For many disabled and chronically ill individuals, therapy and emotional support animals are hugely beneficial to their quality of life.
If you have a bearded dragon, you probably understand the therapeutic appeal of these lizards and have considered registering yours as an emotional support animal.
Bearded dragons are eligible to be emotional support animals, and the process of registering one is straightforward. All you need is a consultation with a mental health provider to prove the dragon supports your emotional health and potentially pay a small fee for the appointment and paperwork.
So how do you go through the process of registering your beardie as your emotional support animal?
Are there any benefits to officially registering them?
Read on to learn more.
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What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
Many people confuse service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals, but they are not the same.
Service animals are trained to perform detailed, complex tasks for disabled people who are blind, deaf, or have another significant condition affecting their daily lives and functioning.
Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are generally not trained to perform specific tasks.
However, they still provide significant emotional comfort or stability to people with a variety of conditions, including:
- Social anxiety or otherwise crippling anxiety
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Autism and Aspergers
Additionally, people with disabilities often register their pets for emotional support too.
Some people even have both a service animal and an emotional support animal for different purposes or activities to help maintain their mental health and overall emotional stability.
Registering an animal for emotional support purposes is generally easier, as the criteria for an emotional support pet is much broader and encompasses a broader range of illnesses and conditions.
Also, animals registered for emotional support reasons don’t have to be trained to perform complex tasks; they just have to provide mental or emotional health benefits to their owner.
Almost any animal is eligible to be registered for emotional support, from dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish, and more.
These animals provide immense comfort to people struggling with certain conditions, and animal-based therapy is a widespread treatment method for several mental illnesses.
How Do You Register A Bearded Dragon As An Emotional Support Animal?
Registering your bearded dragon as an emotional support animal or an ESA is more straightforward than you would probably think.
While registering a service animal is a complex process, registering an ESA essentially only requires you to see a qualified mental healthcare provider determine if the animal provides a significant emotional or mental benefit to you.
If your doctor decides your pet helps you cope with or otherwise function with a specific illness or health condition, they will write a letter explaining the animal serves its purpose as an emotional support pet.
Make sure you make copies of this letter and keep it with you any time you take your dragon in public or travel anywhere with your ESA, as this will serve as official documentation of your pet’s status.
There is no official database for registering an ESA, and your pet is not required to wear any specific kind of identification badge while in public to physically designate them as an ESA.
There are several different unofficial emotional support animal organizations focusing on helping applicants with the registration process, though.
While service animals are mostly limited to dogs, just about any kind of animal is eligible for ESA status as long as they genuinely help their owner cope with their illnesses or conditions in some substantial way visible to a licensed healthcare professional.
Is Your Bearded Dragon Eligible to Become an Emotional Support Animal?
If you’re strongly considering registering your beardie as an ESA, you wouldn’t be the first to do so.
Many chronically ill or disabled people with an affinity for reptiles benefit significantly from their scaly pets’ companionship.
Bearded dragons are particularly great candidates for becoming support animals, as they are brilliant reptiles who genuinely enjoy human companionship.
While other reptiles don’t enjoy being handled as much, most beardies thrive on human attention and make wonderful comfort animals to many people with invisible disabilities or mental health conditions.
Before you call up your healthcare provider to make an appointment to discuss registering your lizard, you should ask yourself a few critical questions first:
1 – Do you have a documented mental health condition or disability?
2 – If you suspect you have a specific condition but haven’t been diagnosed yet, are you comfortable with seeing a doctor get an official diagnosis?
3 – If you already have an official diagnosis, can you list a few ways in which your beardie helps you cope with your illness or otherwise maintain your health and wellbeing?
4 – Are you comfortable with or at least willing to discuss your illness and the ways in which your lizard helps you function with your mental health care provider?
5 – For example, if you’re dealing with depression or going through a difficult time, will discussing your illness potentially be triggering or upsetting, and are you able to address any potential triggers?
6 – Have you discussed registering your pet with your family and friends?
7 – If so, are they supportive of your wants and needs regarding your health conditions?
8 – Is your doctor open to discussing the benefits of registering your dragon as an ESA?
9 – And, finally, do you feel your pet genuinely assists or comforts you in your day-to-day functioning, mental health, and overall success?
If you’ve pondered these questions and answered “yes” to at least two or three of them, then you and your beardie are likely great candidates for ESA status.
While there aren’t many significant, tangible benefits to registering your pet, it will at least help you feel more secure in your diagnosis and give you the support of a licensed professional.
Just knowing your pet is an official ESA is incredibly reassuring to many people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable about taking your dragon on walks or out in public, rest assured knowing your pet has a documented reason to be with you as your official emotional support animal.
Also, exotic animals are becoming more commonly used as ESAs within the past 10 years or so, so you won’t be alone or the first person to have registered a bearded dragon.
Benefits of Having a Bearded Dragon as an Emotional Support Animal
Although emotional support animals don’t have quite as many freedoms or official duties as service animals, they still are incredibly beneficial to the people who need them in their lives.
Aside from the personal benefits, though, what should you expect when it comes to traveling with your lizard or taking them out in public?
Further Reading: Keeping your bearded dragon warm while traveling
Depending on the state or country you live in, you might be eligible for exemptions from particular federal housing, general housing rules, and even travel restrictions if you have an emotional support animal.
For example, if your landlord typically doesn’t allow pets under any circumstances, you would potentially be able to override their restriction because you need your emotional support animal in order to function and be healthy.
You might even be able to have your beardie out in public in places which would typically restrict you from bringing in pets, thanks to your lizard’s ESA status.
This is why it’s so essential to carry your documentation from your healthcare provider with you whenever you go anywhere with your dragon, as you never know when you might need to provide official documents detailing your pet’s status as a support animal.
But before making a final decision to have a bearded dragon for your ESA read our post on the bearded dragon’s temperament to familiarize yourself with their behaviors.
Other Animals To Register As Emotional Support Animals
The types of animals eligible for ESA documentation range from dogs and cats to birds and even fish.
While service animals have to be trained to perform specific tasks, ESAs only need to provide a mental or emotional health benefit to their owner.
This benefit could be anything from a general sense of comfort to a meaningful sense of security and safety during:
- anxiety attacks
- depressive episodes
- dissociative episodes
Thankfully, regardless of your choice of pet, if they genuinely help you cope with your illnesses or disabilities, they’re a prime candidate for emotional support status.
Bearded dragons might not be the most common choice, but for many, they’re a lifesaver.
But before you jump up and choose this lizard read our post on are bearded dragons right for you to make sure you’re making the best choice.