Emotional support animals help alleviate humans’ worry, and they provide comfort and to mitigate any feeling of isolation and loneliness, wholly improving someone’s mental health conditions.

“An emotional support animal is just how it sounds. They provide support to individuals who typically struggle elevated anxiety. Maybe they’ve got a mood disorder, like depression… and an animal can provide them comfort and provide that additional support,” said Scott Rasmussen, program manager from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare – Behavioral Health Division.

He added that not anyone can have an emotional support animal, they must receive a diagnosis first. The treatment provider may write a letter suggesting a companion animal would provide benefits to the condition that they have been diagnosed with.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not have any specific training needed to qualify them as one. They just need to be healthy, capable and well-tempered to qualify some standards of approval, which a veterinarian will determine to provide an emotional support letter.

“Our role is to make sure that pet is healthy and that it’s able to handle that role,” said Dr. Zsigmond Szanto, owner and medical director of the Twin Falls Veterinary Clinic and Hospital. “It’s also important that these pets are safe to others. We hear stories about an emotional support Pitbull that nipped a five-year-old child in an airport, or a cat trying to scratch somebody trying to pet the kitty. So, it is stressful for them to be surrounded by unknown people and sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

“It’s the consistency. They don’t judge you. They accept you and that’s really powerful. They’re definitely great, emotional support for all of us,” he added.

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