Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Should we support emotional support pets?

By: Maisie Stout
  An unusual topic of the New Year is the question of emotional support pets. With famous pets like Daniel the Emotional Support Duck raising question to the validity of such animals, many people are asking what exactly a “comfort pet” is. Emotional support pets are a branch of service animals that help with mental disabilities rather than physical. As you may know, each service animal is trained to deal with a certain type of disability, like sensing low blood pressure for people with diabetes or being a seeing-eye dog for blind people. Support animals can help with a multitude of mental disorders such as: anxiety, panic attacks, mood disorders, bipolar disorders, depression, and even PTSD.  These animals are also used to help people suffering from autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
The most common form of emotional support pet is a dog, but other animals can be registered as a support animal too. In the past people have registered cats, birds, pigs, snakes, and even miniature horses as emotional support animals. The terms ‘pet’ and ‘animal’ are often used interchangeably. Owners have to keep in mind that service animals are not just pets; they are tools that help people cope with their disabilities. Emotional service pets do not have to know the commands that conventional service dogs do because they are there to help people cope with mental conditions, however, they should still be handled responsibly.
   Registering your animal can be fairly easy and cheap. To first register, you have to prove that you have a legitimate mental disorder, which can be done by consulting a therapist or counselor. According to the National Service Animal Registry, after you prove that you have a disorder you have to register your pet as manageable in public with a NSAR Public Access Test. The cost on this website is around 64 dollars. Another way to register your pet as an emotional support animal is on the United States Dog Registry website. It is a little pricier, ranging from 79 to 199 dollars, but with this site you will be receiving kits with more gear and certification documents depending on which kit you buy. Kits often include your pets’ certification and I.D. cards, as well as vests and collars for your pet to wear in public.
  In any given year about 1 in 5 adults in America are diagnosed with mental illnesses.  This statistic adds up to about 45 million adults. In 2011, West Virginia had the most cases of severe mental diseases of any American state. Emotional support animals can help reduce the symptoms of the disorders that these Americans are diagnosed with, so there will most likely be an increase in registered emotional support animals in the future.

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