A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
Our amazing team of volunteers are committed to helping animals. Think you would be a good fit in our nonprofit organization? Contact us.
Our Executive Director, Daniel R. Parrack, Sr., had a dream of helping companion animals. Seeing a need in this area he started
The Ernie Foundation.
Reaching out to help companion animals who are in need. We want to help with vet bills, adoption fees, providing food, the occasional rescue, and helping companion animals live their best life.
Please meet Aragog. He is a Regal Jumping spider, and is the pet of Tristin M. from Pennsylvania. Tristin found Aragog at a breeder in Maryland. Tristin said Aragog was her first spider to ease her into the hobby of keeping them (and to show her mom that they're not scary creatures). Aragog seems to touch everyone he meets, including those that really dislike spiders. Tristin said her family and friends are fascinated by him. Aragog loves to explore his little house of fake plants, and mainly eats mealworms. He's over a year old which is past the life expectancy of a male jumping spider, but he's still very active and likes to eat while Tristin holds him in her hand. We are very happy to have Aragog as our pet of the week.
Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support Animals
Every dog owner knows there are many benefits to having a dog, from getting themselves out for exercise to receiving loyal companionship. However, for some people with mental or emotional conditions, the presence of a dog is critical to their ability to function normally on a daily basis. The pet provides emotional support and comfort that helps them deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. These pets are known as emotional support animals (ESAs).
What Is an Emotional Support Dog?
Although all dogs offer an emotional connection with their owner, to legally be considered an emotional support dog, also called an emotional support animal (ESA), the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient. For example, owning a pet might ease a person’s anxiety or give them a focus in life. The dogs can be of any age and any breed.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Dogs
ESAs provide support through companionship and can help ease anxiety, depression, and certain phobias. However, they are not service dogs, and ESA users do not receive the same accommodations as service dog users.
A service dog, such as a guide dog or psychiatric service dog, is generally allowed anywhere the public is allowed; ESAs are not. For example, ESAs generally cannot accompany their owners into restaurants or shopping malls.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” The act clearly states that animals that simply provide emotional comfort do not qualify as service animals. Some state and local laws have a broader definition, so be sure to check with local government agencies to learn if ESAs qualify for public access in your area.
The key difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is whether the animal has been trained to perform a specific task or job directly related to the person’s disability. For example, service dogs are trained to alert a hearing-impaired person to an alarm or guide a visually impaired person around an obstacle or provide pressure on someone with PTSD who is suffering from a panic attack.
Behaviors such as cuddling on cue, although comforting, do not qualify. The tasks need to be specifically trained to mitigate a particular disability, not something instinctive the dog would do anyway.
Emotional Support Dogs Are Not Psychiatric Service Dogs
There are service dogs, known as psychiatric support dogs that require extensive training to work specifically with people whose disability is due to mental illness. These dogs detect the beginning of psychiatric episodes and help ease their effects.
Although this sounds similar to the role of an ESA, the difference between a psychiatric service dog and an ESA is again in the tasks performed by the dog and the training received to perform these tasks.
Psychiatric service dogs (recognized by the ADA as service dogs) have been trained to do certain jobs that help the handler cope with a mental illness. For example, the dog might remind a person to take prescribed medications, keep a disoriented person in a dissociative episode from wandering into a hazardous situation such as traffic or perform room searches for a person with post-traumatic stress disorder. If it is simply the dog’s presence that helps the person cope, then the dog does not qualify as a psychiatric service dog.
Housing Accommodations for Individuals Who Use Emotional Support Dogs.
Individuals who use ESAs are provided certain accommodations under federal law in the areas of housing and air travel. The Fair Housing Act includes ESAs in its definition of assistance animals. Under the act, people cannot be discriminated against due to a disability when obtaining housing. Rules such as pet bans or restrictions are waived for people who have a prescription for an ESA, and they cannot be charged a pet deposit for having their ESA live with them.
Are Emotional Support Dogs Allowed on Flights?
