Steps for getting an emotional support dog
Residents, here’s how to get an ESA in a building with a no-pet policy
People who wanted pets before are really poking their heads into kennels, shelters and (unfortunately) puppy mills nowadays. Depending on the state you live in, social isolation is either still just as strong as it was in March or weakening by the fall. But while you’re working from home or twiddling your thumbs looking for another job, stress can become that involuntary mood in your home.
According to the American Institute of Stress, “social isolation, bereavement, an inability to care for others, and lack of zest for work and daily activities are associated with increased susceptibility to illness, depression and loneliness. Caring for and looking after other living things, regardless of whether they are people, pets or plants seems to provide a powerful buffer against such problems by somehow promoting the healing ways of nature.”
If you live in a pet-friendly neighborhood, finding a dog that suits your daily physical capabilities (and aspirations to strengthen them) shouldn’t be a problem. Pick the one that you like. Get him vaccinated. Invest in training. Buy all the dog food and pet supplies you need, and voila, you have a new four-legged friend and stress reliever.
But what do you do when you’re really invested in getting a dog, but your condo or apartment will not allow dogs in the building? If simply asking your landlord or the Board of Directors of your condo association didn’t do the trick, or it initially goes against your bylaws (or lease), you will have to prove that this dog is as much of a mental health need as it is a want. Here’s what you need to do, according to the United States Dog Registry.
Before you can identify this dog as an emotional support dog, you must have letters signed by licensed doctors and therapists. (Common mental traits that may help you qualify include anxiety; coping; depression; irritability; loneliness; mood swings; obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD; panic attacks; post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD; worry.) You must be able to prove that a condition above is affecting your overall health and happiness, and this pet is directly connected to helping you cope with this condition.
Fill out the “Emotional Support Animal Registration” form. Emotional Support Animals are protected under federal law by the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This helps the dog owner for travel and housing needs. Even if you don’t have a doctor’s letter, you can pay to have an electronic or print document along with a pet kit (prices range from $49 to $198, not including shipping and handling). You will still need to have your condition reviewed by a licensed practitioner and approved before you can travel with or house this animal.
Do research on what kinds of breeds, sizes and/or weight limitations would go against your current residential pet policy (if applicable). While you may be able to get an emotional support dog, even if they are not allowed in your building, don’t go nuts and pick a dog that even dog-friendly buildings would shy away from. You don’t want to make fighting to have a particular dog become a bigger issue than having any dog.
If done correctly, you will legally be able to live with your emotional support dog without fees — even if there is a current no-pet policy in your building. This dog can be your travel companion, fee-less, too. And if for some reason it still does not work out (or you’d rather just wait and move to another residence), the USDR’s guarantee confirms you’ll get your money back in full.
Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 476 completed walks with 77 dogs, eight dog-housesittings and six dog boardings at the time of this publication.
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