People tend to think of their animals as part of their family. They provide unconditional love and are there by your side through the good and the bad. That’s just the everyday value that a family pet provides. For those battling lupus, depression can be overwhelming, a feeling of loss of what was once your life. Some have no family support, so getting a service animal can be a way to receive some needed emotional support.
Emotional support animals are not like service animals; while both require a medical professional to assess the patient, they provide very different services. A service animal is actually a trained animal, usually a dog or, interestingly enough, a miniature horse (for those of us who always wanted a pony as kids, here’s your chance). The rule here, however, is for an actual service animal you must be wheelchair-bound, blind or deaf. These animals are trained to do certain tasks and recognize when the person they are caring for is having a medical crisis and be able to assist.
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is not a trained animal, but does still require the owner to see a medical professional. These animals are for people who are emotionally or psychologically disabled. So, if you are battling depression, anxieties or PTSD, you could qualify for an ESA.
One of the nice things about these animals is that, unlike a service animal (in most cases a dog), an ESA can be any variety of animal. If you have a current pet and qualify under the specific disabilities that are considered emotional or psychological, and if they provide you the love and companionship you need, you can apply to have them become your ESA. The wonderful thing about this is they are now protected under certain laws that fall within the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This allows you to take them places that your average family pet cannot go.
I am not an animal person. However, recently I stayed with a dear friend for a month and she has a dog. On a particularly painful lupus day, her dog would not leave my side. Only when the pain subsided did he finally go back to his “standard routine.” He wouldn’t even go to his owner when called. These animals really do learn to provide comfort when needed and, while I am no dog lover, I actually appreciated the attention that day. This dog, Rusty Bear (pictured with me) has a special place in my heart and showed me the importance of some unconditional love.
If you are considering an ESA, speak to your healthcare professional about the requirements. Also make sure to see what the ADA has to say about the protections provided for them as well because there are some protections not afforded to the ESA that are granted to a service animal. Be sure to do your homework.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.