Emotional Support Animal Series Part 2

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On Tuesday in part two of the emotional support animal series we take a look at what you need in order to get your pet registered as a support animal.

"When I'm not feeling good, he'll sit right on my lap, he just basically knows when I'm not feeling the best. Cus I'd probably be in bed all day if I didn't have him," said emotional support animal owner Donna Philbrook.

Philbrook recently got her dog Bandit, registered as an emotional support animal.

"I was always talking about him and she realized how much he really did for me, because like I said I probably wouldn't be functioning too much," said Philbrook.

In order to start the process of getting a pet registered as an emotional support animal Philbrook needed a letter from a licensed medical professional. The letter needed to explain why she would benefit from having a support animal.

"All I needed was to have a note from my therapist basically stating that's why I have him," said Philbrook.

"I have written many letters over the years to help people. Dogs especially can help people be more active. Because you have to go out and walk your dog, basically, at least one or twice or three times a day. So that boosts people's exercise and physical activity which also releases dopamine as well. It really helps people in a lot of ways with their mental and physical health which is important," said licensed therapist Sarah McLean.

But there is some controversy surrounding support animals.

"One of the challenges of having an animal is that you've got to care for it, or someone needs to care for it. It's 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So if that's a dog or a cat, or some other animal it does place a specific burden on it, on you. So I think everybody needs to assess if they have the capacity to care for another living creature," said Director of Behavioral Health Services Peter McCorison.

"Sometimes you get these people who have animals that don't take care of them and they ruin a place. And it makes it harder for people like myself or anybody else who's got an emotional support dog," said Philbrook.

To determine if a patient would benefit from having a support animal, McLean develops a relationship with them before writing a letter of recommendation.

"I wouldn't want to write a letter to just anyone. So hopefully people can come in for treatment and assessment and I can assess and determine and be able to write an authentic letter explaining how it helps that person," said McLean.

Once you have met with a licensed mental professional who can verify you have a mental or emotional disability they can write you a letter. You then can take the next steps to get your pet registered as an emotional support animal.

On Wednesday in part three of the Emotional Support Animal Series we'll tell you where your support animal is allowed and what your rights are.