I feel like an important subject often left out of health discussion is pets. Pets are considered family in many American households. For me, and many others, pets serve as important health supports. Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals are great assistive aids for people with disabilities.
Service animals are dogs who have been trained to perform certain tasks which assist their owner in everyday living. This can include guiding the blind, pulling a wheelchair and/or reminding their owner to take medication. Service animals are protected under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which allows owners to bring their service dog into places used by the public such as hospitals and restaurants.
Assistance Animals, also known as Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are not formally trained and can include many different animals such as cats, reptiles, and birds. ESA’s are typically used by those with mental health issues. I am personally a big advocate for the use of pets in therapy and I feel like they should be utilized more. One of my cats is legally considered an ESA who has, in my opinion, saved my life. To obtain an ESA, you need a note from a mental health professional. Although I feel that pets should be used more in health treatment, we need more regulations in place, as there has been a recent trend of people abusing the current ones. There is currently a large online market, where sites sell phony ESA certification papers and advertise phone consultations from a ‘medical expert,’ so a consumer can easily obtain the required note.
ESA’s and Service Animals are protected under The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. The Fair Housing Act requires a rental company to accept the animal regardless of their pet policy, as ESA’s and Service Animals are not legally considered pets, they are assistive aids. It also waives any fees normally associated with pets such as pet rent or pet deposit. The Air Carrier Access Act requires an airline to allow pets onboard the flight. It also waives any travel fees that typically apply to pets.
Service Animal: a dog who has received special training to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities.
Emotional Support Animal: assistive aids used by those with disabilities.
Americans with Disabilities Act: regulations put in place on bossiness and local/state governments to protect those with disabilities and to ensure equal opportunity.
Air Carrier Access Act: regulations which prevent discrimination in transportation services.
The Fair Housing Act: federal regulations put in place to protect a buyer or renter from discrimination.