Many veterans come home with unseen battles. Emotional support animals offer a helping hand, or paw, in facing these challenges. In this guide, we’ll explore how these furry friends can provide comfort and companionship to those who’ve served in the military.

Discover the joy of healing together – keep reading.

The Power of Assistance Dogs for Veterans with Mental Health Issues

A Labrador assistance dog provides comfort to a veteran in a garden.

Assistance dogs provide vital support to veterans with mental health issues. These companions offer life-changing benefits, providing comfort and aiding in emotional regulation.

Types of assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are special animals trained to help veterans with physical and mental health challenges. These dogs offer not only companionship but also perform tasks to aid their handlers in daily life.

  1. Guide Dogs: These dogs assist blind or visually impaired veterans. They help their handlers navigate around obstacles, ensuring safety while walking.
  2. Hearing Dogs: For veterans who have lost their hearing or have profound hearing difficulties, hearing dogs alert them to sounds like doorbells, alarms, or even someone calling their name.
  3. Mobility Assistance Dogs: These canines assist individuals who face challenges with movement. They can retrieve items, open doors, and even help a veteran get up if they fall.
  4. Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs): Specifically trained for those dealing with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), these dogs can interrupt flashbacks, provide security in crowded places, and remind veterans to take medication.
  5. Diabetic Alert Dogs: Veterans living with diabetes may benefit from these dogs as they are trained to detect low or high blood sugar levels through scent and alert their handlers before it becomes dangerous.
  6. Seizure Response Dogs: These dogs are a lifeline for veterans prone to seizures. They can bark for help when their handler has a seizure, clear the area around the person to prevent injury, or even activate an emergency response system.

Each type of assistance dog plays a crucial role in supporting the well-being of veterans facing various challenges after serving in the military. Now let’s explore how these healing companions can specifically benefit veterans on an emotional level.

Life-changing benefits

After learning about the different kinds of help dogs offer, we see how they change lives. Emotional support animals bring calm to veterans who deal with anxiety, depression, and phobias.

These companions ease loneliness and improve mental well-being by offering unconditional love. Veterans not only feel more secure but also find joy in daily activities again.

Having an emotional support animal means less worry and better sleep for veterans suffering from insomnia due to traumatic events like combat. Animals such as dogs, cats, and even horses encourage their owners to engage more in physical activity which is great for their health.

This bond greatly reduces feelings of distress and supports recovery from psychological illnesses including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For those facing social isolation, these animals become a bridge to building new relationships and improving emotion regulation.

Emotional Support Animals for Veterans

Emotional support animals provide crucial companionship for veterans with mental health challenges, offering comfort and a sense of security. Their presence can alleviate anxiety and stress, promoting emotional well-being and stability in veterans’ lives.

Definition and role of emotional support animals

Emotional support animals (ESAs) offer companionship that can ease veterans’ anxiety, depression, and certain fears. Unlike service dogs, these pets do not go through specialised training to perform specific tasks.

Instead, their main job is to provide comfort and a feeling of safety for those dealing with mental health challenges from military service. These animals play a crucial part in the healing process by offering love and support without judgement.

For veterans navigating post-military life’s hurdles, ESAs act as trusted friends. Dogs, cats, and even horses have proved effective in aiding people who struggle with trauma-related issues.

The bond formed between a veteran and an ESA can significantly improve symptoms like lack of sleep or persistent worrying about past events. This unique relationship helps foster a calming environment where veterans feel understood and less alone in their recovery journey.

Benefits for veterans

Understanding the role of emotional support animals leads us to explore their benefits for veterans. These animals bring companionship that can ease anxiety, depression, and some fears.

This crucial support helps veterans face daily challenges better. Considering over 19% of assistance dogs are psychiatric service dogs for military veterans with PTSD, it’s clear how beneficial they can be.

These therapy companions also offer a significant sense of security and comfort to those dealing with mental health issues like panic attacks and sleep disorders. Such bonding with an emotional support animal promotes mindfulness and reduces feelings of loneliness.

