do not require any special training as their very presence mitigates the negative effects on the individual, unlike service dogs. It is necessary that the animal should be manageable in public and does not pose a threat to anyone.
Flying with an ESA
In order to fly with an ESA and accommodate it in the cabin of the aircraft it is necessary to obtain an emotional support dog certification along with an authorization letter from the airlines authority concerned. The laid down regulations require that the airlines authority accommodate an individual with an ESA into the flight if requested within 48 hours prior to departure and the requisite details filed as required by the authorities (sent via fax or email). If the aforesaid time period is not provided to the airlines authority in order to verify the genuinity of the situation, they have the right to deny such accommodation. So, instead of showing up at the end and trying to accommodate your ESA into the flight it is better to inform the required authority well in advance to avoid any last minutes hassles.
Restrictions on certain dog breeds
The U.S Dept. of Housing and Urban Development lays down that size, breed and weight cannot be applied as a limitation in case of ESA. However, the housing provider must look whether the specific breed of animal provided for assistance pose a threat to other residents. But it should be noted that breeds of animals which are banned in a particular state can only be allowed in housing and that the banned breed cannot be taken to public places like other service animals. To avoid any future legal complications, the laws of the respective state relating to ESA must be strictly adhered to.