Have you seen that graphic on social media somewhere that claims that for only $60, you can add your pet to a registry of “emotional support animals” and then it would be illegal for a landlord to refuse to let you keep the pet or charge any kind of “pet” fee? Well, it turns out that most of that is garbage, but before I break that down for you, I need to introduce you to someone.
Meet Sir Nigel, my emotional support animal.
We suspect that he had a family before us (he had a collar, already knew what the litter box was, etc.) but was dumped onto the street as a kitten. He was so malnourished when we took him in, that his vet assumed he was a month younger than he was.
In the time it took for us to realize that his original owners were not coming back for him, we had fallen deeply in love.
While I still struggle with symptoms of depression, I noticed a few weeks into Nigel living with us, that I hadn’t had a suicidal thought since before his rescue. In the 10 months we’ve had him, the number of severe depressive episodes I have dropped from as many as 4-5 times a week, to less than 5 times since he’s lived with us. Not only did we save his life, but in a lot of ways, he has saved mine.
So if this registry for emotional support animals is nonsense, how come I have one? While no formal registry for emotional support animals exists, legislation regarding fair housing opportunities for disabled persons, include the right to animals in circumstances that a qualified health professional “prescribes” them. This legislation was not intended to be a loophole to force landlords to accept pets on their properties, but rather allows for individuals who have a legitimate medical need for an animal to be able to keep one.
If you suffer from any chronic illness (especially mental illnesses) that you feel could be mitigated with an emotional support animal, you can talk to your doctor or mental health professional (which you should have if you have a chronic condition. Some websites will hook you up with a professional, for a fee, for the purpose of getting a note; be wary of scams though) to see if an ESA would be a good option for you, and get the “prescription” directly from them. However, you should keep in mind that your chronic condition could prevent you from being able to properly take care of your animal, ensure that your ESA does not destroy your home or pose a threat to others (all of those things being legal reasons for your landlord to evict you and/or your ESA), or you may better manage your condition through other means.
Have any other questions about ESA’s? Want to hear about other ways I manage my depression? Please let me know in the comments below!