Moreover, engaging in activities like walking a dog encourages physical exercise, which can improve overall well-being for veterans adjusting to life after the military.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal as a Veteran

To qualify for an emotional support animal as a veteran, you need to meet certain criteria outlined by mental health professionals. After meeting the criteria, take necessary steps to acquire your emotional support animal and register it appropriately.

Qualifying criteria

Veterans must meet specific criteria to get an emotional support animal (ESA). A licensed mental health professional, like a therapist or clinician, should provide a diagnosis. This diagnosis will confirm that the veteran faces mental health challenges such as anxiety attacks, depression, or PTSD from their time in service.

These are serious problems that affect daily life and activities. Getting an ESA can help veterans feel better by offering companionship and easing symptoms.

After receiving a diagnosis, the veteran needs an emotional support animal letter from their healthcare provider. This letter states that the ESA is vital for the veteran’s mental health treatment and well-being.

It supports them at home and in public places where pets might not usually be allowed. Next up are steps on how to welcome an emotional support animal into your life.

Steps to getting an emotional support animal

After understanding what it takes to qualify for an emotional support animal, the next step is actually getting one. This journey involves a few key steps that help ensure the animal you choose can serve as a genuine source of comfort and support.

  1. Speak with a licensed mental health professional: Start by discussing your needs with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These professionals can assess whether an emotional support animal would benefit your mental health condition.
  2. Obtain a formal letter: If your mental health professional agrees that an emotional support animal would help you, they will write a letter stating this need. This document should mention how the animal will ease specific aspects of your condition such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD symptoms.
  3. Choose an appropriate animal: While dogs and cats are common choices for emotional support animals due to their intuitive nature and capacity for affection, remember that any type of pet can fulfil this role if they help alleviate your symptoms.
  4. Train your animal in basic obedience: Though not required to have the same level of training as service animals, ensuring your pet behaves well in public and at home creates a stronger bond between you two and prevents potential issues.
  5. Register your emotional support animal: While registration isn’t a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, doing so can make travelling and housing arrangements easier as it provides proof of your ESA’s status.
  6. Prepare your home: Make sure you have all necessary supplies and a comfortable living environment for your new companion. This step is crucial for both their wellbeing and yours.

7.count on support from organisations that specialise in assisting veterans acquire ESAs: Many bodies provide aid to veterans seeking emotional support animals, including Veterans Affairs (VA). They offer guidance on how ESAs can be integrated into treatment plans and sometimes assist in covering costs associated with obtaining one.

  1. Engage in therapy together: Consider therapies where your ESA’s presence is encouraged, like psychotherapy or family therapy sessions focused on developing coping mechanisms for psychological disorders facilitated by canine-assisted therapy.
  2. Regularly assess the relationship’s impact on your health: Keep track of how much having an ESA helps with managing psychiatric symptoms or improving attachment styles to ensure it remains beneficial over time.
  3. Stay informed about laws and rights concerning ESAs: Knowing about legislation related to emotional support animals under acts like the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures you understand both you and your ESA’s rights in various situations such as housing queries or when planning travel.

Each of these steps plays a vital role in embracing an emotional support animal into your life as a veteran dealing with mental health disorders.

How to Register an Emotional Support Animal

Finding the right emotional support animal is only part of the journey for veterans. Next, they must register their animal to ensure it’s recognised as an ESA.

  1. Confirm your need for an ESA with a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychologist. They can assess whether an emotional support animal would help with your anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
  2. Obtain an ESA letter from this professional. This document should state your need for an emotional support animal due to a mental health condition.
  3. Choose your emotional support animal carefully. While dogs and cats are common, any animal that provides comfort and does not pose a threat to others can serve as an ESA.
  4. Register your emotional support animal through a reputable organisation or website dedicated to ESAs. This step isn’t legally required but can add an extra layer of official recognition.
  5. Make copies of your ESA letter and registration documents. Keep one set at home and carry another when travelling or accessing public places with your ESA.
  6. Inform landlords about your ESA if you’re renting. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including those requiring ESAs.
  7. Update any identification tags on your emotional support animal’s collar or harness to include that it is an ESA.
  8. Teach basic obedience commands to ensure your emotional support dog behaves well in public spaces.
  9. Establish a routine for taking care of your emotional support animal which includes regular feeding, grooming, exercise, and visits to the vet for check-ups and vaccinations.

