Day to day life can be overwhelming to some people. For many, having a pet in their life gives them a sense of responsibility and motivates them to wake up every day to take care of it, even if they don't feel like it. And these pets can be beneficial to humans too! So-called emotional support animals can be a great companion to guide and help you through your everyday life. Find out more here:
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
The Emotional Support Animal, or short for ESA, is a pet that offers therapeutic benefits through affection and company to its owner. The owner usually suffers from a mental dysfunction or phobias (fear of flying, claustrophobia, etc). The presence of an ESA should be able to calm the owner's anxiety and support their everyday life. In order to do that the ESA should have the required health, physical aptitude, good behavior, and obedience. However, an ESA doesn't necessarily require training and is therefore not comparable to and not considered a service pet. A service pet is individually trained to perform certain tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
Who should get an Emotional Support Animal?
People who get an ESA usually suffer from a mental health dysfunction, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. If you have phobias, regular burnouts, and/or other psychological and emotional illnesses, you can also qualify for an ESA. Having a pet in your life can help you find back to a routine. Pets can encourage you to do simple things like waking up and going outdoors. But they are also very supportive in calming you down during an anxiety or panic attack and get help or support from other people. Some can even remind you to take your medications. And most importantly, you have a friend by your side who is always ready to help you.
Even if you don't suffer from any mental health issues, a regular pet can be a great addition to your life.
How To Register
In Germany, there is no official registration database for emotional support animals. Instead, all requests for an ESA must be confirmed with a letter from a certified mental health professional. If you do not already have a mental health professional (like a therapist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, for example) you can also request a confirmation letter from ESA services like ESA Doctors or CertaPet. Getting a certificate from these kinds of organizations will come with costs as well as a mental health exam. As soon as you receive your letter, make sure to always carry a copy of it with you, especially when going on a flight or entering buildings where animals are usually not allowed. There are non-profit projects, like ESA Europe, where you can sign up for the so-called ESAeurope Card that shows that you meet all the requirements to keep your animal near you and to be able to take it with you in public facilities.
Additionally, you can get training for your ESA from associations that offer dog assistance training. This usually takes 12-24 months and can cost up to 20 000 €. Unfortunately, these costs will not be covered by any insurance.
What animals make the best ESA?
The best type of pet to have as an ESA are typically dogs. Not only are they accepted in most facilities, but they are also very social and obedient animals that can be easily trained to handle any task and responsibility. Naturally calm dogs, like golden retrievers and labradors, make the best support animals. Of course, there are multiple cases of people having all sorts of animals as their support pets. From squirrels to ducks and even spiders, there's everything in between. And most of them get accepted. Perhaps not in Germany, but this is just to give you an idea that you do not necessarily have to have a dog as an ESA, especially if you're not much of a dog person. The second-best alternative is a cat with a calm demeanor and great size. Sometimes cats are more accepted in facilities as they are seen as clean and non-disturbing to others.
Whatever animal you choose, make sure that you A) can take your animal with you wherever you go (even if you show a certificate for your animal, you may be refused entry) and B) have the right means to take care of it, e.g. a big enough space, the right food, enough exercise, etc. Even if your pet is there to mainly support you, you also should be able to support your pet and provide a healthy life for it.