Pet therapy: benefits of pets for our wellbeing

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The concept of the emotional support animals refers to animals that are considered necessary for the mental and psychological health of the owner. This concept originally originated in the United States and is increasingly spreading to other places. Typically, the animals as emotional support in cases of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, social phobia or low mood.

The well-being brought by the presence of a pet, especially when it is inserted into the family nucleus, gives it the status of a family member, fitting into the concept of a multi-specific (or pluri-species) family, having in its social arrangement humans and non-humans with the aim of achieving happiness with affective and not necessarily biological bonds.

Related research shows results in the areas of social functioning and engagement, suggesting that this could be a useful complementary strategy in therapeutic intervention for neuroatypical individuals. They also suggest significant medium to large improvements in the domains of communication skills and social relationships, levels of engagement, frequency and quality of interaction with others, and some repetitive behaviours.

What are emotional support animals?

It is not uncommon to observe animal behaviour that demonstrates the expression of love, empathy, euphoria and subjective feelings previously only associated with humans. The relationship between humans and animals promotes the release of hormones such as oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphin, a consequence of social interaction and empathy between animals, such as the example of dogs and cats used in assisted therapy and the relationship of dolphins with children, autistic and mentally handicapped patients.

Furthermore, research on the coexistence of people and non-human animals shows that those who have the companionship of a domestic animal are able to describe a state of love and the perception of affection when they are greeted, either by their dog wagging its tail in celebration or by their cat vocalising and purring as a sign of reciprocating the feeling of love or need for attention.

Others also report that their presence helps bring emotional relief on the days when they are at their saddest. The comfort pets provide goes far beyond companionship, aiding in the recovery of patients with heart disease, depression and chemotherapy.

This is how the concept of the so-called Emotional Assistance Animals -Esan- or emotional support animals, which are animals that help patients with psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. In addition to dogscats, rabbits, horses and even tortoises. are on this list, as long as they are not known to be dangerous, ferocious or poisonous.

The emotional support dog is not only a service animal, approaching the concept of a companion animal or pet, also going beyond this qualification. Other definitions still state that the emotional support animal must be small, with a maximum of 10 kg and that it is possible to transport it in an appropriate crate.

Why register an emotional support animal?

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not require formal training or certification. However, they are recognised by health professionals as therapeutically necessary, particularly for people with certain conditions such as anxiety and depression. Here's why, the animal does not need to be registered with a competent bodyIf the person needs the companionship of the pet for emotional well-being, it is sufficient for the competent health professional to certify that the person needs the companionship of the pet for emotional well-being on occasions such as travel, for example.

How to obtain an emotional support animal certificate/certificate?

The concept of the emotional support animal started in the United States and, today, has spread around the world. However, in Brazil, for example, a specific agency that registers emotional support animals has not yet been found.

In contrast to service animals, emotional assistance animals do not need specific training (unlike guide dogs), as long as they are docile, obey the basic commands of their guardian and do not pose a risk to society.

In order to be considered an emotional support animal, it is necessary that the health professional in charge (normally a psychiatrist or psychologistissue a certificate stating that the patient needs the presence of his pet.

Possession of this document allows the person to travel The animal is allowed to go anywhere with the animal, as with service animals. In other words, even in places where the presence of animals is prohibited, such as restaurants, museums, hotels, inns and aeroplanes, the animal may enter freely. But be careful! In addition to the certificate or identity card, the guardian must carry with him all the documents of his animal, in particular the ID card vaccinationwith proof of polyvaccination and rabies vaccination.

Who can have an emotional support dog and other animals?

Generally, the emotional support dog is indicated for people with emotional and/or psychiatric disorderssuch as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. However, anyone in need of an emotional support animal can ask their doctor or therapist to issue the certificate.

Dogs are the most common assistance animals, but that does not necessarily mean that other animals such as cats, birds, rabbits, tortoises and horses cannot be used. The most important thing is that the animal has a bonding with your guardian to provide you with well-being and comfortin addition to other health benefits.

What are the regulations in Spain regarding emotional support animals?

As mentioned, the concept is widespread and developed in the United States, where emotional support animals are free to travel on all forms of transport. However, in Spain the Draft Law for the Protection and Welfare of Animalswhich has the approval of the Council of Ministers, does not include support dogs or animal support dogs. within the framework law. These animals are not eligible for accreditation in Spain.