How Can Emotional Support Animals Help?

The following article was kindly written and contributed by Lacey Nolan

Every day people become more aware of the harsh side-effects pharmaceuticals can have in our bodies. For this reason, many people suffering from different mental health illnesses are turning to holistic remedies. Holistic medicine focuses on the root of the problem by using our own bodies as healing methods. Emotional support animals fall under this category since it focuses on pets and their power to help with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Keep in mind the difference between an emotional support animal (ESA) and a service dog. A service dog is trained to help people with disabilities such as visual impairments, mental illnesses, seizure disorders, diabetes, and others. Emotional support dogs provide their owner’s therapeutic benefits through companionship.

Emotional support animals – how do they work?

Imagine coming home from work after a long and stressful day. You’re tired and already thinking about your early morning start. Your pup or cat comes to you, with a welcoming familiar salutation. If you’ve ever experienced any kind of relief, or wholesome feeling with your pet you might be experiencing the effects of an emotional support animal.

To start things off, emotional support animals will manifest differently on people. But one thing is for sure, the need to care for them provides structure, purpose, and being needed. Having a pet serves as a distraction and one becomes a caregiver which could shake off signs of loneliness. Other than this petting your fury baby can actually help stress levels to reduce. The hormone oxytocin is secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland located in our brain. This hormone is also known as the “cuddle hormone” because it is released during snuggles and hugs.

Other than keeping us company pets could really stimulate our senses. Touch, sight, smell and hearing can be altered by their company. Just focusing in their fluffy looking fur, purrs, scent and admiring their behaviour could shake off signs of desperation.

Emotional Support Animal Recognition

For an animal to be recognised as an ESA, the owner must qualify through a certified therapist or any other clinical professionals. After going through initial screenings an Emotional Support Letter should be given to the patient seeking assistance.  There are different laws that cover or not the use of ESAs on public spaces.emotional support animals - man hugging a dog

In the United states the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, it states that emotional support animal doesn’t need to be professionally trained because they provide support just by being around you. The laws under ADA only extends to animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Fair Housing Act covers housing affairs and it states that under some states a person with an ESA can’t be denied purchase or rent-ability access regardless of the rules set by the landlord.

Emotional Support Animals: Dogs

Many people think that an emotional support dog needs to be specially trained, but this isn’t the case at all.

While those rules may apply for service dogs who need to carry out specific physical tasks for their owners, an ESA provides their support simply by just being there.

Even so, basic obedience training is still a must for an emotional support dog, as well as every other pet dog out there. Since your dog will likely be accompanying you to quite a few places, you do need to have some form of control over your pooch and be able to effectively communicate with him.

Flying in New Zealand

For anyone contemplating bringing their animal companion on holiday to New Zealand, please be aware that there are strict conditions regarding the importation of animals, and ignoring them can be expensive. You must make sure your flight allows ESAs on outbound flights from the United States of America. There are many different restrictions that might make it difficult for passengers attempting to have their ESA in the cabin.

For example, Air New Zealand states:

To accommodate you and your certified service dog (or dog undertaking recognised service dog training) Air New Zealand requires a minimum of 48 hours’ notice to your intended flight and that you check-in 1 hour prior to our standard check-in time.

Before travelling you must note the following:

  • Dogs must wear an identification tag with the owner’s name, address and telephone number
  • Upon request, you should be able to provide up to date proof that your dog is a certified service dog.
  • During flight your dog must be restrained by its lead and seated on an absorbent mat (which will be provided by us)
  • You will need to prepare your dog for the journey by exercising and limiting its fluid intake for several hours before boarding the aircraft