You may be wondering what companion animals are and trying to figure out of they are right for you.
Humans and animals have been providing companionship to each other for thousands of years. Only in recent decades have we begun distinguishing a companion animal from a service animal, or a house pet.
Learning about these great animals, and what they can do for you, is the first step in determining if it makes sense for you to get one.
Companion Animal vs Service Animal vs House PetsDefining terms is important whenever learning about a subject. Here we will be looking closely at companion animals, so it is good to know how these animals differ from service animals and house pets.
- Service Animals – A service dog (most often a dog, though not always) is trained specifically to meet the needs of someone with a disability. Seeing eye dogs trained to help blind people overcome their disability so they can live more normally in the world is an example of this.
- House Pets – While a house pet certainly does provide companionship, they are really a member of the family, and aren’t chosen specifically to meet the needs that a companion will provide.
What are Companion Animals?
Unlike service animals and house pets, companions are there to help provide health benefits to a person.
Animals relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and overcome fear according to many studies. Many of these animals are trained to be able to sense when their handler is having a problem and provide relief. Because of this, these animals are also known as emotional support animals.
For example, if a person suffers from anxiety, their emotional support animal can sense when they are having an anxiety attack and come provide them comfort and relief.
What Animals Can be Companion Animals?
Just about any creature can serve as a companion animal, though the most common ones are dogs and cats.
It is not uncommon for someone’s house pet to become a companion and serve in both roles. There are many examples of other types of animals serving in this capacity as well, including horses, birds, guinea pigs, and even mice.
As long as it is able to provide a person with health benefits, they can typically be classified as a companion.
Why Register a Companion?
Many people who get health benefits from animals know that it is companion animal that helps them through many difficult situations. Many places do not allow pets to be present. This can make life difficult for both the animals and the handlers.
The United States has passed many laws in this area. They have helped to make it easier for humans to benefit from animals. By becoming legally registered in this way, handlers will enjoy the following benefits:
- Access to Housing – Many housing locations don't allow pets. They can't, however deny emotional support animals.
- Air Travel – Airlines are now required to allow companion animals on flights as long as they don’t cause unreasonable problems. (Airlines can still restrict exotic companion animals).
- Companion Animals in the Workplace – If a handler has a documented disability (including mental disabilities) that the companion animal helps with, they can often bring them to work.
Properly registering a companion animal will bring many other advantages. Of course, airlines, apartment complexes, employers, and others have legal rights too. They can contest these animals on a case by case bases.
With this in mind, it is best to attempt to minimize confrontation by ensuring the animal is well-trained.
How Many People Have Companion Animals?
It is difficult to know exactly how many people have companion animals in the United States and around the world. Many people don't register them, which makes accurate numbers difficult. Due to updates with laws and regulations, more and more people are actually going through the registration process.
Since 2011, for example, the number of emotional support certifications has gone up by 279%. In most countries around the world, however, there is no set certification, which makes tracking it difficult.
There is no doubt, however, that millions of people around the world benefit from these great companion animals.
Visit Dr. Jeff Werber’s Instagram account (@werbs_dvm) to view and submit questions and answers on weekly AMAs – or call and leave a voicemail at 424-835-0576. Your call will be returned posthaste. For emergencies, download Dr. Jeff Werber’s app Airvet, a video-chat option for veterinary needs at any time of day or night!