ESAs, on the other hand, are untrained and do not have specific work, so they are not assistance animals. Plus, they can be any animal. "These animals provide the sole purpose of emotional support," says Molly Crossman, a doctoral student in clinical study at Yale University, author of a study on the impact of animals on human psychological distress.
ESAs are not protected by the ADA. Instead, it's the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act that give comforted animals the right to accompany people on board an airplane. or give them access to homes without pets. Someone who wants to declare his pet ESA must receive a letter from a mental health professional stating that he has a psychological disability and that the animal is needed for treatment.
But here's the thing: it's really easy to get a letter claiming you need an ESA. Just Google's "animal emotional support letter", and you'll find that it's quite easy to get a remote one from a therapist (for a fee, of course).
Perhaps this is part of the reason why ESAs have enjoyed a years popularity. A United Airlines spokesman told USA Today that the company had recorded a 75% increase in ESA on its flights since 2016.
Do emotional support animals help even people ?!
The short answer: Maybe, but we do not know for sure. "The emotional support animals have not really been studied directly," says Crossman, and the research that exists is contradictory. "It's hard to look at someone and in the context of many lifestyle factors and determine the role of the pet," she says.
Since ESA studies are particularly lacking, experts then examine the general effect of interacting with animals on the immediate mental health of someone. Research shows that there is a small improvement in symptoms, notes Crossman. But this may be due to a variety of other factors, and it is difficult to determine whether the benefit comes from the animal itself or from the interaction with the animal handler. , or both.
Is emotional support animals simply a way to fly the system free of charge to pets?
Of course, there are people who have abused the system to get animals. These people worry about Crossman – as do the crazy maneuvers of the ESA that are sometimes carried on planes. "I'm afraid it will end up accidentally stigmatizing mental illness," says Crossman. These high-profile stories can also lead to questioning or denial of access to places with their service dogs, which complicates their task.
Bottom line, adds Crossman: "We want to do what we can for people with mental illness, but we should not do things for people before we know if they are effective or not. just want to see your puppy for what she is: a master snuggled.