How to Make Your Pet an Official Emotional Support Animal

As a pet parent, I understand the emotional benefits of having a loving four-legged friend by my side. My dog, Diamond, is one of the biggest calming forces in my life. Her mellow demeanor allows me to take her to dog-friendly restaurants, on pet-sitting gigs, and more. I had always considered making her an emotional support animal (or ESA), but knowing I didn’t have a medical reason to do so kept me from taking the plunge.

However, when I was diagnosed with an iron-overload disorder called Hereditary Hemochromatosis and learned I would have to deal with needles — my greatest fear — on a frequent basis, I decided to take the steps to make Diamond an ESA so I could have her with me at my doctor’s office.

If you are thinking about making your pet an ESA, here’s what I learned when I went through the process.

The difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal

The first thing to note is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs are not considered service animals. While service animals are allowed everywhere, ESAs have limitations on where they can go. This is because service animals are specially trained to assist a person with a diagnosed physical or mental disability, whereas ESAs are not.

Where you can take an ESA

Based on federal regulations, there are only two places your ESA is allowed:

A home you’d like to rent

Under the Fair Housing Act, all landlords must make “reasonable accommodation” to permit dogs that are ESAs.

When you fly

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide accommodation to passengers traveling with an ESA, upon review of required ESA documents.

You can also check with your state or local government to find out their rules on allowing ESAs in public places. I did find that many doctor’s offices and medical facilities in my area allow patients to bring their ESA with them to appointments, tests, and…

8 Ways to Lower Your Vet Bills

Taking your dog or cat to the vet can cause a big hit to your bank account, and if your pet has a medical emergency, you can easily expect to spend more than $500. This can take a toll on any family’s finances, which is why we’ve found some easy ways to save money at the vet, without compromising your pet’s health.

1. Take advantage of preventive care

If your vet suggests preventive care services, such as heartworm prevention medication for example, consider how much you’ll save with this affordable service, as opposed to what you would spend treating heartworm disease.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, grooming, proper food portions, teeth brushing, and overall care. Severe dental issues can cost more than $1,000 to treat, so it’s a preventive measure that shouldn’t be skipped.

2. Prevent parasites

Get your animal on a flea and tick prevention program to keep fleas, ticks, lice, and worms at bay. These typically come in the form of a monthly pill, and many of these provide protection against several parasites at once. Along with saving you money on future treatments, this will also keep your pet healthy, happy, and comfortable.

3. Take advantage of free exams

Some veterinary offices or hospitals offer discounts or even free exams, to encourage owners to bring their pets in to treat for issues before they become hard to treat. Make inquiries with your local veterinary offices to see what they offer.

4. Compare prices

Compare service and prescription prices…

Meet Molly, The First Dog Trained To Find And Rescue Missing Cats

A two-year-old Cocker Spaniel is the world’s first cat detection dog.

Meet Molly.

molly pet detective dog
ThePetDetective / Facebook

Molly works for The Pet Detectives, based in Guildford, England. Her job is to rescue missing felines.

Firm director Colin Butcher came up with the idea in 2014 due to the dozens of phone calls he was getting a week about missing cats.

“I worked in the police as a detective inspector for many years, and had seen dogs search for drugs and bombs and help with murder investigations,” Butcher said. “I figured, if a dog can be trained to find amphetamines, then it can be trained to find cats.”

molly pet detective dog
ThePetDetective / Facebook

Butcher rescued…

How to Keep Your Pet Alive on a Plane

Photo via Flickr.

Another week, another United P.R. disaster. This time, a giant pet rabbit died on a United flight from London to O’Hare, and the airline’s … not exactly sure what happened. The news is enough to make any responsible pet owner pause and ask “how can I best protect my pet when he or she has to fly in cargo? What are the best practices for making sure my darling is going to 1) live and 2) be as comfortable as possible?”

I spoke to Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center for her thoughts on how to best prepare your pet—and yourself—for a happy, healthy trip.

Reconsider putting your pet on a plane in the first place.

