With changing rules and regulations, it’s crucial to bring awareness to how important an emotional support animal is to someone who actually needs it. 

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal or “ESA” is an animal prescribed by a mental health care professional in order to help a patient cope with their mental illness. An ESA is similar to a service animal, but has less formal training. 

Meet a real life ESA

Daisy Grimsley (pictured above) is an 11 year old chihuahua, who just so happens to be Maxwell Grimsley’s emotional support animal. Maxwell was prescribed an ESA after being diagnosed with PTSD due to traumatic medical experiences. We were lucky enough to talk to Maxwell about her ESA, and how it has been beneficial to her mental health.

Interview with Maxwell

Pampered Pups: “How would you describe your experience with an ESA”

Maxwell: “My experience with an emotional support animal has been great! While I try to be independent in most things I do, there are some things my PTSD limits me with, and Daisy helps me get through.” 

Pampered Pups: “What kind of things does Daisy do to help you?” 

Maxwell: “Whenever I start having a panic attack Daisy puts her paw on my hand and I know to go to a quiet place so I can do deep breathing exercises. She will also lay on me to help me get through things.”

Pampered Pups: “What’s the process like to get an ESA?”

Maxwell: “The process for me began when my psychologist was trying to help me with my PTSD. He recommended a service animal, but my family wasn’t in a position where we could take on the financial responsibilities of another dog, especially one with such extensive training. That’s when he brought up Daisy, and how I spoke about how much help she was with my PTSD. He asked that I bring her into our next session so he could see if she was trained well enough to perform the basic tasks of an ESA. Daisy passed all of his tests, and my psychologist prescribed her as my ESA, and even got the vest she needed. Before I knew it, my baby had a job!”

Pampered Pups: “How do you feel about so many people getting fake ESA papers so they can do things like bring their miniature horses on airplanes?”

Maxwell: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting. There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, most of them aren’t trained at all. And by that, I mean they don’t even have basic training that all ESAs should have. Service animals go through extensive training, whereas ESAs don’t need much, other than potting training, behavior training and experience being around other animals. I’ve come across so many fakes that have lunged at and tried to attack Daisy, as well as actual service animals. People also buy fake ESA vests online so they can take random livestock with them for free, including peacocks and alligators! It’s a serious safety risk and incredibly selfish. It’s gotten to the point where the rules have had to be changed. It used to be that ESAs had the right to travel on planes, be in hotels and Air BnBs, and if they were denied access, the person denying it was breaking federal law. But now all of these places, even airports, have the right to turn us away, due to how many fake ESAs and service animals they’ve come across. I can’t tell you how sad and frustrated this makes me as someone who truly needs my ESA and whose ESA is an actual prescribed and approved animal. I’ve seen so many sites offering fake doctor letters and fake vests and it kills me because there people are putting those in need down.

Pampered Pups: “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”

Maxwell: “I wish more people were aware of the importance of actual emotional support animals. Unfortunately, whenever something good comes out, there will always be those who abuse it to benefit themselves, and that ruins it for the people who truly need it.”

How you can help support emotional support animals and their humans?

Supporting emotional support animals and their humans is extremely important to those that actually need the animals. For starters, it is fundamental that you respect that an emotional support animal is a working animal. Never pet an ESA without first asking its human. Petting an ESA without permission can distract the animal from its work, and cause a stressful situation for the human. Chances are, if you ask respectfully, the owner may very well say yes! It is also necessary to never discount a real ESA, these animals are vital to their human’s health and wellbeing. 

Pampered Pups would like to give a special thanks to Maxwell Grimsley for taking the time to talk to us about her experience with an emotional support animal. We would also like to thank Daisy Grimsley for providing such an essential service to Maxwell. 

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