In some ways, we are relieved that parrots cannot be registered as service animals. Captive parrots live a long, tough life. Even when they are treated well and given as much enrichment as possible, they often outlive their owners and get bounced around from home to home. We see parrots exploited by breeders and pet stores, and parrot rescues are weighed down with more surrender requests than support. The world does not need another way to exploit parrots for profit.
Pet parrots can give plenty of emotional support back to those of us who understand the intelligence and emotional needs of captive birds. We would never support the marketing of parrots as companion birds. But many birds still help disabled and traumatized people. Some of the best emotional support parrots are the ones that have been under stress themselves and can relate to the needs of their guardians.
What is an emotional support parrot?
An emotional support animal (ELA) is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a person's licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific task-training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person's psychological/emotional disability, unlike a working service dog. The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.
For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Typically, a medical doctor does not qualify because they are not a licensed mental health professional. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor, however.
What is a therapy parrot?
A therapy animal is most commonly a dog (but can be other species) that has been obedience trained and screened for its ability to interact favorably with humans and other animals. The primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties.
Therapy animals are privately owned and tend to visit facilities on a regular basis. A therapy animal is only half of the equation, however. A responsible, caring handler is an important member of the therapy animal team. At the end of a visit, therapy animals go home with their owners. Most commonly, therapy animals are dogs; however, NSAR routinely registers cats, rabbits, and other species that have shown they like people and have the temperament to work with them.
Although therapy animals provide a very important therapeutic service to all kinds of people in need, they are NOT considered “service animals” and they and their handlers have no protections under federal law (ADA, the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, etc.). Some states, however, have laws that afford therapy animals and their handlers rights and protections.
Why should I register my pet parrot as an emotional support animal? Click to the next page: