Emotional support animals (ESAs) are pets (including birds like parrots) that provide relief from physical or emotional difficulty or disability.
They don’t have the same legal rights as registered service animals but can permit access to premises that would otherwise ban or disallow pets.
Parrots are intelligent, trainable, empathetic, and small enough to transport, so they often make good ESAs. A pet parrot will also relish the extra time it spends with its owner.
You must bond together if you want a parrot to be a good emotional support animal. This involves proving yourself worthy of its affection by forming a special connection.
Cockatiels, budgies, and Senegal parrots make excellent emotional support animals. Macaws and African grays can be EMAs but have higher maintenance and care needs.
For a bird to be an ESA, you’ll need a signed letter from a registered therapist or psychologist. This must specify that the bird’s presence eases anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, or chronic physical pain.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is a household pet that provides companionship and support, alleviating the symptoms of a mental health disability.
Examples of how an emotional support animal may help an owner’s mental health include:
- Reducing anxiety and alleviating depression through bonding and companionship.
- Supporting owners in recovery from traumatic situations.
- Enhancing physical health by slowing breathing, lowering blood pressure, and reducing pain.
- Providing a sense of responsibility and purpose.
Most of these functions attributed to an emotional support animal can also apply to a traditional pet.
To this end, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice explains that psychologists must avoid attributing this status to avoid ethical concerns.
If a companion animal provides emotional comfort and enhances an owner’s life, a mental healthcare professional may assign the pet the title of an emotional support animal.
What Disabilities Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?
To register a pet as an ESA, you’ll need the approval of a licensed therapist. Conditions that usually see a companion pet upgraded to an emotional support animal include the following:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). An emotional support animal can provide a responsibility that enables you to maintain focus on an important task.
- Learning disabilities or disorders that make it challenging to acquire to retain information, which the presence of an ESA can assist. These difficulties shouldn’t be linked to a physical disability.
- Significant anxiety and depression are reduced through the presence and contact with an ESA.
- PTSD is triggered by sights, sounds, smells, or occurrences, with the company of an ESA reducing the risk of impaired function or panic attacks.
If you have a mental health impairment or condition that an ESA would aid, consider which animal will best meet your needs and seek official documentation that bestows this status.
Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Service Animals?
As mentioned, ESAs don’t have the same legal rights as service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only recognizes trained dogs and miniature horses as ESAs.
Emotional support animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) 1968.
This means a landlord can’t ban a registered ESA from living with you or charge additional rent or deposit money, even if the property otherwise has a blanket ban on animal inhabitants.
Most local state laws mirror federal regulations, although you must prove you’re taking reasonable steps to prevent the animal from causing a nuisance.
Living with an emotional support animal doesn’t mean you can make excess noise that upsets neighbors or destroy a property owner’s possessions.
Emotional support animals are considered pets outside the home and don’t have the same legal rights as service animals. This means you won’t be entitled to bring an ESA to a private business that doesn’t welcome animals without the owner’s express permission.
Travel is also restricted for ESAs. Attempts to travel by air with emotional support animals often make the headlines, and permission to fly with an animal companion will be entirely at the airline’s discretion.
Can A Parrot Be An Emotional Support Animal?
Many pets can be assigned ESA status. Are birds good emotional support animals? Parrots can be ESAs, but what you get out of the relationship depends on what you put in.
Here are the main reasons why parrots make good emotional support animals:
Many parrots, like budgies, are good at mimicking human words. Teaching them to talk is enjoyable, and certain words can be calming.
Aside from adding to a bird’s vocabulary, parrots can be taught fun and interesting tricks like shaking hands, step-up, waving, and playing dead.
These will be a welcome distraction from the stresses of everyday life.
As flock animals, parrots are social by nature and value positive interactions.
Parrots are deeply empathetic birds. A parrot will sense your mood and cheer you up with its antics. However, it should never be used as an emotional crutch.
If you approach a parrot in a bad mood, it’ll recognize your negative facial expression. If you’re angry, it’ll shy away from contact through fear. If you’re stressed, it’ll grow concerned for its safety.
Bird carriers are available in different shapes and sizes at pet stores. A plastic crate can also work, but not all parrots will enjoy the restraint and lack of visibility.
Many bird owners prefer to travel with a backpack. This will have a perch, so a parrot can position itself in an elevated position, and a clear or mesh window for the parrot to see through.
In many respects, traveling with a parrot in a backpack is akin to allowing it to perch on your shoulder, allowing easy access to your ESA without compromising its safety.
Many parrot species are playful and cheerful, seeking opportunities to play. This will distract you from what is causing you stress or emotional turmoil, giving you renewed vitality and focus.
A happy parrot will also elevate the mood in your home, spreading joy and happiness. Play some music, and the parrot may dance. Let your bird out of its cage, and it’ll grow active and play games.
Parrots live longer lives than many common companion animals. This means their owners will benefit from the company of a parrot for a prolonged period, forming a strong and lasting bond.
The lifespan of a parrot depends on the species, with larger birds usually living much longer than smaller birds. This table lists the average lifespan of the most popular pet parrots:
|African grey parrots||40-60 years|
|Amazon parrots||40-70 years|
|Eclectus parrots||25-30 years|
|Senegal parrots||25-30 years|
What Parrot Species Are Good Emotional Support Animals?
Cockatiels are widely considered affectionate and loving species of parrots, making them ideal ESAs. A cockatiel will seek out physical closeness and affection with a bonded owner.
American parakeets (budgies) are also loving and affectionate, seeking to spend time with you. They’re very communicative birds, filling silences with singing, whistling, and trilling.
Senegal parrots love to perch on the shoulder of a favored human, and most choose to spend time with one person over all others. This can lead to co-dependency.
If you have time for their training, African grey parrots can make good ESAs. Some macaw species can also be considered, notably Hahn’s macaws, which are small, vocal, and friendly.
How to Register My Parrot as an Emotional Support Animal
You can apply for EMA status once you’ve adopted a parrot and formed a close bond. This must be given by a licensed mental health professional who’ll provide documentation.
Not all therapists will take on a new patient with the exclusive intent of assigning the emotional support animal status to a pet, so it would be beneficial if you already have a relationship with them.
A health professional will conduct the following assessments:
- The legality of emotional support animals and how your request will fit into local and federal law.
- An assessment of your mental health confirms you’d benefit from an ESA.
- An investigation of the animal and confirmation that it fulfills what is expected of an ESA.
- Observation of your interactions with confirmation that it provides essential emotional support.
If a therapist is satisfied that a parrot is an ESA, they’ll produce a letterheaded confirmatory document.
Online resources may offer a certificate that declares a parrot an emotional support animal for a fee. However, these businesses aren’t legitimate, and there isn’t a formal ESA certificate.
According to The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, only a letter signed by a licensed healthcare professional will be considered authentic by external bodies.