Turning your dog into an emotional support animal, or ESA, can be a bit controversial as some people use the certification to bypass “no pets” laws for housing and getting their pets into hotels, airplanes, and other businesses that are generally pet-unfriendly. When researching the topic, I found folks on both sides who were happy to share their thoughts on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to certifying your animal.
Ultimately, I decided to turn Coconut into an ESA dog for a few reasons. While quietly overcoming my own Post Traumatic Stress from a foot injury that resulted in hospitalization, the near loss of my foot and a long rehabilitation process, I discovered that Coconut was a big help in speeding my recovery. Once home with my family again, it became apparent to me that we all needed her around us. She’s part of our family and her presence not only calms me down but always brings smiles to other people around her.
If you want to legitimately certify your dog (and I suggest you do it this way) you have to go through a process that, while not regulated by the government, is monitored by healthcare professionals. Not all of those applying for the ESA certification are guaranteed to receive one. I had to take a battery of tests online and then interview with the counselors and psychiatrists who make a determination as to whether or not your situation qualifies. Clearly, Coconut’s presence helps tremendously with my emotional well-being so I proceeded with the ESA certification process.
I did the certification through Chilhowee Psychological Services, a company that specializes in the prescription of ESA and psychiatric service animals (PSAs). At the conclusion you receive a letter stating that you need this animal for emotional support and that your ESA can be with you in most reasonable conditions. Following that, I went ahead and registered Coconut through the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR) so that we could have an ID badge and she’d be 100% legit!
Coconut is going to start working in the pediatric ward of Stony Brook Hospital soon, so she can “earn her keep” while bringing love and comfort to children in need!