Animals and humans can have such a unique relationship and connection. If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know exactly what we mean. Animals are our pals, our buddies, our support and they are always loyally by our sides when we need someone the most.
What about when you struggle from emotional anxiety or any type of emotional trauma or disorder? If you’re someone who has had various emotional struggles, you know that an animal might be the only solution to keep you sane. Your emotional support animal is there to calm you, guide you, and focus you.
Emotional support animals and service animals are not the same and are defined differently by law as well. Service animals have specific anti-discrimination laws to protect both the animal and the owner. Many states have not yet adopted specific laws concerning emotional support animals.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional Support animals offer comfort and therapeutic relief to an individual. Emotional support animals are not typically trained to perform a specific service. The purpose of an emotional support animal to provide a companionship that offers beneficial emotional health.
Often times, disorders like anxiety are included in the scope of service dogs – as long as they are specifically trained, but many emotional health issues far encompass anxiety. Many emotional disorders are indescribable and it is often hard to raise awareness for them, as you can’t physically see the symptoms.
In order for an emotional support animal to legally be considered as such, they must be formally prescribed by a mental health professional. This means that a counselor, therapist, or comparable mental health role has noted your individual need for a support animal and has provided a written prescription of why you need a support animal and how it might benefit you.
Montana Emotional Support Animal Laws
Each state has the capabilities to determine its own laws regarding emotional support animals, as long they do not diminish federal laws. Even if the state’s laws do not cover as much as the federal laws, they still must comply with federal law at a minimum.
Here are some specific aspects of the Montana state laws regarding service animals:
- Public accommodations in Montana include stores, businesses, restaurants, theaters, schools, etc. Montana specifically includes locations such as hotels, trailer parks, salons, hospitals, bars, golf courses, and swimming pools.
- Montana defines service animals as those that are individually trained to provide assistance to someone with a disability. The law mentions hearing dogs, guide dogs, some psychiatric service animals, seizure alert animals, and allergen alert animals.
- Montana’s law includes psychiatric service animals with the noted detail of a psychiatric service animal that helps their owner with mental and emotional disabilities such as preventing self-harming behavior, calming pressure during panic attacks, or reminding to take medication.
- Montana law (in line with the ADA) does not specifically include emotional support animals that are used for a sense of safety, companionship, or comfort. However, some emotional support animals could potentially fall into the psychiatric service animal category.
Montana law does not require public accommodations to allow emotional support animals into their businesses. This is a matter of choice for the business owner. Only service animals specifically trained are required to be accommodated.
What is the Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals?
Unfortunately, emotional support animals and service animals are not treated equally. On the same note, we must consider that emotional support animals have become a more recent trend. While each type of support animals offers a specific role with their owner, there are specific definitions to be considered a service animal.
ADA regulations define a service animal as a dog or small pony that is either trained or in the process of being trained. Dogs are the most common type of support animal. Service dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks for the individual they accompany.
Common tasks that a service animal might complete are mobility assistance, pulling a wheelchair, guiding a seeing-impaired person, retrieving medicine or objects, etc. The tasks the service animal performs could vary based on the individual’s needs.
Emotional support animals offer companionship or some form of emotional support to someone who suffers from emotional, mental, or psychiatric illness. This could be anxiety, depression, or mental focus, amongst other things.
Emotional support animals have a vast gap they can fill, but keep in mind that to be legally considered a support animal, you must obtain a written prescription from a mental health professional.
Registering Your Support Animal
Whether you have a trained service dog or a pet cat that provides you emotional support, we highly recommend that you register your support animal. Here at USSA, we recognize that support animals play a vital role in our lives.
Registering your emotional support animal or service animal is a great way to be proactive and to be prepared for any situation. While it is not required to provide documentation for service animals, it is an appreciated approach. It also is a great way to inform those around you in case of an emergency.
Registering your support animal with USSA is simple and convenient and has multiple benefits, such as:
- Valid registration for the lifetime of your animal
- Digital certificates and photo IDs, as well as original copies that are sent to you
- Registration into the US Service and Support Animal Registry Database
- Friendly customer service via phone or chat
- Staff attorneys who fight for your rights
- Staff doctors who can help with letters that may be needed for travel or housing
Be proactive and register your animal today. Take charge of your emotional and physical well being by registering your animal. Eliminate worry and concern that can accompany taking your animal with you as you go. Registration provides ID and certificate that are a courtesy to provide to others and is generally appreciated when you bring along your support animal.