Wait, so where do emotional support animals fit in?
ESAs are companion animals that medical professionals (such as a psychiatrist or appropriate licensed professional) prescribe to patients with physical, psychiatric or intellectual disabilities. For example, an ESA might be prescribed to ease a person’s debilitating anxiety or PTSD. Still, they receive no special training or regulated certification, nor are they required to by law. ESAs provide emotional comfort, companionship, friendship and affection to their owners, ideally helping them to function better when grappling with mental health challenges including depression, anxiety and PTSD. Also, they do not have to be dogs! Rabbits, horses, turtles, pigs and rodents are sometimes designated ESAs.
Can you bring an emotional support animal everywhere you go?
This is where it gets tricky. Emotional support animals do not receive the same legal protection or uninhibited access as service dogs—you also can't just call your ESA a therapy dog without the right training. In order to live with an emotional support animal in housing that prohibits pets, or bring one into the cabin of an airplane, a note from a doctor or mental health professional is usually required. Private establishments like restaurants and shops are not obligated by law to allow ESAs. As a result, despite providing legitimate mental health assistance, their presence may whip up controversy. See the fashion blogger’s Frenchie booted from Soho House or Dexter the Peacock who ruffled feathers trying to board a United flight out of Newark.