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Taylor & Francis Inc.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The present study gathered information about the characteristics of individuals and dogs in Emotional Support Animal (ESA) partnerships, instances of service-animal misrepresentation, animal welfare and behavior, dimensions of bond quality, and health professional involvement. Seventy-seven adults (53 female, 24 male) with a canine ESA were surveyed via Qualtrics panel services. Data were analyzed for descriptive data, as well as correlational analyses among variables. Participants reported high frequencies of misrepresentation of emotional support animals, access law violations, and problematic instances including ESAs with a history of aggression and times when participants were unable to care for their dog. The majority of participants reported mental illness diagnoses, seeking ESA documentation from mental health providers; however, levels of health professional involvement in the ESA-procuring process were varied. Several dimensions of bond quality between participants and their ESA were reported to be consistently high across participants. Correlational data brought forth questions about the roles that health professionals and animal welfare could play in preventing harm to clients, animals, and communities, discouraging unlawful and problematic behavior, and strengthening the human–animal bond between their clients and ESAs. For example, welfare concerns were correlated with problematic animal behaviors and perceived costs to the participants. Additionally, as professional involvement increased, so too did rates of misrepresentation of ESAs as service animals and access law violations. These data provide a first picture of ESA partnerships and can be a springboard for future research toward protecting individuals with disabilities, their animals, and communities.