Are ESAs Protected In Australia?
Animals, like dogs and cats, have been sharing their lives with us for more than 14,000 years. These pets have protected, helped, entertained and provided emotional support to humans. For improving mental health and alleviating symptoms of emotional disability, humans have turned to emotional support animals. These animals, especially dogs, provide us with unconditional love, companionship and constant support.
There are numerous uses for emotional support animals. First, they provide their handlers with a general feeling of non-judgmental affection and well-being, and help them with different aspects of life, including social interaction and personal growth.
If you have a mental disability, you may or may not be able to qualify for an ESA. This is because an ESA subscription is dependent on your doctor’s recommendation after careful consideration of the severity of your condition. There a number of reasons why people choose emotional support animals for combating their mental impairment or psychiatric disability. The physical and mental benefits include:
- Lower levels of stress
- Improved mental health
- Increased activity/ low level of idleness
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced cholesterol level
Emotional Support Animals and Australian Law
Under Australian law, emotional support animals are not recognized by the law and hence are not protected. The reason for this is that the term ‘emotional support animal’ is considered rather vague and there remain no set requirements for an ESA’s behavior standards or role. This is because emotional support animals are not permitted access under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 (DDA), unlike assistance dog (equivalent to a service dog in the US).
Although an ESA may bring emotional support to an individual suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other medical condition, they are still not trained to carry out specific tasks that will in any way help their handlers. Rather, they are simply present for providing companionship and comfort.
Under Australian law, emotional support animals are merely considered as pets while assistance dogs are seen as medical aids. This is why ESAs are not mandated to meet any legislated requirements, while assistance dogs are required to meet hygiene and behavior standards. ESAs may be known as companion animals, and their benefits are undeniable.
If you have some kind of physical or mental disability that prevents you from taking part in activities and affects your daily life, you can ask your doctor or any certified health professional to write for a letter that confirms and explains your disability and prescribes you to an assistance dog. The only way to give your pet legal rights is by having it certified as an assistance dog. Part of the application will require you to state your illness and have a doctor or psychologist answer how the presence of an assistance dog could help improve your condition.
Assistance dogs in Australia can be legally prohibited access to places, such as operating theatre, commercial kitchens, and “no-entry” psychiatric wards. Although an assistance dog is allowed access to all public places, the rule does not apply to an individual’s private property or residence. For these locations, your furry friend may not be granted access.
Assistance dogs should also be clearly identifiable with their blue and yellow vest and official identification card to avoid trouble and embarrassment. It is also important to note that assistance dogs can also travel by cruise ships and planes but you will have to handle extra paperwork and possibly additional charges. All things considered, ESAs are not protected in Australia.