The mental (and health) benefits of a companion animal – Part 2

The mental (and health) benefits of a companion animal – Part 2

In our previous blog, we discussed the benefits of a companion animal to reduce depression, anxiety, or stress. Humans need touch and hugging an animal can calm and soothe you.

We’ve discussed the benefits of having such an animal.

Now, the question remains: How to go about getting such an animal? This is what this blog is about.

First, choose your animal friend.

An emotional support animal can be a dog, cat, bird, monkey, or a horse. Some people have a rabbit or a pig. The animal does not have to have formal training.

The only requirement is that the animal must be social, friendly, and not a danger to anyone else. You must always be able to control the animal.

It stands to reason, therefore, that an enormous animal such as a horse or a cow would not get formal ESA accreditation. It would not be fair to expect airlines, stores, restaurants, or landlords to allow such animals. It is not to say such an animal cannot be an ESA animal; it just would not be allowed to accompany you everywhere.

It is best to be practical when you are deciding:

  • How much space do you have?
  • Think about the type of animal. Who will look after it? Will it be alone for a large part of the day?
  • Dogs need exercise. Are you (or your loved one) capable of giving it to the animal?
  • A monkey can be loud.
  • If you are a frequent flier, you must remember that only certain types of animals are allowed on airlines.

There are lots to think about when deciding on a particular type of animal.

Steps to getting an ESA animal to go home with you

1.Decide: do I need the animal with me all the time?

You must have an official diagnosis if you want to take your animal with you everywhere. People with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, need their ESA animal at their side to provide comfort.

With a diagnosis, you can get an official ESA letter. This means that you can take such an animal on airplanes, to restaurants, and more. Get such a letter from any mental health professional or psychiatrist.

Of course, you can still enjoy a comfort animal without an official diagnosis. Fido just must wait at home while you do the weekly shopping or while you are at work.

2.‘I need the ESA letter.’

Great! It will serve as proof that you need your animal by your side.

In the official letter (think ‘letterhead’ and contact information), the psychiatrist or mental health professional must state that you are his patient, that you have a disability, and that the animal helps you.

Remember to renew the letter annually.

3.‘Pets prohibited.'

It might be that you live or work somewhere where pets are not allowed.

Emotional support animals are not service animals. This means that they won’t be allowed in some apartments, for instance. Write to your employer or landlord and attach your ESA letter.


As you can see, it is not that difficult to get an ESA animal.

Remember, though, if you are not an animal lover, or not willing to clean up after the animal or keep it happy, having one as an ESA animal will not be of any benefit to you.

Keeping any animal is a major commitment. It is not for everyone, and it is definitely not a miracle cure for all mental or psychological problems.

If you are unsure – how about one of these alternatives?

  • Walk your neighbor's dog or 'borrow' the cat for an afternoon each week.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or help at adoption events.
  • Foster an animal temporarily.

Even a little contact with an animal can make a big difference!