A couple of our great KIT audience members have emotional support animals.  That's an official designation, not just an proud owner's pronouncement. In fact, it takes a letter from a qualified medical or mental health professional to seal the deal.

Let's take a moment or two learn a little more in an effort to support our friends and neighbors who rely on the comfort and support provided by Emotional Support Animals (EAS).  Starting with a definition -"An emotional support animal (ESA) is a type of animal that provides comfort to help relieve a symptom or effect of a person's disability. Under U.S. law, an emotional support animal is not a pet and is generally not restricted by species."

Reread that last part...an ESA is not a pet....and it's also NOT a service animal.  Service animals have specific training to help the owner with certain functions like guide dogs help blind people get around the community.  ESA's don't require training but they may be trained. Wikipedia says  "emotional support animals ...need not be formally trained to perform any tasks to mitigate mental illness. Any animal that provides support, comfort, or aid, to an individual through companionship, unconditional positive regard, and affection may be regarded as an emotional support animal"

The advantage to an ESA designation is that people with mental health disabilities can be exempted from certain federal housing and sometimes travel rules if they own an emotional support animal. The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability  The animal is viewed as a "reasonable accommodation" under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA or FHAct) to those housing communities that have a "no pets" rule.

Cynical guys like me have often wondered if Emotional Support Animals are legit or are they just favored pets with clever owners getting over on the system.  And now we know!

Science says emotional support animals actually provide legitimate emotional support. According to University of Toledo researchers, people with serious illnesses like chronic anxiety or depression who adopted a pet saw a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, and loneliness concluding there is a place for emotional support animals as partners in health and well-being.

A pretty good summation of state law regarding service and support animals can be found HERE