In December 2020, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced final revisions to its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The final rule, effective in January 2021, defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. This change in the DOT’s definition of “service animal” aligns closely with the definition that the Department of Justice uses under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The changes also clarify that emotional support animals (ESAs), comfort animals, companionship animals, animals being trained to be service animals, and species other than dogs are not considered to be “service animals” under the new DOT definition. Instead, airlines may recognize and accommodate emotional support animals as pets. For most airlines, the new no-fly policy for ESAs started on January 11. Some airlines now require passengers with service dogs to complete a DOT-authorized form prior to travel that confirms their training, health, and certification.
In the past the AKC as expressed concern for safety with the previous recognition of ESAs as service animals, including the growing number of people misrepresenting their pets as service animals.
Emotional support dogs can perform an important role in the life of a person with mental or emotional conditions. When people who do not have a disability abuse the system by misrepresenting a pet as an ESA to obtain special accommodation, they undermine important accommodations for individuals with a legitimate need for this assistance.
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I'm considering getting an Emotional Support Animal. There are so many sites online offering information and registration, I don't know what is legit or what is a scam. How do I get an ESA?
Alyssa M., Strongsville, Ohio
ESA's or Emotional Support Animals are very popular due to how much they help someone with mental health issues. I found an answer to your question on the website https://esadoctors.com/how-to-get-emotional-support-animal.
This is what I read:
1. Determine if You Would Potentially Benefit From an ESA’s Support
Not all disabilities are visible and there is nothing braver than seeking help for mental illness.
Emotional support animals are available to individuals that are suffering from a disability, which can be in the form of a mental illness or emotional distress condition. Pursuant to federal law, an ESA recommendation letter must come from a licensed healthcare provider, but recognizing that you may have a condition that could benefit from professional help is always the first and most important step of addressing a potential mental or emotional illness.
There are several conditions recognized in the DSM V for which an emotional support animal can be beneficial. These include:
If you think you may be suffering from one of these conditions, or if you are unsure about what condition you may have but have been suffering ongoing mental or emotional distress, the next step is to reach out to a licensed professional for help.
2. Connect with a Licensed Health Care Provider
If you have recognized that you may have a mental or emotional illness and need help, you deserve to be commended because that can be an incredibly difficult process that takes honest self-assessment and courage. There is unfortunately still a stigma associated with mental illness, and many people fear that seeking help is a sign of weakness or that others will judge them for reaching out for assistance.
The best way to seek help is by talking to a therapist with whom you already have a relationship. It can be challenging for individuals without a therapist to find the right licensed professional. Sometimes people are ready to take the step of finding a therapist but they become discouraged by the search to find the right person for them.
In addition, therapists can also be prohibitively expensive for many people, and scheduling time with a therapist can be tough for those that have jobs, schooling or family obligations. It can be especially difficult to find a therapist that is knowledgeable about ESAs if that is what you are interested in exploring.
If you are facing these obstacles, you may benefit from finding help through a therepist online. An ESA letter that comes from a therapist that provides services remotely is just as valid as an ESA letter from a therapist seen in person. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing has issued guidance confirming that legitimate ESA letters can come from therapists who provide services remotely, including over the internet.
A legitimate ESA letter must:
If you do not have a therapist or are having trouble finding one that is familiar with ESAs, ESA Doctors can help connect you to a health care provider that is licensed to work in your state. The health care providers that work with ESA Doctors are knowledgeable about ESAs and can evaluate whether an ESA is appropriate for you.
3. Adopt an ESA
If you already have a pet, that pet can serve as your ESA if you qualify for an ESA letter. If you do not have an ESA and are interested in adopting one, we recommend reaching out to your local animal shelter or rescue organization to find your perfect ESA. If you have your heart set on a specific breed that is hard to find in at a shelter or rescue, another option is to reach out to a responsible breeder.
Owning an ESA is a long-term commitment and choosing an ESA with the right temperament and attributes for your situation is important. Having a strong connection and bond with your emotional support animal can help make your ESA more effective in relieving the symptoms of your disability. It is also important to choose an animal with the right temperament. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety, the animal should bring you a sense of well-being and comfort in times of stress.
Adopting an ESA can help make your home happier.
A variety of animals can serve as an emotional support animal, including:
According to the Department of Housing, an ESA can be any small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure. Airlines that allow emotional support animals will generally accept dogs and cats, but not “unusual” animals like snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders.
