It wasn’t that long ago that if you’d said the words “emotional support animal” to someone, they might have given you an odd kind of look. Nowadays, though, a lot of people have not only heard of emotional support animals – they actually own one. With recognized qualifying conditions – such as depression, autism, anxiety, and panic attacks – unfortunately on the increase, it’s no small wonder that folk are turning to companion pet certification instead of medication as an alternative to alleviating their condition. An emotional support animal is not just any old pet; it’s one that specifically helps you cope with your psychological or emotional disorder.

If a furry friend helps to relax you, or aids your confidence in social situations, or is simply a much-needed companion because you find it hard to leave the house – then what’s not to like about him or her? It’s easy to see why more and more people are turning to emotional support animals. In the past, it was believed that only a dog could fulfill the function of an ESA, but now it’s well-documented that more or less any type of animal can become an ESA. The choice is yours! So if you don’t like big animals, you could choose a rabbit maybe, or even a mouse. If you don’t like dogs or cats, then how about a pig! It’s not unheard of. Providing you qualify for and obtain your emotional support animal letter, you get to select your ESA.

Divan Medical - guinea pig pet

An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be a cat or dog – it can be virtually any type of pet!

With the advent of specific laws relating to emotional support animals, and the adaption of existing laws in favor of people with a recognized disability, it’s now even possible to take your ESA on a flight in the cabin with you – providing you have the correct emotional support animal letter that is. It’s also possible to have your pet live with you in rented accommodation, without paying extra for the privilege. Landlords are required to make “reasonable accommodations” for their tenants so that they can live comfortably with their companion pet. The same applies to students in university accommodation, thanks to a 2013 amendment to the Housing Act. Your emotional support animal letter also allows you access to certain public areas where regular pets are not allowed. Be wise with your choice of pet, though, if you want to take advantage of all or any of the above!

It’s easy to see why and how emotional support animals are continually growing in popularity. There is no doubt that they are helping many people who, without them, could not cope with the normal pressures of daily life and living. Also, as referred to above, the introduction and adaptation of various laws are making it less complicated for these people to lead more regular lives with the help of their pet.

So how does telemedicine fit in with emotional support animals, and what part does it have to play in its continuing growth?

It’s probably fair to say that without telemedicine; a lot of people wouldn’t have their emotional support animal today. Most of the conditions which lead to folk benefiting from an ESA are to do with anxiety, panic attacks, fear of public places, fear of social situations, and so on. Imagine, then, if you had to firstly make an appointment with a licensed mental health expert; go to said expert’s office for the appointment; sit in a waiting room alongside other people; and then finally go through a face-to-face assessment about your condition with the specialist. You might think twice about doing all of that, wouldn’t you? Or maybe you live in a rural area where access to any kind of medical personnel means a long journey – something you simply can’t undertake.

Divan Medical - woman using computer and phone

Advances in telemedicine have been crucial to the widespread awareness and popularity of emotional support animals.

Well, thanks to telemedicine, you don’t have to do any of these things. You can apply for your emotional support animal letter online. You don’t need to leave the house and you don’t need an “in-person” chat. The assessment can be done fully in writing, or via a telephone or video call. There’s an initial questionnaire to complete, which outlines your own particular requirements. The specialist will then consult with you about your condition. The deciding factor on whether or not your application is successful is if the specialist believes that an emotional support animal in your life would help alleviate your symptoms. You will be told the outcome of your application at the end of the consultation. Once approved, your ESA letter will be mailed to you. No in-person contact is needed at all!

Once you have your letter, you will have access to the benefits listed above. Telemedicine will help you in these areas too. If you want to take your ESA on the plane with you, no problem: just contact the airline and fax or scan your letter across to them. Same with applying to have your pet in your rented accommodation – you don’t need to speak to the landlord in person about this. Just send them a copy of your ESA letter electronically. As you can see, we’ve actually been using telemedicine for some time without realizing it!

It’s vital that the developments in telemedicine continue apace and that it becomes more mainstream and generally more accessible. Without it, a lot of people’s conditions would be undocumented and therefore unresolved. Telepyschiatry is an area of telemedicine that is rapidly becoming popular and widespread. This is exactly the sort of thing that is crucial to diagnosing patients who might not be able to travel to see an expert in person and would therefore go undiagnosed. The recommendation to apply for emotional support animal registration is just one of several solutions that the specialist may come up with, and it turns out to be absolutely the right solution for many people.