We are only beginning to understand the connection between humans and animals. Still, few would argue the impact emotional support animals have had on many people’s lives.
Whether it’s a canine, a feline, or even something with hooves, animals can tremendously help humans in many ways. But that’s just the start. Here are some amazing facts about emotional support animals.
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1. They Have Made History
You might assume that the idea of emotional support animals is an entirely new concept, but it has its roots in the chaos of World War II and probably even earlier.
The first classified therapy dog was a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky, found in an abandoned foxhole by U.S troops in New Guinea. Corporal William A. Wynne eventually adopted her, and they spent the next two years together in the Far East. Smoky became hugely popular with injured soldiers and those who have PTSD.
Things have come a long way since the jungles of New Guinea, with therapy dogs increasing dramatically in popularity. Today, these animals can get therapist letters, IDs, vests, and registration through services like esaregistration.org. From historical figures to reliable companions, emotional support animals have come a long way.
2. They Are Diverse—More Than Dogs and Cats
Dogs are the most popular therapy animal, with cats a distant but still very common second. However, you don’t need to cast the net too wide to find a wonderfully diverse selection of emotional support animals. People register peacocks, donkeys, miniature horses, and pigs as ESAs.
Dogs and cats might be the traditional and still most common animals to provide emotional support. However, the incredible diversity in the ESA community shows that human beings can make a genuine connection with just about any animal.
3. They Can Help Children With Their Reading
With today’s constant stream of attention-stealing stimuli, getting children to read is becoming more challenging. Getting them to enjoy reading is another challenge altogether.
Step forward, the trusty family dog. According to a study from 2019, therapy dogs can significantly boost a child’s interest and confidence in reading.
Perhaps something about a loving animal sitting quietly and attentively nearby brings out the best in children. We aren’t quite sure, but the mysterious benefits appear clear enough.
4. They Help Incarcerated People Find Hope
Emotional support animals are not simply pets waiting at home. They offer their incredible support in plenty of examples in places that might surprise you.
Consider Australia’s Pups in Prison. The program began in 2002 and tasked inmates with training therapy dogs inside prisons for service outside their walls.
The program has produced thousands of dogs for those who need them. But unexpectedly, these animals also had a considerable effect on the inmates themselves. A reported 94% of participants saw an increase in overall wellbeing and a 32% improvement in confidence and self-esteem.
It’s easy to think of emotional support animals as cute little dogs that people carry around in small bags, but the spectrum is far broader. Animals of all kinds are now providing hugely important emotional and physical support to thousands of people worldwide while offering benefits such as stress and anxiety relief, companionship, help with mental illnesses, and even reading.