Which Type of Assistance Animal Is Best?
Struggling with mental health is difficult enough without the added pressure of choosing the best suited wellness plan. Countless therapies exist to help you on your journey, but finding the ones that provide the most benefit can be a daunting task. If you’re looking for a furry friend to help your mental health, American Service Pets wants to assist you with finding the right fit for your needs!
As a notable provider of Service Animal resources, we know there can be some confusion when it comes to the key differences between Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs. So where should you begin? Deciding what type of assistance animal would be the most compatible depends mostly on the function you need them to serve in your life. While both assist their owners with mental health disorders, there are some key distinctions that need pointing out.
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Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional Support Animals help their owners manage mental health disorders just by being present. In terms of performance and training, they don’t have any federal rules or regulations. Since any animal that gives support, comfort, or aid to an individual may be regarded as ESA, most domesticated animals can fulfill the role. Bunnies, cats, horses, and more have all been used as ESAs; sometimes for only one person, and sometimes for multiple people in therapeutic sessions. They’ve also been proven to benefit children who have disabilities. No matter the setting or person (s) in need, an ESA’s objective is to do just what their name implies: offer emotional help and support.
While not needing certified training may make an ESA seem like the logical option, those who need their animals as traveling companions may run into complications. When it comes to the law, they aren’t promised admittance in all public places. Furthermore, due to the most recent Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are no longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are still eligible to do so.
Psychiatric Service Animals
Like ESAs, Psychiatric Service Animals help manage mental health disorders. Yet while ESAs assist their owners solely through love and affection, PSAs are trained in task-specific duties, either by professionals or handlers (owners) themselves. Under the ADA, the title “Service Animal” can only be given to dogs or miniature horses. According to additional federal guidelines, they must be able to perform one or more distinctive jobs that aid an individual who has a disability. Disabilities can be physical, emotional, psychological, or any other health disorder that limits or prohibits one’s quality of life. Whatever the condition, a PSA’s primary goal is to help the person live more independently. They work for a specific handler, achieving preset goals that vary for each individual.
If trained to help with mental and emotional disorders, some examples of their function may be to keep someone from danger or self-harming, help them manage symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or wake them during nightmares. PSAs can also help their owners perform daily tasks that they may not be able to handle on their own. If your mental health disorder is more intensive than a PSA might be better for you. Their specific task training allows them to provide a deeper level of practical care, beyond strictly emotional needs.
For those who need support when venturing outside their homes, Psychiatric Service Dogs are also allowed many legal advantages. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), PSDs can’t be denied entry into public places, including but not limited to bus stations, airports, hotels, and businesses that normally have “no pets allowed” policies in place. Furthermore, they’re eligible to ride in airplane cabins with their respective owners. To read the full PSD policy under the Air Carrier Access Act, visit the DOT website.
You can also get a detailed list of which disorders, illnesses, and or disabilities might qualify you for a PSD, by visiting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and widely used by doctors and mental health professionals. Some of those disorders include (but aren’t limited to): Addiction or substance abuse, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Depressive Disorders, Dissociative and Personality Disorders, Neurocognitive Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other psychosis related disorders.
Letters of Recommendation
Even though obtaining PSA letters of recommendation from a healthcare professional aren’t legally required, they tend to come in handy when owners experience pushback from the staff or owners of public establishments. In regards to ESAs, a letter written by a licensed doctor is necessary in order to secure a housing allowance. Landlords and housing authorities cannot turn away tenants who require the assistance of an ESA in their home.
Not everyone is educated on the rights of the disabled community, and having proper documentation (in the case of either type of assistance animal) usually diffuses doubt or disagreement in regards to their necessity. Sadly, having a doctor or mental health clinician write a service letter isn’t as easy as it may appear. If you’ve been met with pushback or simply want to learn about some of the roadblocks that patients have faced, please check out our earlier blog post.
Making a Need-Based Decision
Now that you know the core differences between Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Animals, you still may have lingering questions. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSA, take our three-step survey online now!
If you’d like to learn more about PSD qualifications, check out the rest of our site at American Service Pets. We are the nation’s leading all-in-one solution for approving emotional support animals for service. See if you qualify for free today and get your official approval letter soon.
Whichever assistance animal fits your needs, they both play a unique role in improving the lives of their humans. Knowing the differences helps individuals with mental health disorders or physical impairments get the most from their relationship with their animal companions. It also ensures that those animals get fair and suitable treatment everywhere they go.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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