Some people can quickly feel overwhelmed by daily life. For many, living with a pet brings a sense of responsibility and motivates them to wake up each day and take care of the animal even when they don't feel like it. So-called emotional support animals, sometimes also called assistance animals, offer a great, helpful companion for everyday life. In this article you will learn everything about emotional support animals.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An Emotional Support Animal, or ESA for short, is a pet that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner through affection and companionship. The owners usually suffer from a mental disorder (e.g. anxiety disorders). The presence of an ESA is intended to alleviate the discomfort of the owners and make everyday life easier. To achieve this, ESAs should have certain standards of health, fitness, good behavior and obedience. However, an ESA does not necessarily require training and is therefore not comparable to or considered a regular pet. A service animal is individually trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
Who are ESAs suitable for?
People who get an ESA often have a mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. If you suffer from phobias, regular burnout and/or other psychological and emotional illnesses, you may also qualify for an ESA. Having a service animal in your life can help you get back into a routine and encourage you to get up and go outside. Service animals are also helpful when it comes to calming you down during an anxiety or panic attack and getting help or support from other people. Some animals can even remind you to take your medication. And most importantly, you have a friend by your side who is always ready to help you in any situation.
Even if you don't suffer from mental health issues, having a pet can be a great addition to your life.
How can I register for an ESA?
There is no official registration database for emotional support animals in Germany. Instead, all applications for an ESA must be made through a letter from a mental health professional. If you do not already have a therapist, psychiatrist or neurologist, you can also request a confirmation letter from ESA services such as ESA Doctors or CertaPet. Issuing a certificate from these organizations involves costs and a psychological examination. Once you've received your certificate, it's a good idea to have it with you at all times, especially if you're taking your ESA into certain buildings or on air travel that typically don't allow animals. There are non-profit projects like ESA Europe where you can register the ESA Europe Card. The ESA Europe Card proves that you are authorized to have your animal close by at all times and that you can take it with you to public facilities.
You can also train for your ESA with certain associations that offer training for assistance dogs. This usually takes 12-24 months and can cost up to €20,000. Unfortunately, these costs are not covered by insurance.
What animals make the best ESAs?
Dogs are usually best suited as ESAs. Not only are they accepted into most establishments, but they are also very social and obedient animals that can be easily trained to take on a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Dogs like golden retrievers and labradors, who are naturally calmer, do best as service animals. Fun Fact: From a squirrel to a duck, there are all kinds of animals that have been registered as ESAs by humans ( https://bestlifeonline.com/emotional-support-animals/ ). Whether these animals would also be accepted in Germany is of course another topic, but in general you don't necessarily have to have a dog as an ESA, especially if you're not a big dog fan anyway.
The second best alternative is a cat that is quiet and large. Sometimes cats are more acceptable in certain establishments as they are considered clean and not disruptive to others. Cats are popular as ESAs primarily because of their size and calm demeanor.
Regardless of which animal you ultimately choose, there are certain things to look out for:
A) Make sure you can take your pet anywhere (even if you show your pet's certificate, you may be denied entry/entry to certain locations) and
B) Make sure you have the means to care for your animal. This includes, for example, a sufficiently large living area, the right food, enough exercise, etc.
Although your pet's primary purpose is to support you, you should also be able to care for your animal and provide it with a decent living.