Every person needs moral support and care to be self-confident and open to the world. We have friends and relatives for that, but emotional support animals are also a source of encouragement and reassurance. These creatures are actively used in psychology to help people with mental disorders.
The practice of involving animals in therapy is quite common in the United States. There are even federal laws that prevent discrimination and protect the rights of four-legged companions. However, each state has its own specifics regarding emotional support animals.
So, in this article, we have compiled everything that those who want to become ESA owners in Illinois need to know.
To be eligible to own an emotional support animal in Illinois, you must have a mental health disorder diagnosed by an appropriate therapist. This means you have signs and symptoms of a non-physical infirmity that significantly affect your daily life. For example, it can be such maladies as PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, phobias, eating disorders, and others.
A qualified therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker can properly assess your condition, determine if it meets the criteria for an emotional support animal, and recommend the best and most effective form of remedy. ESA is only an additional option in the treatment of mental illnesses. It is usually added to medication and regular meetings with a psychotherapist.
Emotional support animals may only be recommended if the specialist is confident that the ESA will be able to help you cope with a mental disorder or alleviate its symptoms. For example, for people with schizophrenia, an animal acts as a connecting link between a person’s consciousness and reality. The animal helps to focus on what is happening around, aids to clear the mind, and relieves hallucinations and mania.
Having an emotional support animal is extremely important for those who feel abandoned, downhearted, are constantly under stress or tension, and have low self-esteem, a sense of self-worth, or anger issues. For such people, ESA acts as a moral strengthening that guarantees a level of consolation and encouragement, which is necessary for a person to feel more comfortable and relaxed and to be able to enjoy life.
Becoming an emotional support animal owner in Illinois is fairly easy. To do this, you need to seek help from medical professionals in the field of mental health. Only a qualified professional can properly assess your condition and determine whether an emotional support animal can help treat your disorder.
After several appointments with a psychotherapist, you’ll manage to get an ESA letter for your animal. This document is extremely important because it guarantees the basic rights of the animal and helps to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities. The ESA letter confirms your need for an animal to relieve the symptoms of a mental disorder and improve your emotional state. If you have a valid ESA letter from the therapist you can register an emotional support animal in MyServiceAnimal registrar.
You can also get your ESA letter online. There are many proven services that issue the necessary document to people who do not want to meet with specialists in person, or who have physical limitations that prevent them from leaving home. In this case, you will need to complete a questionnaire about your mental health shape and symptoms, and provide all the details of your disorder that may be necessary to properly assess your affliction and establish your need for an emotional support animal. The provided information is checked by a specialist who determines how useful ESA will be for you. In case of a positive answer, you will receive the document in your email.
Along with this, many ESA owners in Illinois additionally register their animals and issue an emotional animal ID card or a pat tag. State law doesn’t require it, but having this paperwork can make being in public with your ESA much easier. You can order these and other accessories for your animal at the registrar’s MyServiceAnimal.
In some cases, you may be denied an ESA letter. First, when choosing a specialist, make sure that they have the appropriate specialization and understand the principle of emotional support animals. If your psychotherapist is not sufficiently knowledgeable in this area, they will not be able to determine how useful an animal will be in your case.
Second, the therapist cannot provide the document if they are not sure that the animal will be able to affect your mental state or relieve your symptoms. For instance, if you have a phobia or fear of animals, ESA as adjunctive therapy is probably not the best option for you.
Also, it takes time to properly assess your condition and identify all of its signs and symptoms. The chosen mental health care provider must know all the details of your illness. Therefore, you will not be able to get the document you need after the first meeting with a psychotherapist.
Another important thing to remember is that animals also require care and attention from their owners. Consequently, if you are not ready or physically unable to devote enough time to an animal, you will not be able to become an ESA keeper. Before discussing with a professional the possibility of involving emotional support animals in your treatment, consider whether you are ready to take on the responsibility of caring for an animal.
Illinois has federal laws that allow emotional support animals to live with their holders in rental housing. If you have an ESA letter and can provide it to the landlord before signing the tenancy agreement, the housing provider is obliged to allow an animal to live there, even with a no-pet policy in a building.
The proprietor has no right to ask additional questions about your mental disorder or require supplementary evidence of your need for an emotional support animal, other than the ESA letter. In addition, the landlord cannot refuse you to live with an animal because of its breed, size, or weight. There are also no species restrictions for ESAs, so emotional support animals can be not only cats or dogs but also other animals.
In order to receive a permit for an animal to live, tenants must make a reasonable accommodation request that implies making an exception to the rules for living in the building for an emotional support animal. This request is voluntary, but we still recommend that you submit it in writing and include all the details of your accommodation.
The landlord may also ask you for the animal’s veterinary certificates to ensure that the animal has all the necessary vaccinations and can be around other animals and people safely. You must also provide a certificate that the animal is not a carrier of infections and microorganisms that are dangerous to humans.
You do not have to pay extra for the pet’s accommodation or pay a deposit. However, if the animal damages the lessor’s property, you undertake to pay for the damages.
You must also comply with the building rules and keep your accommodation and animal clean. You can be evicted if the animal systematically violates the rules of living in the rented apartment, damages the property, or poses a threat to other residents of the house. For this, the lessor must provide facts confirming the manifestations of unacceptable or aggressive behavior of the animal.
Although Illinois law does not give emotional support animal holders additional employment bonuses, in most cases, company management is willing to go the extra mile for their employees.
Psychological studies have proven that humans become more productive and show better results at work if they feel comfortable and safe. Therefore, many companies are currently trying to create a pleasant working environment for their employees.
If an emotional support animal is a guarantee of peace and safety in the workplace for you, talk about it with your management. In most cases, the company is willing to allow its employees to come to the workplace with companion animals because it will benefit the company itself.
However, do not forget that such an opportunity has no legal basis, so you cannot demand it from the employer. The best option is to show your ESA letter, explain exactly why you need additional moral strengthening from the animal, and demonstrate the benefits it will have for you and the company in general.
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