Psychiatric Service Dogs

How Bad Does Depression Have to be to Qualify for a Service Dog?

If you have depression or another mental illness, such as anxiety, PTSD, or OCD you may wonder if you would qualify for an emotional support animal or service animal. There is now a new category of service animals called psychiatric service dogs, that specialize in assisting people with mental disabilities or illnesses. How severe does your depression of anxiety have to be in order to qualify for a service dog? Read this article to find out.

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog is defined as a dog who is trained to do specific tasks in relation to their owners mental health or disability. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as necessary medical equipment.  They differ from emotional support animals in that they are trained to do certain tasks, while emotional support animals simply provide comfort through their presence. Emotional support animals also cannot travel with you or go in public with you the way a psychiatric service dog can, because they are only protected by the Fair Housing Act. They also differ from traditional service animals who are trained to do tasks for those with physical disabilities or illnesses.

What Does a Psychiatric Service Dog Do?

Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to do a variety of tasks in relation to your mental illness. These tasks can include reminding you to take your medication at the correct time, waking you up from nightmares, stopping self-harming or OCD behaviors, interrupting PTSD flashbacks, standing on top of you to hit certain pressure points when you are having a panic attack, and more. These dogs must also be trained to be calm and well behaved, even in chaotic and loud environments, such as airports.

How Do You Qualify For a Psychiatric Service Dog?

In order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you must be officially diagnosed with a mental illness or disability by a certified mental health or medical professional. This professional must then evaluate your condition and need for a service animal and write you a service animal letter of certification. This letter verifies your diagnosis and your need for a service animal. You qualify for a psychiatric service dog with any level of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness if it is limiting your ability to live your life day to day.

How Do You Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

There are many different routes to getting a psychiatric service dog after you have been approved for one. Depending on your needs, you could train a dog yourself, or if you need more complicated, specific tasks accomplished, you may require a professional to train a dog. Training can take up to 1-2 years total for a dog to be completely prepared to serve. It must not only be trained to do the specific tasks you need it to, but also to be calm and well behaved in all environments. Buying a psychiatric service dog typically costs between $15,000-30,000 to get one fully trained. There are many non-profit organizations out there that offer cheaper options, and you can also investigate if your insurance will help cover some of the cost.

In conclusion, in order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you must be officially diagnosed with a mental illness or disability and have a mental or medical health professional write you a service animal letter of certification. It does not matter the severity of your mental illness. If it is impacting your day-to-day quality of life, then you will qualify for a psychiatric service dog. To get a letter of certification, contact our experts at United Support Animal at 800-918-3151 or by taking our pre-screening test.