Blog Post 2020

Mental wellness and the benefits of pets

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By VHA
Women cuddles with her cat in her bedroom

Service Animals have long been relied upon by people with disabilities to help them maneuver through their daily lives. A Service Animal is specially trained to perform tasks that their owner cannot complete due to a disability or illness. These tasks may include (but are not limited to) retrieving items, opening and closing doors, alerting friends or family if there is a medical issue, assisting their handler with movement, etc. 

However, with the rise in recognition of ‘The Pet Effect’ – the idea that pets can positively impact the wellbeing of human – Emotional Support Animals, also called Therapy Animals, have become more common in society.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional Support Animals are different from Service Animals because they provide emotional support rather than perform tasks that improve the independence of a person with a disability.

Emotional Support Animals can help reduce common mental health problems like stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and social isolation. Having a pet also encourages individuals to be more active which can potentially improve cardiovascular health!

How do I get an Emotional Support Animal?

If you are interested in an Emotional Support Animal, you will need your family physician to confirm your need for and benefits from a pet in the context of your underlying medical conditions.

Using this information, you or a representative must compose an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter that will be approved by the government. Your pet will then need to be train in all required ESA courses.

Once your pet is trained, they will be officially certified and may accompany you any place a service animal would be allowed.

Do I need an Emotional Support Animal to improve my mental wellbeing?

No! Of course not. Any pet will do!

If you do not require your Emotional Support Animal to accompany you to institutions where pets are normally not allowed, you may visit your humane society or animal rescue centres such as the Toronto Humane Society or through Petfinder during adoption viewing hours to find your future friendly, therapeutic, and devoted companion!