animal therapy

It is no secret that the bond between a pet and its owner is sacred. In fact, it is astounding just how many cats and dogs are roaming the airports these days! However, with the growing registry of service animals and emotional support animals (ESA) one might ask, where do we draw the line? The seriousness of emotional disorders should not be dismissed or judged, and a loyal companion can be essential in the recovery process. Still, one might wonder if any pet could lend support during recovery such as snakes, birds, fish, or even bugs. Can any pet be registered as an ESA? Finally, how can one in recovery go about finding the right pet for them? 



  • Most animals qualify: If you are looking to register a pet for ESA (maybe excluding insects), most animals can be registered unless they are endangered. 
  • Proof: The patient needs to show that they are legally emotionally disabled. They also are required to be the owner of their pet for at least one year. 


Selecting the Right Animal for You

  • Mammals might have the strongest connection with humans and our needs. Dogs are especially loyal to their owners as they aim to serve. Emotionally, they are transparent with how they feel. Studies show that dogs can sense our feelings, too. For someone in recovery that is going through a lot of emotions, a dog can help ease nerves and anxiety. Cats, much like dogs, can sense our emotions too and therefore can express compassion. Each animal can display empathy to an extent. Petting them has also shown to reduce stress. 
  • Alternative mammals: Horses, llamas, goats, and cows are believed to make great emotional support animals, too. They can also sense our emotions thus allowing us to learn to cope with how we’re feeling and manage our emotions better. Like dogs and cats, petting these furry friends can also alleviate stress.
  • Reptiles offer a different kind of support, but support nonetheless. They might not sense or evoke emotions on a level as complex as certain mammals, but they are social and responsive in different ways. The common misconception is that animals like snakes and lizards are predatory and aggressive, however, certain species like the Ball Python are actually very social and enjoy being held. In addition, bearded dragons, turtles and tortoises make great social companions. Their needs for care are said to be calming. Most reptile pet owners find that building and maintaining a terrarium is very calming. Reptile owners also believe that their pet responds to their voice and energy, causing them to crawl out of their hiding when they feel them near. 
  • Bird owners contend that birds are the best because they can mimic our language. For many being able to speak to an animal, or hearing the bird say words or phrases, reduces the feeling of loneliness that someone in recovery might experience. 
  • Fish, like reptiles, maintain the atmosphere that comes with owning fish. The tank is said to be very calming. The movements of the fish are also said to be calming and even meditative.  


Animal Care and Recovery

During the recovery process, it is important to maintain structure in your life. Animals place a fair amount of responsibility in our lives, thus causing us to stay motivated and active. Many testimonials from patients in recovery report that their care for their animals helps to return purpose to their lives. What kind of animal a person selects depends on the owner. 


Things to Consider

  • Does the patient need a low maintenance animal? 
  • Do they want something more active like a dog?  
  • What kind of care do you need? 
  • Will the animal need to perform daily tasks for you that you no longer can?
  • Are you just looking for a companion?  
  • If you plan on traveling, you might consider registering your pet to go with you.
  • Not all pets are allowed to travel, therefore make arrangements beforehand.


Never Judge

While a person might attribute importance to something that might seem unconventional, it is not up to us to judge how a person is feeling. This is, after all, about our recovery. Despite some criticism, our emotions and relationships with our pets are real. There is a commitment on our part to care for these creatures, and while the bond may not go further than us feeding them and them recognizing that we are feeding them, there is some understanding there. Pet owners enjoy watching these creatures and speaking to them through mother nature


A good support system is crucial on the road to recovery. Our pets can serve as our greatest friends along the way. True Recovery believes in quality care through quality companionships. If you are recovering and are trying to determine whether you need support from an animal, please call us with any questions at (866) 399-6528.