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09 Nov 2020, by claranicholls

Why emotional support animals are vital for mental health

Animals may be a slightly unorthodox way to get help for a mental illness, but they are increasingly being turned to for more severe cases. Emotional support animals are not just a cat or a dog; these animals provide a needed service, which can be lifesaving for some with a crippling mood disorder.

Accorging to the Mental Health Foundation, a pet can be a great source of comfort and motivation. In many ways, pets can help us to live mentally healthier lives. Emotional support animals are one way that a life can be saved.

Clara writes about what animals mean to her and how they help with mental health.

Being pet friendly

When I lived in the US I found a revolutionary cultural phenomenon that is progressive, smart and puts human beings’ welfare before the financial desires of landlords. Emotional support animals.

With a note from a therapist (they even have online businesses that boast same day approval), your cat, dog, hamster, rabbit or any other pet will be allowed to live/travel with you, even if your landlord has a ‘no pet’ policy.

I live with my two dogs, Beau and Fudge in my two-bed house in Bristol. I spent countless hours trawling through letting agencies websites for pet friendly homes. Of the thousands of rented accommodations in Bristol, I found two homes that would reluctantly allow my hypoallergenic, non-shedding, small dogs. My current landlord is frankly afraid of them, doesn’t like them to be around when he is here and constantly checks that they’ll ‘be upstairs’ when he comes over.

Maybe landlords and letting agents need pet training? So that they know how to interact with animals and keep themselves safe when they come over. My dogs do, I’ll admit, like to bite the fingers of the postman if he puts them through the letterbox, but when there are visitors, they just want a cuddle!

We need animals

Let’s break down why it should be considered prejudicial to not allow animals.

In the current economic climate, people around 30 and under have little property, high debts from university and the current state of the environment, means fewer young people are having children, we have pets instead and we cannot afford our own homes.

I’ve noticed over the last few months, couples that have been together for years, where, in the 20th century they would be having their first child, are getting a puppy. Engaged or married couples in their twenties are getting pets because they are cheaper, allow more freedom but also fulfils a parental instinct.

We allow landlords way too much liberty. Shelter is a human right , but we pay extortionate rents in most areas of Britain because we are a small island and therefore, land is at a premium. That amount of money going into the hands of already wealthy people, should afford us some rights!

Pets should be a right in the same way children are. A child is much more likely to ruin the walls, pour food all over the floor and smash windows by playing in the garden. Have you been to a home where there are children? It is never a perfect scene, yet it is allowed, so why not pets?

If you pay a deposit, you should be allowed to treat the home as you see fit – within reason. In my home now, we had to pay DOUBLE the deposit, in case my 30cm tall Morkie manages to do decimate the entire home, I assume? This isn’t good enough. It shouldn’t be at the discretion of the landlord. We need a law to protect the rights of people whose emotional wellbeing is significantly increased by an animal and for those who are getting pets because they can’t afford children!

I am essential

I’ve had a turbulent relationship with my mental health over the last few years, but my animals have always kept me grounded, at some points, they have kept me alive.

If anyone’s watched Ricky Gervais’ After Life, you’ll know Tony’s dog Brandy, is essentially his only reason to stay alive. He has to feed her, let her out and walk her and those responsibilities for a creature that needs him, keep him alive. In a mental health epidemic, where suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in the UK, do we not think having a companion would not significantly help? It helped me.

The cats I fostered in the States, at moments really did save me. Coming home to Bubba [pictured] and Shrub who meowed for my attention, cuddled me in bed and seemed genuinely elated that I was there, made me feel like I had a purpose. I couldn’t die because Bubba and Shrub needed me.

At home, Beau and Fudge also provide that feeling. I am essential, I am their lifeline. They’re absolutely buzzing to see me in the morning, despite having slept on my bed all night, they are constantly finding a way to sit on my lap. They play fight with me, they love to catch bubbles in their mouths, they force me to walk them on my worst days and give me structure.

I don’t think this familial and social instinct should be disregarded simply because the babies we choose to look after have fur. We’ve put the needs of the wealthy landowner before the needs of the many for centuries, it is as British as a Yorkshire pudding, I am only asking that a proven resource to help people with mental health issues, that are usually less destructive than children and add infinite joy to humans should be considered as more important than financial gain. This at it’s most basic is about compassion, empathy and connection.

Do we not deserve this? I think we do.


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