When the average person thinks of an animal that brings comfort to an individual it’s usually a dog that serves as a service animal. Certified service animals are dogs that are highly trained to do a specific task or service for the disabled person. These animals have helped individuals with disabilities navigate through public places, to alerting them to an oncoming seizure or low blood sugar.
On the other hand emotional support animals ESA do not need any specialized training and are there to purely give comfort and love. Emotional support animals can be dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, lizards, etc. People may use all sorts of animals to give them emotional support they need to live a fulfilling life.
An emotional support animal that has been bringing comfort to its owner and several other emotionally challenged individuals is surprisingly not a cat or a dog but a dwarf rabbit.
Boo-Boo, the black and white Dutch Dwarf rabbit owned by Bruce Jordan, has been causing quite a stir in the Greenville area as Boo-Boo accompanies him during daily routines. He’s been seen with Boo-Boo on his shoulder at grocery stores, shopping in the mall and visiting downtown landmarks. The public seems to be enthralled with this option of an emotional support animal. Some days Jordan will take Boo-Boo for a walk in the stroller.
Bruce Jordan 65, from Ft Lauderdale, Florida, says he was going though deep depression until he met his best friend. Boo-Boo a black and white fully trained male Dutch Dwarf rabbit was brought home by his long-time girlfriend, Sharon, three and a half years ago to comfort him after the loss of his parents and sister within a few years. With his doctor recommending a pet to help with anxiety and depression, Jordan soon became best friends with the bunny and they have been inseparable ever since. “He travels everywhere with me,” Jordan says. Jordan spent a lot of time training Boo-Boo to sit on his shoulder when he takes him out.
He frolics through their home in the day and sleeps on Jordan’s pillow at night. “Boo-Boo means the world to me, and I feel so calm when he is with me,” Jordan says. “It’s amazing how a little bunny like him can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
Boo-Boo and Jordan have been interviewed by several major newspapers and magazines, appeared on local television stations and they are scheduled to appear on the TV program Focus on the Palmetto State.
Being an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), Boo-Boo and Jordan want to raise awareness of therapeutic animals for those who would benefit from such emotional comfort. Jordan commented, “I am now devoting my time taking Boo-Boo around to Assisted Living Facilities to help others with loneliness and depression. We have visited nursing homes in Simpsonville and Mauldin as well as senior centers in both cities. Everywhere we go Boo-Boo seems to raise spirits and bring smiles to sometimes troubled individuals.”
Jordan explains an ESA differs from a service animal which aids people with specific disabilities and requires special training. An ESA requires no special training, but those seeking to own an ESA must have a letter from a mental health professional stating the need of the animal.
“I must say that everyone should have a Boo-Boo to love and care for even if it’s just for a pet,” he added.
With high profile stories coming out every other week, more and more people are getting interested in the use of emotional support animals as a form of therapy. Emotional Support Animals are domesticated animals trained to help people in distress because they offer a constant, comforting presence in times of an incapacitating emotional/mental disability such as depression, anxiety, autism, depression, PTSD, or bi-polar. An ESA can also help alleviate the symptoms of these disabilities just by being with their owner/handler.
In order to apply for an emotional support animal letter, you will need a recommendation from a licensed doctor or therapist stating that you, in fact, suffer some type of psychological, physical, or mental condition that would be improved with access to an ESA. Any health professional can write you a recommendation, be it online or offline.
A Legitimate Emotional Support Animal Certification must:
1. Prove that the mental health expert of choice is licensed in the same state as you.
2. Have the expiration and issue dates of the mental health expert’s license.
3. Be drafted on a doctor’s letterhead and should have the necessary contact information of the physician in question.
4. Require a renewal on a yearly basis and must contain the issue date of the letter along with the expiration date that is no longer than 12 months from original date of issue.
5. The letter should also comprise of the registered ESA’s details such as the kind of animal it is, its name, and its ESA letter ID number.♦