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Hundreds of thousands of people benefit from the company of an emotional support animal (ESA). If you are a bearded dragon owner and are considering getting your pet registered as an ESA, you’ll want to learn more about this to ensure your pet is welcome when you are out and about.
Can a bearded dragon be an emotional support animal? Many animals are eligible for emotional support status. You can register your bearded dragon as an emotional support animal for things like depression and anxiety. To do so, you must properly register your reptile and get documentation from a medical professional.
The research data on bearded dragons as support animals is encouraging for those looking to make the designation official. You can enjoy the benefits of a pet even if you do not have the time or space for a more traditional ESA, such as a dog. I’ve done the research about the registration requirements, costs, and benefits of certifying a bearded dragon as an emotional support animal.
Can A Bearded Dragon Be an Emotional Support Animal?
While you can choose almost any animal for emotional support, you must follow certain guidelines. If you want to take an animal out in public, it cannot cause problems for other people or animals. Lizards work well for emotional support because they are easy to carry around and do not interact much with other animals.
When you have an animal for emotional support, you do not train it to complete specific jobs. The purpose of an ESA is simply to keep a person company and keep them calm. Many people handle anxiety better in public with a familiar animal nearby.
A unique quality of animals is lack of judgment. Many people with depression and anxiety have trouble processing interactions with other humans. They may feel extremely self-conscious, making it difficult to function. The animal helps keep the person feeling comfortable and grounded. A bearded dragon is small enough to carry around without causing a big distraction.
How Does an Emotional Support Animal Help Someone?
Animals help in more ways than you think. While they bring comfort to people undergoing stress, they also give them a sense of purpose.
The Satisfaction and Pride of Taking Care of Something
You must take care of your ESA properly. This responsibility helps give owners more confidence in themselves.
A bearded dragon needs live food and a very specific habitat. Since they are cold-blooded, it is important to maintain their temperature with a heat lamp. They also need a UV lamp and time outside in the natural sunlight. When an owner sees their bearded dragon thriving, they also feel good about themselves.
Reptile owners often spend a lot of time researching proper food and living environments. They may talk on forums or at the feed store. This gives the owners a chance to learn and meet new people with common interests. This helps dissolve some of the loneliness that accompanies depression and anxiety.
An Icebreaker for Starting Conversations
Social anxiety causes a lot of problems when individuals must go out into the world. Severe anxiety can make it difficult to even leave the house or talk to a cashier at the grocery store. Autistic individuals may not know what to say in average social situations.
A bearded dragon is an excellent conversation starter. People may ask questions about the reptile on your shoulder or stop to admire it. You don’t need to find the right thing to say to someone, as people may simply start talking to you about your bearded dragon.
How to Get your Bearded Dragon ESA Certified
It is much easier to get an ESA certification than to get a service animal. You still need to speak with a doctor, however. There are many sites online to help you start the process. Many of these also provide a doctor’s note when you pay a fee. Here’s how to get started.
- You must go online to register your pet. Look for nationwide registration, so it is easier to travel. Just note that some sites are more reputable than others so it’s worth checking some reviews online first. You can also check to see if the company is listed with ShopperApproved, TrustPilot, or Yelp before you commit.
- Get a doctor’s recommendation. If you are working with a physician or mental health professional, get a note before you start the process. Include the doctor’s name and business information on the letter. Many ESA registration websites offer this service also but if you can get it in person, you can verify the legitimacy more easily.
- Carry your documentation. After you get properly registered, bring your documents with you everywhere you go with your bearded dragon.
- Visually identify your ESA. You can properly identify your animal by using an ESA vest or tag, as well. Some business owners may ask to see your paperwork when you arrive, especially restaurants.
How Much Does it cost to register an Emotional Support Animal?
Registering a pet as an emotional support animal can cost anywhere from around $100-$200 depending on whether you need to purchase a doctor’s recommendation. Many ESA registration sites also require annual renewals which usually cost around $60-$100 per year with some much higher at $200 per year.
Traveling with Your Emotional Support Bearded Dragon
There are times when you may need to travel on a plane, bus, or train. Check with the business or transportation center before you attempt to bring your bearded dragon. Call to find out if you need to send paperwork ahead of time. Even if you already have paperwork on file, always carry it with you.
Since emotional support animals must provide comfort, it is not helpful for them to travel in a crate. Most airlines, for example, allow you to keep the animal on your lap during the flight. Bearded dragons work well for travel because of their small size.
Practice taking your bearded dragon in public before you take a long trip. The ESA rules state that the animal must not cause a disturbance to other people or animals. You can put a harness and leash on your bearded dragon to keep it close to you.
Bring a crate or small carrier with you, in case the animal becomes restless or needs a break from the crowd. This can also help if you encounter a group of curious children or meet someone with a fear of reptiles.
Care Considerations for Emotional Support Bearded Dragons
In order for your bearded dragon to provide emotional support to you, it must be in good health. Make sure you know how to properly care for the animal you choose as an ESA. Here are some things to think about if that animal is a bearded dragon.
Climate Requirements of a Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons require more maintenance than warm-blooded animals. If you live in a cold climate, a bearded dragon may not work well as an ESA. They spend a lot of time under a heat lamp and UV lamp in their terrarium.
If you do not need an animal to be with you constantly, a bearded dragon may suffice. They can come out from under the heat lamp for short periods of time. If you live in a very warm and sunny area, you can go out and about with your bearded dragon more often.
Equipment and Health Needs of a Bearded Dragon
While all animals require special equipment and vet visits, bearded dragons can become expensive. They’ll need a fairly large terrarium as they grow. You should also expect to purchase a heat lamp and UV bulbs on a regular basis.
You cannot take your bearded dragon to a regular vet, either. If your bearded dragon becomes ill, you must seek out an exotic animal veterinarian. These often cost 2-3 times more than a vet for a cat or dog.
Bearded dragons eat live food, as well as fruits and vegetables. They need protein in the form of live crickets, Dubia roaches, or worms. You need separate containers and food to support these insects. Little things, such as a water conditioner, rocks, and environmental decorations can also add to your bills.
Register Your ESA Before Moving to a New Home
It is helpful to register your ESA before you move to a new home. There are many laws in place to protect tenants with emotional support animals. Landlords and corporations should not charge you a pet fee or deposit for an emotional support animal.
Landlords also cannot deny your right to keep the animal in the home. Your ESA is medically necessary to help you navigate daily life, both inside and outside of the home. You should, however, remain vigilant when caring for a rental property with an animal. You are still responsible for damage to the home caused by your animal.
Bearded dragons are becoming more popular as both regular pets and emotional support animals. It is important to consider the needs of a reptile before adopting it as an ESA, such as how its environmental needs align with your expectations for an emotional support companion.
If you’re ready to take the step, remember to talk to your doctor about a letter of necessity so you can get your dragon registered properly. After a proper registration, enjoy some time out and about with your new ESA!