By following these steps, veterans can successfully register their animals as ESAs, helping them manage symptoms related to mental health conditions like PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression while enjoying the companionship and therapeutic benefits these animals offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are emotional support animals the same as service dogs?

2. What is the process to register an emotional support animal?

Clarifying common concerns

Emotional support animals may not receive the same rigorous training as service dogs, but they offer genuine assistance to veterans dealing with mental health issues. Here are some common concerns clarified:

  1. Role Clarity: Emotional support animals differ from service dogs but still provide tangible benefits for veterans struggling with mental health challenges.
  2. Housing and Travel Rights: Recognised by the Department of Veteran Affairs, emotional support animals have certain housing and travel privileges for veterans.
  3. Qualification Criteria: Veterans seeking emotional support animals must meet specific standards to ensure eligibility.
  4. Legal Documentation: Proper registration and documentation are essential for emotional support animals to accompany veterans in various settings.
  5. Therapeutic Support: Emotional support animals offer crucial companionship and therapeutic benefits, aiding veterans in managing their mental disabilities effectively.

By addressing these concerns, veterans can better understand the role and potential of emotional support animals in their healing journey.

Comparing emotional support animals and service dogs

Understanding the differences between emotional support animals and service dogs is paramount for veterans seeking companionship and assistance. Here’s a breakdown in a simplified format:

AspectEmotional Support AnimalsService Dogs
TrainingDo not receive specialised trainingUndergo extensive training to perform specific tasks
RoleProvide companionship to ease anxiety, depression, and phobiasAssist with physical and mental health challenges
Legal RecognitionLimited legal rightsWidely recognised with more legal rights
Types of AnimalsIncludes a wide range of animalsPrimarily dogs
Examples of AssistanceOffer comfort and a sense of securityHelp with mobility, detect seizures, and support mental health
Usage Percentage for VeteransN/AOver 19% for psychiatric assistance in cases like PTSD

Veterans benefit greatly from both service dogs and emotional support animals. They each provide unique forms of healing companionship. Next, we discuss how to get an emotional support animal as a veteran.


In summary, emotional support animals are invaluable companions for veterans facing mental health challenges. Their role in offering comfort and stability is recognised and valued.

These animals can provide healing companionship as veterans navigate post-military life. The potential benefits of emotional support animals for veterans are significant, offering much-needed solace and support during challenging times.

Emotional support animals have a vital role in supporting the well-being of veterans as they cope with the aftermath of their military service.


1. What is an emotional support animal for veterans?

An emotional support animal for veterans, often dogs, provides companionship to war and combat veterans. These animals help with mental disorders like bipolar disorder and depressive mood that can come from traumatic experiences.

2. How does an ESA benefit a veteran?

ESAs provide therapy to veterans suffering from impairments such as fatigue, nightmares, or rumination caused by mental disabilities. They offer comfort and reduce stress levels which can even calm a fast heartbeat.

3. Can ESAs assist in physical rehabilitation for veterans?

Yes! Along with providing emotional stability, these leashed friends also encourage physical activities which aid in the physical rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities including those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

4. Are there specific programmes that recommend ESAs for Veterans?

The Department of Veterans Affairs recognises the benefits of animal-assisted therapy and encourages its use along with cognitive-behavioural counselling methods provided by therapists.

5. What kind of training do Emotional Support Dogs receive before they are paired with a Veteran?

Emotional support dogs go through various trainings like the Canine Good Citizen programme to ensure they’re well behaved and capable enough to provide necessary assistance to their caregiver – the veteran.

6. Do all War Veterans qualify for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Not all war veterans may qualify for an ESA; it’s typically recommended by therapists based on individual needs considering factors such as type of mental disorder, level of thinking impairment etc., linked to their service experience.