Are Emotional Support Animals Legit?
Reading time: 4 min.
Answer: In some ways.
The use of animals to support people with physical disabilities has a long history, perhaps dating back to the first century. More substantial records trace the use of dogs to assist the visually impaired in Ancient China, the Middle Ages, and French hospitals in the 1750s. Guide dogs have been used to assist wounded soldiers on the battlefield since WWI.
When service dogs were officially recognized in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, the idea was that dogs—only dogs officially qualify, even today—supply emotional support as well.
The mental health benefits of pets have been well documented. Studies show pets relieve stress; lower blood pressure and heart rate; decrease loneliness; and increase social interactions, civic engagement, and social capital.
In 2010, researcher Jennifer Wisdom, et al. studied the role pets play in recovery from serious mental illness and fo…