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Student Research Guide: Emotional Support Animals: Top Resources

by Maryann Lindor

Top Resources


Ambrosi, C., Zaiontz, C., Peragine, G., Sarchi, S., & Bona, F. (2019). Randomized controlled study on the effectiveness of animalā€assisted therapy on depression, anxiety, and illness perception in institutionalized elderly. Psychogeriatrics, 19(1), 55–64.        

This study was conducted to learn more about how emotional support animals can be effective in lowering anxiety and depression symptoms in elderly patients. The study followed 17 people ages 65 and older that were in treatment for mental health issues and 14 in the control group. For ten weeks the 17 people in the treatment group spent thirty-minute sessions with a dog and the trainer.  The conclusion was that the elderly people in the institution that was part of the treatment saw a significant decrease in depression and pain. I chose this study because it shows how spending just a small amount of time a day with an animal can change the way your body feels. The study used the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale to measure the depression during the study. The Numeric Pain Rating Scale was used to measure the physical pain.  


Binfet, J.-T., Passmore, H.-A., Cebry, A., Struik, K., & McKay, C. (2018). Reducing university students’ stress through a drop-in canine-therapy program. Journal of Mental Health, 27(3), 197–204.

This was a study done to see if canine therapy can actually help with students' stress. This study was conducted in a Canadian university and they used 1,960 students. The students had weekly drop-in visits that lasted thirty-five minutes. The students self-reported that they felt less stressed after participating in canine therapy. I chose this article because the study used a large number of students. The study was conducted to specifically see how well drop-in canine therapy helps students with their stress. 


Burden, D., Hansen, S., & Nash, S. (2019). Are You Ready for a Wallaby at the Water Cooler? Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace: What Do Employer Clients Need to Know? Defense Counsel Journal, 86(1), 1–5.

This article goes through the complex issues surrounding emotional support animals. Many laws must be followed and personal sacrifices that come with owning an emotional support animal. One story in this article states that a woman in 2018 was forced to flush her emotional support animal down the toilet to board her flight. That is why owners of emotional support animals need to know their rights. I chose this article because all of the authors are in the field of law. 


Contalbrigo, L., De Santis, M., Toson, M., Montanaro, M., Farina, L., Costa, A., & Nava, F. A. (2017). The Efficacy of Dog Assisted Therapy in Detained Drug Users: A Pilot Study in an Italian Attenuated Custody Institute. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(7), 683.

This study took place in an Italian Attenuated Custody Institute. This institute wanted to see how dog-assisted therapy can help drug addiction rehabilitation for the inmates. During the six-month-long study, the treated group had one-hour-long dog-assisted therapy sessions for 20 weeks. The control group stuck to the standard rehabilitation program at the institute. At the end of the study, the inmates in the treated group were more sociable, had reduced cravings, and had lowered anxiety and depression levels.  I chose this article because it was put on by an institute and the study lasted six months. They used a 90 question symptom checklist before and after the six months. 


Etingen, B., Martinez, R. N., Smith, B. M., Hogan, T. P., MiChandler, Cynthia ( April 20, 2015). Confirming the benefits of emotional support animals,  Retrieved on April 29, 2021, from

This article is about emotional support animals from a counselor's view. It goes into detail about exactly what documentation the patient needs to receive an emotional support animal. Comparing emotional support animals and service animals is another important aspect of this topic. All emotional support animals should have a temperament test before being certified. They need to have a temperament test to make sure that the animal will not cause any harm to the owner or anyone else. I chose this article because it touched on some of the most important things about emotional support animals. Getting all the documentation needed to certify an emotional support animal is a long process but the outcome is worth it. 


Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J., & Sartorius, N. (2017). A proposed new definition of mental health. Propozycja nowej definicji zdrowia psychicznego. Psychiatria polska, 51(3), 407–411.

This is a short article on the definition of mental health. This new definition of mental health was proposed in 2017. The old definition included the term well-being. The authors of this proposal argue that people in good mental health do not always experience the feeling of well-being, and they instead propose a new definition that excludes the term in favor of language more inclusive of the appropriate range of emotions experienced by those with good mental health. I chose this article because it dives deep into the definition of mental health. It is a reliable source because the definition is from the World Health Organization. 


 Iler, L., Saban, K. L., Irvin, D., Jankowski, B., & Weaver, F. M. (2020). Developing an animal-assisted support program for healthcare employees. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1), 1–9.

This article compiles the results of a study done on burnout of healthcare employees, and ways to avoid burnout. The conclusions were very significant. The majority of employees who participated responded positively to the animal therapy provided in the study. The article contains a lot of clinically significant information relevant to my research paper. The conclusion was well-drawn, and the study's authors suggested randomly controlled studies, which I will research further.


Minton, C. A., Perez, P. R., & Miller, K. (2015). Voices from Behind Prison Walls. Society & Animals, 23(5), 484–501.

I found this article to be extremely interesting, it is about women inmates who got the opportunity to help train service dogs. Through the training process, both the dogs and the women learned so much. The dogs learned how to behave properly, care for people, and communicate with their owners. The inmates learned how to control their emotions, how to have goal-directed behavior, and how to properly treat those who surround them.  I chose this article because it showed a different aspect of how animals can help people. Although these dogs were not emotional support dogs they emotionally supported these women. They all learned how to behave properly towards others.  


Pollock, M. M., Williams, R. E., & Gomez, S. M. (2017). Animals as Icebreakers: A Pilot Animal-Assisted Therapy Group for Veterans with Serious Mental Illness. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 21(1), 123–1.

This article was written on a pilot program where animal-based interventions were used to help veterans with serious mental illness. The connection between animals and humans is strong, this connection can help with severe mental illness. Veterans who have severe mental illness and PTSD deserve the best treatment we have. They put their lives on the line for us so now we need to help them through the scars that were left. Emotional support animals can be a distraction from their thoughts, they can comfort them during flashbacks, and they can be trained to fetch medications. I chose this article because veterans are one of the many people with mental illness that can be helped by emotional support animals. I feel passionate about helping veterans with PTSD because my grandpa has severe PTSD, impacting his life in many negative ways. Emotional support animals might be the new way to treat PTSD patients. 


Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., Hellyer, P., Cheung, L., & Kogan, L. (2017). Public Perceptions of Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and Therapy Dogs. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(6), 642.

This article compares the public's perception versus the reality of emotional support animals. ESA’s have gotten a lot of negativity in the media because a few people were taking advantage of the system. Dogs can be trained to help with severe depression/anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Each service animal can be trained specifically to help with one of these disorders. A majority of this article was a survey taken by 500 plus people on their perception of emotional support animals. Since so many people are uneducated in this subject and there are no clear laws, many people who could benefit from an ESA are not able to obtain one.  I chose this article because a majority of society is falsely informed about the use and benefits of ESA’s. The surveys show just how harmful this is for those working towards acquiring all the necessary documentation needed to certify an animal.  

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