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It’s important to note that an emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal and is not protected by the ADA. A service animal is a pet that is specially trained to perform a task to assist someone with a disability. Often, these tasks are physical in nature. Examples include retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, assistance with clothing, alerting their owner to sounds that they can’t hear, or even calling medical assistance.
In contrast, an emotional support animal offers psychiatric assistance. While the list is extensive, some of the most common reasons someone may benefit from an emotional support animal is to help with:
- Panic Attacks
- Stress Alleviation
- Fighting Depression
- Social Anxiety
While some service dogs are also trained to offer psychiatric help, the training is not a requirement for an emotional support animal.
Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal
One of the primary advantages is that, as long as it is registered, an emotional support animal has similar legal rights as a service animal. While they may be restricted from some areas, such as restaurants and grocery stores, many public and private organizations will waive their pet fees.
In addition to being allowed to accompany their owner, emotional support animals are allowed to remain in “no pets” housing or housing where pets are restricted, as long as a request for a modification is made.
Furthermore, emotional support animals have proven to offer tremendous support–physically and mentally–to thousands of people who struggle with a disability. Many individuals consider them an essential figure in their everyday living.
How to Register an Emotional Support Animal
There are plenty of websites online that offer quick and inexpensive registration options. HOWEVER, this is neither necessary nor recommended.
The only legitimate way to certify your emotional support animal is to meet with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. There’s certainly a temptation to quick and easy online forms, but it’s essential to seek professional affirmation. This is especially true if you plan to apply for disability benefits. Being assigned an emotional support animal by a medical professional helps build credibility to your overall case.
After evaluation, both the owner and the professional will fill out the form together, listing the tasks that the support animal can perform, and the areas in which they offer a calming effect. The form will then be filed, and the date of registration will be listed on it.
Do Support Animals Convince the SSA You Have a Qualifying Disability?
One question that often comes up is whether an emotional support animal can help convince the SSA that you have a disability or make it easier to get approved. Unfortunately, the simple answer is no. The SSA’s definition of disability is not a simple one, and everyone must undergo an approval process.
If you do have a disability as defined by the SSA, your lump sum payment can often cover the initial costs of adopting an emotional support animal.
In order to receive disability benefits, you must either have a physical or mental condition that is long-term (or that is expected to last for at least 12 months). This includes conditions that are difficult to diagnose and that may not have been outwardly obvious.
Here’s How Our Disability Representative Can Help!
As a local representative, our disability advocate will know your case from start to finish. We’ll be involved every step of the way, and you’ll speak to the same person every time. Our goal is to make your case the easiest one to approve.
For that reason, we don’t just fine-tune what you have and put it together in a cut-and-paste format. We’ll meticulously review your case and provide feedback on the weak areas of your application and offer clear directions on what information we need and where you can find them.
Whether you’ve already begun the application process or are just getting started, we encourage you to schedule a FREE consultation to help determine the best strategy for your case. Our mission is to eliminate the red tape and mountains of paperwork so you can focus on your health and the things that matter.
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The Resource Center Disability Services
Springfield, MO 65804