February being the “love” month, we thought it may be appropriate to kick-off the month talking about some of our favorite furry creatures! In the past we have discussed the benefits of pet relationships and the positive effects that these relationships can have on one’s health and wellbeing.
With the uncertainty of a disease such as MS, individuals may feel comforted knowing that an animal has had some level of training or certification to meet a specific need. But what do the different titles mean? And which might be the best for your situation?
A Therapy Animal is not defined by federal law and may (or may not) be loosely defined by state laws. The primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to individuals, mostly those that live in communities such as nursing homes, or hospitals and schools. Their owners are registered members of an Animal Therapy program, and bring the animals in to visit with clients.
A Service Animal is one that has been specifically trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Different states have different regulations in terms of licensing or certification requirements for service animals. You can check with the office of the Attorney General in your state to discover how service animals are defined and licensed.
An Emotional Support Animal, or companion animal, is a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. The animal is included as part of the treatment plan and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological challenges.
Emotional Support Animals, specifically dogs should be able to:
- Walk beside you without straining against the leash
- Sit on command
- Come when called
- Lie down on command
- Show no aggression toward humans or other animals when unprovoked
For more information, or to register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal, visit the National Service Animal Registry website and complete the brief form and pay the registration fee.
By completing this process and certifying your pet as an Emotional Support Animal, you are protecting yourself in several situations. There are laws that protect individuals with service or emotional support animals, including housing and landlord/tenant laws.
While pets require a certain level of commitment and responsibility, this may not be appropriate for everyone’s situation. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the love of an animal.
There are non-profits throughout the country that provide visiting pet services. PAWS for People™ is a non-profit committed to providing therapeutic visits to individuals within their service community who would benefit from interaction with a well-trained, loving pet. To find programs in your area, search “therapy animal” and your city.
Show your #PetLove and share your favorite #MSAAPets stories about you & your pet with us!
For additional information, please visit the sites below:
NSAR- National Service Animal Registry: https://www.nsarco.com/; 866-737-3930
Paws for People: http://www.pawsforpeople.org/; 302-351-5622
Canines Companion for Independence: www.cci.org;1-800-572-BARK (2275)
Paws with a Cause: www.pawswithacause.org; 800-253-7297
Pet Partners: www.petpartners.org; 425-679-5500
Service Dogs for America: www.servicedogsforamerica.org; 701-685-2242
Service Dogs for Independence: www.servicedogsforindependence.com; 520-909-0531