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Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals (ESA), as the name implies provide emotional support to their owner/handler.  Emotional support animals are NOT service animals!  Lets first look at the differences for a moment. Emotional Support Animals benefit their owner by providing companionship, comfort, and emotional support.  They need not be trained skills to support a disability.  In fact it can be difficult to differentiate between an Emotional Support Animal and a pet/companion animal.  Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the owner is impaired by some form of mental illness or psychiatric disorder but is not fully disabled by their condition.  For this reason they may benefit from the presence of an emotional support animal in their life, however it is not necessary for the animal to accompany the owner in public.  Benefits to having an animal recognized officially as an Emotional Support Animal may include issues pertaining to residence or accommodation such as in the case of a rental housing.  The law surrounding ESAs quite vague though and anyone challenging a dispute may have their work cut out for them.  
 
Canadian Service Dog Foundation will provide emotional support animals to individuals impaired but not disabled by mental illness.  As is the case with our service dogs we require that applicants must have a support network in place, that they be in active treatment for their condition with a doctor or psychiatrist, and that they are in possession of a signed letter from their doctor indicating the individual's medical need for an ESA.      Once all of the criteria are met we can start the partnering process.  For the purpose of raising well balanced ESAs who are able to perform as an interactive working animal capable of supporting the needs of someone living with mental illness, CSDF developed its feline program.  Cats are an ideal ESA and the breed of choice in our program is the Devon Rex cat.  This breed is extremely social and bonds strongly with its human owner.  Devons are by nature inquisitive, intelligent, active, tenacious, and even trainable.  These cats can be thought to retrieve, to respond to prompts such as alarm clocks, and to follow routines.  Once bonded to their human partner it is typical for Devons to follow their owner everywhere around the house and insisting upon being part of any activity, if not the center of attention.  They are known to be shoulder riders and like to have physical contact with their owners as much as possible.  
 
HAVE CAT ALLERGIES?  Devon Rex cats are often considered to be 'hypo-allergenic'.  Although we discourage the use of the term hypo-allergenic in animals, preferring to use the term allergy friendly.  Devon Rex cats sport a short wavy coat which is essentially non-shedding or minimal shedding, they do however still produce the saliva and dander which commonly trigger reactions in allergy sufferers.  It is likely as result of their limited shedding and lack of guard hair that the Devon produces less free floating allergens into the environment and so it is true that many people with cat allergies life happily with Devon Rex in their homes.  Our recommendation is to spend some time with the breed and see how your personal allergies react to their presence before considering one. Once the decision to add an ESA has been made and you are ready to welcome a special little animal into your life, this is our partner we recommend.   
 
If you are more of a dog person we can help there too.  Occasionally we have a service dog candidate who for one reason or another is not cut out for the work.  Provided there are no health problems we will generally consider placing these dogs into ESA homes before making them available as a pet/companion.   If we don't have a suitable prospect in the program then we have man contacts that we are able to network with to help find a suitable ESA prospect quickly.  As with our service dogs ESAs going through our program under go rigorous testing, training, and health screening.  Only the best candidates go onto become ESAs.  Its our thought that even though these animals do not benefit from public access rights in the way service animals do, it is just as important that the animal partner have every chance at leading a long, happy, and productive life with his/her partner.  
 
Contact us for more information about our ESA program and we'll help you decide which animal is right for you.