Georgie is my ESA! (emotional support animal)
I’m sure you know of service dogs, who are trained to do tasks to help their disabled owner. There are also emotional support animals – you know, the crazy people who try to bring their pet peacock or snake on a plane, saying it’s an ESA when all they have is a piece of paper they bought off the internet. This just makes airlines (and other companies) distrust people with real support animals.
Qualified ESA’s can benefit people with actual mental/physical difficulties – and the process to get certified is a lot more than paying someone $5 for a fake permit. It just so happens that cats are particularly helpful for autistic people! We’ve only had Georgie for a couple of months, but she has already been a big help to me. I work from home, which means lots of time to get in my head and imagine anxiety-ridden potential situations! I also have panic and depression when things get really bad. Having autism brings its own set of challenges, too. Somehow, Georgie knows when I’m having trouble and comes over. She’ll nudge me with her nose, hard, until I’m distracted by petting her or playing with her. She follows me around the house to make sure I’m ok, and she sits or naps close by. I call her my little shadow! Being with her is incredibly grounding.
I had to wade through a lot of scam sites to find the real US service animal website. I called, and a really nice guy named Matt took me through the process. I was sent to a licensed mental health professional; we talked over the phone. I disclosed my diagnoses, and within a couple of hours I had all the paperwork I needed, including Georgie’s license. She even gets an official ESA collar!
No, I’m not going to take her everywhere. She’s an indoor-only cat. But I get legal benefits: I am allowed to live with her, regardless of pet policies. She will get to fly in the plane cabin with me, if/when we move. The Registry also provides legal assistance if anyone gives me trouble. It’s more than just a piece of paper that says, “I can bring this (insert animal) with me anywhere”. It’s a coping tool that’s legally protected, so I can function better in life!