4. Training Your Emotional Support Animal
One important thing to note about ESAs is that they do not technically require special training. This is a common point of confusion that people have about ESAs. ESAs are different from service dogs, which have greater public access rights under different laws. Service dogs must be trained to perform specific tasks for the disabled – for example, a dog that guides a blind handler. On the other hand, ESAs do not need any special training – they provide support and comfort through their companionship for people with mental illnesses and emotional distress.
Even though your ESA does not need special training related to a disability, it is important that your ESA, like all pets, be given basic training to ensure he or she behaves appropriately in all situations. ESA owners do not have to pay fees or deposits in connection with their ESA, but they are responsible for any damage caused by their ESA to property. In addition, landlords and airlines can reject an ESA if it is unruly and the landlord or airline determines the ESA could harm others or create a safety issue.
Another important reason to have a well-behaved ESA is that each ESA owner is an ambassador for all ESA owners. It helps all ESA owners when your ESA can demonstrate that it is a model citizen to your landlord, neighbors, flight staff and fellow passengers.
You can provide basic training for your ESA yourself. It may also be helpful to attend group training classes to assist in socializing your dog. If training is not something you are able to do by yourself, or you are a novice pet owner and need help, you can look for support from a local trainer. They will be able to give you hands-on tips on how to train your ESA.
5. Properly Use Your ESA Letter
ESA registration is not recognized by airlines or landlords.
If your licensed health care provider has determined an ESA would benefit you and has given you an ESA letter, it is now important to understand how to use your ESA letter. For housing accommodation, you should submit your ESA letter to your landlord and let them know you are requesting reasonable accommodations for your emotional support animal pursuant to Fair Housing rules. Your landlord will have 10 days to respond to your request, and can only deny you in limited circumstances such as if the ESA poses a danger to others.
For air travel, you should first determine whether your airline accepts emotional support animals. You should submit your ESA request to the airline at least 48 hours before your departure. Each airline will have its own requirements and may have special forms that need to be completed for ESA accommodation. We recommend reaching out to the airline as soon as possible to ensure you have enough time to gather all of the paperwork you will need.
Sometimes landlords will demand to see a certification or registration for your ESA. These landlords are misinformed or unaware of actual ESA regulations. Certifications and registrations do absolutely nothing to legitimately qualify an ESA. The Department of Housing has actually warned tenants against using sites that sell certificates, registration numbers or licenses for emotional support animals.
The only way to qualify an ESA for purposes of housing and airline accommodation is to obtain a letter from a licensed health care professional. Some people use the term “certification” interchangeably with obtaining an ESA letter, but there is an important distinction between those two concepts – one will validly qualify your ESA, and the other will not.
Once your landlord grants your request for accommodation of your ESA, your ESA can live in your residence even if the building, HOA or co-op has a no-pets policy. The housing provider cannot impose breed and weight restrictions and cannot charge fees or deposits relating to the ESA. If your landlord had previously charged a deposit for your pet which later qualified to become an ESA, you may be entitled to a refund of that deposit.
Once your airline has accepted your ESA documentation, you are all set to fly with your ESA in the cabin. Airlines can impose reasonable and appropriate restrictions to control the movement of ESAs in the cabin. That means the animal may be required to be kept in a pet carrier or stay on the floor at the passenger’s feet or be on a leash or tether during the flight.
Some people, unfortunately, try to pass off their pets as emotional support animals without a real ESA letter. These people will face embarrassment and rejection when their landlord or airline turns them away for not being able to provide proper documentation. It is never a good idea to pretend your pet is an ESA without proper documentation. Not only is it unethical, but it harms the reputation of legitimate ESA owners.
Emotional Support Animals Provide Real Support
Many people have found relief from debilitating mental health conditions through the companionship of an ESA. ESAs provide invaluable support that has helped countless individuals lead happy, fulfilling lives. ESA owners have testified that their ESAs help their severe depression by giving them a reason to live and go outside, provide comfort for their post-traumatic stress and relieve their anxiety allowing them to deal with their chronic insomnia.
There are many online ESA scams that take your money and claim to offer ESA letters of certification. Please check with your healthcare professional before spending any money on an online ESA site.
I hope this helps you as your pursue an ESA.
Have a meowvelous day!
Hanky Benny Berkheimer
2012 - 2020
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