Animals serve as amazing companions, loyal protectors, and, for some, they can even save your life. There are many different ways in which an animal can support those with mental or physical disabilities. Provided below are three main areas in which animals can enrich your life and provide you necessary assistance, love, and support.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are beneficial to individuals that are suffering from severe mental health disorders. They are companion animals that provide therapeutic support, unconditional love, and comfort to those in need. Mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional conditions that cause severe symptoms to the point that it disables individuals. Dogs and cats typically fulfill the role of an emotional support animal, but other domestic animals can be trained as well. These animals are not required to receive specialized training or perform certain tasks for a disability, however, making sure that they are housebroken and well behaved around other people and animals is highly recommended.

Under The Fair Housing Amendments Act, individuals are granted the right to live with your emotional support animal despite living in an apartment or resident that bans pets. It is necessary to provide a current letter from your doctor or mental health professional stating their recommendation for your emotional support animal to a landlord. This letter can also be used when traveling on an airplane, under the Air Carrier Access Act you are allowed to fly with your emotional support animal.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals, typically dogs, play a special role in providing comfort and affection to individuals in a hospital, retirement home, nursing home, hospice, schools, or other situations that will support those in need. There are three main classifications of therapy animals:

Therapeutic Visitation Animals: These are household pets that are trained and taken to hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and other locations, who provide comfort and joy for people that are living away from home due to mental or physical illnesses.

Animal Assisted Therapy Animals: These animals work with physical and occupational therapists in a rehabilitation setting to assist individuals in meeting their recovery goals.

Facility Therapy Animals: These animals work in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. They assist residents that have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other mental illnesses, and are generally cared for and provided by the facility.

To have an animal become certified as a therapy animal they must be well-tempered, obedient, clean and well-groomed, current on all vaccines, well behaved around other dogs and strangers, at least one year of age, and well socialized. They must also pass an examination to test their obedience and temperament. Most therapy groups may also require that the animal passes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. It is important to contact a local therapy dog organization in your area to learn more about their specific certification requirements and to schedule an examination.

Service Dogs

Service Dogs are really amazing because they can be trained to support a wide array of disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Some of these special types of service dogs include Seizure Response Dogs, Psychiatric Service Animals, Autism Assistance Dogs, Mobility Support Dogs, Medical Alert Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Severe Allergy Alert Dogs, Visual Assistance Dogs, and Diabetic Alert Dogs. Service dogs are allowed in all public and private facilities and businesses unless their presence would interfere with the safety obligations of the facility.

When the Case Managers at Feinberg Consulting are hired to provide support to individuals and families in need, they look at a wide array of rehabilitative and recovery resources that match the need of their clients. That may even include a visit from man’s best friend. From recovering from a catastrophic car accident, substance use disorder, or aging health concern, therapy animals can provide incredible support and comfort during times of need. If you or a loved one could benefit from case management services, call 877.538.5425 to speak to a professional today.

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. .
Wisch, Rebecca F. “FAQs on Emotional Support Animals.” Animal Legal & Historical Center. Michigan State University College of Law, 2015.
“Service Animals.” Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. National Network Information, Guidance, and Training on the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2014.

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