Emotional Support Animals: Separating Fact From Fiction, Where They're Allowed and More

Ripe for Confusion

While the increase in emotional support animals may be helpful to people they assist, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

“Significant confusion within the public, including outside of airlines and housing, has occurred surrounding the access rights of emotional support animals,” Konopelski says. “Most public entities are either unclear [about] or hesitant to enforce access laws which restrict the presence of ESAs in their facilities due to this confusion.

“The implications for legitimate assistance dogs are enormous," she says. "ESAs do not require behavioral training and can cause harmful effects on working assistance dogs, including a denial of access due to previous negative experiences with dogs in the public space or physical threat to the working assistance dog from out-of-control ESAs or fraudulent assistance dogs.”

Despite this confusion, neither Konopelski or Wisch knows of any movement to standardize the training of ESAs.

“Since the purpose of the ESA is to comfort, calm or support an individual with an emotional disability, I am not sure there can ever be any specific training,” Wisch notes. “Each assistance animal is evaluated individually as is each attempt to reasonably accommodate the disability.”

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