My dog Lyla is a registered ESA animal. What does that mean?
ESA stands for Emotional Support Animal, which means that she assists me with certain struggles that I face on a day to day basis and makes it easier for me to cope. She is registered and I paid a fee to allow her to be with me in any kind of housing (dog friendly or not) or travel in the seat next to me on a plane. This is a service that is actually extremely important but it has become very clear to me how many people take this way too far.
I personally struggle with general depression with anxiety. I have an extremely hard time sleeping on a daily basis, I stress about literally everything to the point that I can’t eat, and some days I physically cannot get out of bed without someone actually dragging me out.
With all this, Lyla is a blessing. I can sleep now, when before I would be lying awake until 2 or 3am just waiting to fall asleep. She curls up next to me and offers this warm comfort that makes me feel safe and I now sleep like a baby. She helps me get out of bed on a bad day, she licks away my tears when I cry, and she offers a laugh and pick me up when I’m worrying too much about something. I’m also already a dog lover, so all of this combined she is absolutely perfect and exactly what I needed.
However, something happened the other day that has been weighing heavily on my mind. I was out at the dog park after officially registering her through my apartment complex as an ESA and filling out all the paperwork of having a dog in my unit. I was chatting with a guy who also had his dog out there with him and he was asking me about Lyla when the conversation turned to “is she an ESA?”. I of course said yes, because she is, to which he responded “oh good, I’m glad you know that trick”. Trick? No, this isn’t a trick. She isn’t an ESA so that I don’t have to pay the extra fees that come with having a dog in an apartment complex, she is an ESA because I qualify to have her as one. My doctor literally prescribed her as part of my treatment. This isn’t a joke, and I really can’t believe people are treating it as such. This man was ‘registering’ his dog as an ESA to get out of paying extra rent. Not because his dog assisted him. Because he didn’t want to pay. People like him are the reasons why we have such a hard time registering in the first place. Apartment complexes now have to have you jump through hoops to prove that you have a ‘prescription’ to have this animal and that it isn’t because you don’t want to pay. That’s just plain wrong.
Therefore, I ask, I beg, and I plea, if you have registered your dog so that you can have them without the pet fees and with you in a dog free home, please stop. This isn’t a luxury you can abuse, this is a service for people like me.