Emotional support animals are becoming more common in the United States. But as it happens questions arise of the legalities and who actually qualifies to have a support animal.
"They’re kind of a natural antidepressant for people. They can be really soothing," said licensed therapist Sarah McLean.
Emotional support animals provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for a person suffering from various mental and emotional conditions.
"Research shows being with your animal, cat or a dog, petting them, spending time with them releases oxytocin which is a love hormone," said McLean.
An emotional support animal can assist with various kinds of mental and emotional conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
"Mental health is a pretty common experience in our community and in our society," said Director of Behavioral Health Services Peter McCorison.
The National Institute of Mental Health show that more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States have some sort of mental disorder.
"Presque Isle Maine was the most searched for anxiety treatment like in the United States. A lot of people struggle with anxiety up here and I see a lot of people with anxiety and depression, trauma," said McLean.
"Most people that have mental health challenges develop ways to manage and to thrive regardless of what they’re confronted with. But then there’s others that need to get some additional support and that can come in the form of counseling, that can come in the form of support groups, that can come in the form of a support animal," said McCorison.
Support animals are often identified by wearing a vest or tag, letting the public know it is an emotional support animal. The animal is meant solely for emotional stability and unconditional love. They are not required to perform any specific tasks for a disability like services dogs.
"Most everyone really should have one, they really can help us feel so much better about ourselves and help us in so many ways," said McLean.
And in many ways, experts say these animals do help. On Tuesday in part two of the Emotional Support Animal Series we’ll tell you how you can start the process of getting your pet registered as a support animal.