If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “You’re obsessed with your dog”, I would probably be rich. My default response to this statement is something along the lines of, “Yeah, I know and I’m not sorry”. What most people don’t know about Milo is that he is an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals (ESA) can be any type of animal in which is owned in hopes to assist with mental health issues, but unlike service animals, ESAs do not require any amount of specific training. Although ESAs do not require a specific amount of training, they do fall under the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and are protected from animal restrictions in which landlords may have in place (Schoenfeld-Tacher, Hellyer, Cheung, & Kogan, 2017). Emotional support animals can help those with feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, companionship, and many other mental health issues (Schoenfeld-Tacher, Hellyer, Cheung, & Kogan, 2017).
Although there has been some negative feedback from society regarding the growing amount of emotional support animals, research has found many benefits on mental health that support the ownership of ESAs. Brooks et al. (2018), stated the following in a study concerning the impacts in which emotional support animals have on those with mental health issues, “There were significant findings for the benefits of canine companionship for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including effects on reducing feelings of loneliness, depression, worry and irritability, and increased feelings of calmness and there was some evidence for the direct effect of pets on depression and mood through close proximate contact and stroking” (p. 5).
Animals provide not only companionship, but unconditional love to their owners. This sense of companionship and love can help human owners to get through some of their hardest days, especially when nothing else seems to help. Not everyone is aware of the benefits in which emotional support animals can bring to one’s life. Yes, I will fully admit, I am completely obsessed with my dog. He brings so much light into my world on a daily basis, without even trying. His love for me is endless, as mine is for him. I don’t remember my days before getting him and I don’t want to think about the days without him. The next time you hear or see someone sharing the love they have for their dog or any animal they own, consider stopping to think about just how much the animal may be helping them in ways you cannot see.
Brooks, H. L., Rushton, K., Lovell, K., Bee, P., Walker, L., Grant, L., & Rogers, A. (2018). The
power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence. BMC Psychiatry, 18, 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1613-2
Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., Hellyer, P., Cheung, L., & Kogan, L. (2017). Public Perceptions of
Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and Therapy Dogs. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 14(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14060642