Animals can provide emotional support to humans. Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are gaining popularity across the globe, and today, they’re showing up more in places that were previously labeled as animal-free.
A team of researchers at the University of New Mexico proposed a new standard and an assessment model for providing ESA certifications. The new assessment uses a 4-pronged approach for performing assessments, which include understanding, recognizing, and applying the laws in ESA regulation, a comprehensive and valid assessment of the person requesting an ESA certification, an assessment of the animal to ascertain it can perform its role as an ESA, and an assessment of the interaction between the individual and the animal, determining if the animal can provide the needs of the person.
The study, which was published in the journal of the American Psychological Association, shows how the new guidelines and practices can help lessen instances where service animals attack and hurt other people. In a recent incident in July, a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight was bitten by a passenger’s emotional support dog, needing five stitches. The incident opened conversations about rules governing animals in transit.
The researchers suggest that service dogs should be trained to deliver a function that is inaccessible to their human. However, at present, ESAs are not held to that standard. Now, the new study hopes that the regulatory agencies use the guidelines in providing ESA certifications.
The researchers also want other people to continue the research, specifically the effects of ESAs on patients, so more scientific data is available as a basis for regulating ESA certificates.
The authors also said that mental health professionals who do not have full awareness of the law are more likely to fail to recognize that giving certifications needs a disability determination, which is included in the patient’s records.
At present, the only requirement for issuance of an ESA certificate for travel or housing, where animals are not allowed, is for patients to have an emotional condition or a mental disorder diagnosable by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Also, therapists are the ones giving ESA certificates to their patients, asserting the patient.