When individuals think of service or emotional support animals, they often associate them with dogs or cats. Dogs are the most common service animals because they are specifically trained to perform a job for an individual with a disability. It is important not to confuse service animals with emotional support animals. Service animals (dogs and miniature horses) require specialized training and are afforded more federal rights because they are not pets. Service animals perform specific tasks that their disabled handlers cannot perform. Under federal law service animals must be allowed to accompany their handlers wherever the general public is allowed to go. Emotional support animals are animals that are not required to have any specialized training or certifications but provide therapeutic help to their handlers. Emotional support animals are not protected under the ADA and therefore do not have the same rights as service animals. Instead emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. While service animals are restricted to dogs and miniature horses, there are no restrictions as to what type of animal can be an emotional support animal including birds. Please note that some airlines may not allow some ESA animals in the cabin.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals provide individuals with psychiatric or physical disabilities the companionship and emotional support they need to help them navigate daily activities. Emotional support animals do not require any specialized training or certification, and there are no restrictions as to what animals can be an emotional service animal only that the animal provides the emotional support an individual requires to live their life. Some of the most common emotional support animals include:
- Guinea Pigs
How to Get an ESA Letter for my Bird
In order to qualify a bird as an emotional support animal, you must first have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The ESA letter should be written on the medical professional’s official letterhead and include their licensing information, date the letter was written, and information about the client’s need for an emotional support animal. You can either seek support from a local medical professional or find one online.
Emotional Support Birds
Birds make excellent emotional support animals because they show high levels of empathy and some species like parrots and parakeets can learn phrases and words that can help them work with their handlers during specific episodes. Birds can sense emotional triggers including anger, stress, tension, and distress and can provide the emotional support their handler needs to help calm them down before they experience an emotional episode. Listed below are some reasons birds make excellent emotional support animals:
Unlike other animals, birds do not require their handlers to take them outside to walk or use the bathroom. Having to take their support animal out can become inconvenient for handlers depending on their disability where birds live in cages that can be easily cleaned and do not need to leave the cage to use the bathroom.
Birds are exceptionally intelligent and can learn words and phrases that they can use to help soothe their handler before or during an emotional episode. The ability to speak to an emotional support bird and have them respond can be extremely comforting and helps their handler feel more connected and supported.
Birds are relatively small in size making them easier to care for and accommodate. Birds do not require a lot of space making it easier to find suitable housing for both the bird and the handler. Since the bird can eat, drink, and use the bathroom in their cage, they do not require as much care as other animals.
Individuals that require emotional support animals can experience issues when trying to travel, but individuals with birds as emotional support animals tend to have an easier time because the birds can be put in a cage. In addition to already being secured in a cage, birds are smaller and need less space making it more convenient to accommodate them.
Since emotional support animals do not require any specialized training, some types of animals have reputations for being aggressive whether the service animal itself is extremely well behaved. Do to this stereotyping an individual with these types of animals may have a harder time with travel and housing. Since birds do not show this type of aggression and can be secured in a cage handler, tend to have an easier time with housing and travel.