Advice, Lifestyle

How, why to certify your pet as an ESA

It’s been a lonely year for many of us, myself included. But despite my longing for human connection — and the lack thereof — I have come out of this global catastrophe with a silver lining: a newfound appreciation for my animals. Now, pets have always been an important part of my life. My parents and I have done it all, housing anything from hamsters to hermit crabs. But when the pandemic hit and caused my OCD symptoms to spike

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Registering your pet as an Emotional Support Animal can provide comfort and improve your mental health. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

and spiral out of control, I found myself relying on my dog Millie to keep my anxiety in check more and more.

I had heard of people having emotional support animals — pets that provided comfort to owners suffering from mental illnesses and therefore had a right to enter places they normally wouldn’t, such as airplanes and work spaces. Registering a pet as an ESA always seemed like such a daunting task, though, and the details of the certification process were not easy to uncover from a simple Google search. So I never looked too far into it — that is, until I started really depending on my pet’s support.

As it turns out, it is fairly easy to register your pet as an ESA if you have an existing mental health diagnosis that animal companionship alleviates. All you need is a statement from a mental health professional on official letterhead explaining your diagnosis and your need to keep your pet near you. By law, ESAs must be accommodated by landlords and are protected under the Fair Housing Act.

At the end of the day, having my pet with me at all times keeps me grounded. Millie keeps us on a schedule: We rise at 6 a.m. and start our day off well with a brisk walk. She is always on hand when I need extra comfort, extra support and she gives me a reason to get outside and run around when I really need it.

If the past few months — or years, or decades — have got you down, and you’re looking for something to bring light back to your life, I highly recommend an ESA. Millie has made things much easier for me, and a pet might do the same for you.

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