Dr. Hohenhaus says, “I would say to the family: Does the pet really need to go at all? If you’re moving, of course. But for a weekend trip? No one’s watching them [in cargo], no one can get to them.” It’s a risk that might be worth taking for a move or a substantial trip, but Dr. Hohenhaus asks her patients’ families to consider boarding the animal, or having it driven, rather than fly. “I recently put the kibosh on a 15-year-old dog flying to Palm Beach. It would have been a three-hour flight, so six hours in the carrier, and he needs to get up and move around. They ended up having the dog driven to Florida.”

Start planning early.

At least a month early, if you’ve never flown with your pet before, says Dr. Hohenhaus. “The regulations are not uniform across airlines, and they’re not uniform country to country. It’s a nightmare.” She recommends, for international travel, starting by gathering information from the USDA site on pet travel, and for domestic travel, with the web site of the airline you’re flying. “and find out what kind of airplane you’re flying—not all carriers will fit in all planes.” And make…

Does the U.S. President’s Dog Get Its Own Secret Service Agents?

Ryan asks: If the president has a pet dog, do their bodyguards also watch over his dog like they do his family?

Even before the U.S. president is elected such, if they’re considered a “major candidate” for the job, they get offered Secret Service protection. Whether they accept that protection or not, once elected until the day they die (unless they opt out after leaving office), they will be shadowed by an elite team of Secret Service agents. These individuals, while not actually sworn to do so (contrary to popular belief), are generally expected to, if necessary, give their lives to keep the president safe. While in office, this protection extends to a president’s immediate family. But does this ever include their family pet? Technically no.

According to former Secret Service agent Dan Emmett, as noted in his book Within Arm’s Length, the agents tasked with protecting the First Family are under no obligation to protect any pets said family may own. In fact, he noted that even beyond not directly having any obligation to protect the animals, “Walking the dog or cat is not and will never be a part of an agent’s job description.”

Emmett put this little tidbit in a section of his book specifically dispelling myths about the Secret Service. This is a section that humourously enough also includes this gem of a supposedly widely held myth:

Myth: All women are attracted to Secret Service agents.

Emmett goes on to explain that the truth is actually that only “Many women are attracted to Secret Service agents…” (Presumably to ones called Dan Emmett most of all.) On top of this, he states that the life of a Secret Service agent includes a

never-ending string of temptations sometimes literally thrust into one’s face by women who are impressed by such things as men who protect the president. It can be almost frightening at times when seated in a bar, and a woman recognizes and agent she has just seen on television with the president. On more than one occasion, my shift mates and I had phone numbers and hotel room keys shoved into our hands or thrown to us while working a rope line with the president…. For the single agent, it was paradise; for many married agents, it was a constant struggle between good and evil, which was sometimes won and other times lost.

Back to literal dogs (as opposed to the cheating kind)- although the Secret Service isn’t obligated by any means to walk or take care of the president’s pet dog or cat (Emmett tersely claims that White House custodial staff do this), it doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily do it.

For example, Bo and Sunny, the pet Portuguese Water Dogs of the Obama’s, were often pictured being taken for a walk by some member of Obama’s protective detail. Given there were presumably other staff available for the task when necessary, we can only assume they did this because of scenarios like that the president was in the midst of doing so himself when called away for a moment (so they had to take over temporarily), and perhaps because they liked to walk the dogs, so weren’t quick to call other White House staff in. After all, it stands to reason that Secret Service agents who spend a lot of time around the president would occasionally grow fond of the president’s pets, assuming they liked the type of animal, and thus wouldn’t mind the occasional pet detail.

Said agents have also been known to do such things as a favor to the president. For instance, the Secret Service agents…

Furry Friends Could Help Prevent Allergies and Obesity in Babies

Two of life’s great joys—dogs and babies—might be even better together. A study published in the journal Microbiome found higher levels of allergy-preventing bacteria in babies who lived with furry pets like dogs and cats.

The relationship between our environments, immune systems, and gut microbes is a tangled one. Studies have found that “dirty behaviors” like thumb-sucking and nail-biting might actually help protect kids against autoimmune conditions, as can living on a farm. So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that our four-legged companions might have a similarly beneficial effect.

To explore the idea further, researchers at the University of Alberta pulled data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study, which followed the lives…