Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals

//Victoria Coffman//

Within the past couple years, Mountain Vista has launched the therapy dog program as a way to help students dealing with stress and anxiety, and it has been widely successful. Students come to visit the therapy dogs every day to destress and reduce anxiety, which is a proven outcome of being with dogs and other animals. However if you are like many, you’d be wishing that with college approaching fast, you could just pack the therapy dogs in your suitcase to bring with you and help yourself make it through. Well, it’s time you know, you can.

If you believe you have, or have been diagnosed, with a mental illness or impairment, acquiring an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)could be extremely helpful for the upcoming years of moving out on your own, going to college, and making big life decisions.

Here Is What You Need To Know:

An Emotional Support Animal is pet that offers you comfort and emotional support (obviously), and does not have to be professionally trained but should have basic training (In simpler terms, it must be house-trained and be in control of themselves). ESA’s are a great option for students with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses to have extra support when they go to college.

Examples of ESA’s are dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and pets who provide physical comfort. (The laws don’t state that ESA’s can’t be pets such as fish, but I’m sure not many would take a fish as a serious emotional support pet.)  The pet can live with the student in their dorm, however other rules vary by college, apartment or airport.

Emotional Support Animals are NOT considered service animals under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). They can be allowed into public areas that do not allow pet access, but only if the management of the public area grants permission. Public areas do not have to allow your ESA on the property.


ESA’s are protected under two laws:

The Fair Housing Act allows ESA’s to live anywhere with their owner despite properties disallowing pets.

The Air Carrier Access laws allow ESA’s to accompany their owners on flights free of charge.


Eligibility to get an ESA:

You must be diagnosed with a mental illness that is considered an impairment. Due to ESA’s not having a government based registry, there are many different organizations that can register your pet, however the paperwork and legitimacy must be there. The proof required for an ESA is a letter from your doctor/psychiatrist stating your disorder and that you have an ESA to help with the disorder. Dependant on the place, such as airports, colleges, or apartments, the necessary paperwork varies. It is important to contact beforehand and inquire about what paperwork and what formats are required.

If you have a mental illness, find pets extremely comforting,  and the upcoming years are daunting to you, I highly recommend looking into getting an Emotional Support Animal.

Emotional Support Animals are not highly heard of but they are worth looking into if you have a mental illness or impairment and could use extra support for transitioning away from home, making substantial life decisions, or simply becoming an adult and doing things on your own.

For more information on ESA’s, visit the US Dog Registry website.


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