5 Tips to helping your dog earn a therapy dog vest
Emotional support dogs are animals that provide company to patients who suffer from emotional or mental disabilities. If you have a dog that you want to register as an Emotional Support Animal or ESA, here are 5 tips to help your dog earn that therapy dog vest.
- Get an ESA evaluation letter
The first step in making your dog an emotional support animal is to get an ESA evaluation letter written by a licensed mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed therapists, and licensed clinical social workers. Your ESA letter won’t count if it doesn’t come from the mentioned medical practitioners. It’s also wise to avoid getting endorsed by a family doctor as this could risk your letter being dishonored. This letter serves as a recommendation that you are indeed qualified for an emotional support animal. You can show this to your airlines and your landlord to justify being accompanied by a therapy dog. This letter must be renewed on an annual basis as needed.
Note that there is no official ESA group that handles registration. You don’t need to get registered or have your dog registered to some group. Any organization that solicits payment for registering your dog as an ESA is a scam, so be careful.
- Know if you qualify as an ESA owner
Having an emotional disability legally qualifies you for an emotional support animal. The DSM-IV or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Version IV or V lists mental and emotional disorders that would entitle you to get a service or therapy animal. Here are some of them:
- Anxiety Depression
- Learning disorders
- Sexual Disorder
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Cognitive disorders
- Mental retardation
- Panic attacks
… and so on.
- Be a responsible ESA owner
The federal law of the United States protects emotional support animals so make sure that you treat them with care. Don’t take your animal for granted and work to strengthen your relationship with them. After all, they keep you from getting distressed so you should love them back. Aside from your duties as a regular pet owner, feeding, walking, grooming, and so on, you also have to be mindful of the several ESA privileges out there. Always carry your ESA letter with you whenever you’re travelling with your therapy dog. If you’re flying, inform your airline in advance about your ESA status so they could prepare for it. By law you are entitled to have your ESA onboard on the plane.
- Get a therapy dog vest
While it’s not mandatory for emotional support animals to sport an ESA vest, it’s advisable to invest in one for practical reasons. ESA vests come in several types and has a lot of features. They’re ready to wear and the can be customized per your dog’s size. It includes a label that says “Emotional Support” so it’s easier to explain to establishments why you need to bring a dog with you. It’s made with high quality materials for strength and durability, and works well under hot and humid weather conditions. A heavy D-ring is also available for attaching a leash, and it’s perfectly adjustable to provide comfort for your ESA.
- Consider ESA trainings for your dog
While a lot of owners think “upgrading” your pet to ESA status is easy and would grant you more privileges as a pet owner, being an ESA owner is more than that. While it’s not required for ESA to undergo training unlike service animals, it sure helps to train them about the basics. If your condition gets worse and you feel the need to get a service animal instead, know that you can have your ESA animal trained as a service dog. This requires certification.