People get leopard geckos for different reasons. Some get them for companionship while others get them to teach their children about responsibility. But can these cute reptiles be used as emotional support animals?
Leopard geckos can make great emotional support animals. Not only can their calm demeanor help relieve anxiety, but taking care of a leopard gecko can help stave off depression symptoms. Ultimately, getting your leopard gecko certified as an emotional support animal is straightforward and affordable.
What is an emotional support animal?
An emotional support animal is an animal that offers therapeutic support to an elderly person or someone with a disability. They usually provide this support by providing affection, companionship, a point of focus, and non-judgemental positive regard. Since medical professionals usually prescribe these animals, you have to prove that you are elderly or disabled to get one.
Keep in mind that emotional support animals don’t need to get any kind of training to be able to serve their purpose. They don’t even need to be in any specific age group. They need to be manageable and not cause any additional stress for their owners. Their presence alone should be enough to alleviate discomfort.
Since emotional support animals help with emotional wellbeing, they are usually prescribed by mental health professionals like psychiatrists, therapists, and psychologists, not medical doctors. These professionals usually provide the owners of these animals with properly formatted prescription letters. However, some property managers and airlines accept verification forms filled by family doctors.
Some mental and emotional disabilities that qualify you to get an emotional support animal include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic stress, attention deficit disorder, depression, and learning disabilities.
Related: How Much a Leopard Gecko Costs
Are emotional support animals the same as therapy pets?
No, emotional support animals aren’t therapy pets. The latter don’t go home with any owner. They are trained to offer affection, comfort, and attention to people in schools, nursing homes, hospices, and retirement homes.
On the other hand, service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. For instance, they can guide blind/deaf people as they walk or remind people with a mental illness to take their medication. Since 15th March 2011, service animals can only be dogs.
Can a leopard gecko be an emotional support animal?
While most emotional support animals are dogs or cats, leopard geckos and other reptiles can be great options too. Some of the qualities that make leopard geckos good emotional support animals include:
They are more manageable than traditional emotional support animals
Since leopard geckos are small, they are more manageable than traditional emotional support animals like cats and dogs. They are particularly suitable for people who live in small apartments or need to move around with their emotional support animal regularly.
They require less attention than cats and dogs
While leopard geckos still need care and attention, they don’t need as much as cats, dogs, and other large animals. They are generally used to being alone and don’t require grooming or exercise. What’s more? You don’t even have to feed them every day.
They are mostly hypoallergenic
Since leopard geckos don’t shed furs like cats and dogs, they are mostly hypoallergenic. Also, as long as you keep their tanks clean, they don’t produce any strong odors. This makes them suitable for people with allergies.
What challenges are associated with having a leopard gecko as an emotional support animal?
While leopard geckos make great emotional support animals, there are some challenges you have to be prepared for. The most common one is the public perception of leopard geckos and other reptiles. Many people find them scary and repulsive and may behave negatively when they see you moving about with your gecko in public. Because of this, some establishments may not allow you in with your leopard gecko, even if you have an emotional support animal license/certificate.
How to get your leopard gecko licensed as an emotional support animal
Registering your leopard gecko as an emotional support animal involves only 5 steps. These are:
Fill out a registration form
The first step to getting an emotional support animal license for your gecko is filling out an online registration form with a relevant organization. While many such organizations exist, the Emotional Support Animal Registration of America (ESARA) is the most popular one. Whichever organization you choose, filling out the online form will be easy. You’ll just have to provide some basic information and a photo of your gecko.
Talk to a licensed medical professional about getting an emotional support animal
Before making your leopard gecko an emotional support animal, you’ll have to consult with a medical professional with ESARA accreditation. This consultation will allow you to ask questions about the process of adding a pet to your treatment plan and get advice on how to obtain all the necessary documentation.
Get an evaluation letter or written certification
The next step is to get documentation from a medical professional indicating that you need your leopard gecko as an emotional support animal. This document should be updated annually and contain:
- Your diagnosis where necessary
- Your physician’s name, contact details, and license number
- The treatment that requires your emotional support animal
Get an ID vest, harness, and portable carrier
Getting an ID vest, harness, and portable carrier for your leopard gecko will make it easy for you to carry them around. Many landlords and public areas also require these to let your gecko in.
Pay registration fees
You will need to pay $30 to $150 to complete your gecko’s registration – the price will depend on your registration package.
If you have a leopard gecko or are looking to get one soon, rest assured that you can get them licensed as your emotional support animal. However, you need to keep in mind that the registration process takes some time. And even when it’s complete, you’ll still need to deal with people’s negative perceptions of leopard geckos and reptiles. Having a leopard gecko as an emotional support animal is a fulfilling endeavor if you’re up for it.