From the category archives:

Emotional Support Animals

In Spite of Recent Criticism, Therapist Argues Emotional Support Animals are Invaluable Help for People with Psychiatric Disabilities

by Sue on April 22, 2014

By Michael Halyard, MS, MFT

Emotional support animals provide tremendous benefits to psychiatric patients, but recent news stories have painted them in a bad light.
Recent articles in the New York Times, The Press-Enterprise, The Salt Lake Tribune, and a variety of other sources on the Internet, have brought skepticism to the growing use of emotional support animals (ESA’s).

ESA’s are animals that provide therapeutic benefit to their owners through devotion, affection and companionship. As more psychiatric patients learn about their rights, more are exercising their rights and obtaining such animals.

However the rights are limited to commercial air travel and housing. Contrary to what some people believe, there are no legal protections for disabled people to bring their ESA’s inside commercial establishments, like Lowe’s Home Improvement, where a child was recently bitten by an alleged ESA in Southern California.

“People are confusing service animals with emotional support animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks that benefit the disabled person, and are therefore protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional support animals are trained only as much as an ordinary pet, and are not covered by the ADA,” says San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard.

Halyard is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and can be found on the websites http://www.sftherapy.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco-psychotherapy.com.

People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service dogs into commercial establishments, government buildings, and public places—but that does not apply to emotional support animals.

The two federal laws that regulate emotional support animals are the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA). The ACAA and regulate emotional support animals on commercial aircraft and the FHAA regulate emotional support animals in housing

“The protections for ESA’s are limited to commercial airline travel and a person’s residence. If a disabled individual wants to bring his ESA into a commercial establishment, he has no legal right to under Federal law, and it is up to the discretion of the establishment whether to allow the ESA in with the individual,” adds Halyard.

There have been a number of recent stories in the media that doubt the validity of people bringing ESA’s on commercial airlines and tenants exercising their right to have their ESA in their homes.

“The skepticism around ESA’s is unfortunate, because the vast majority of people who have prescriptions for ESA’s have bona fide psychiatric disabilities, and gain tremendous benefit from being able to have these animals,” argues Halyard.

“I guarantee that a commercial airline passenger would rather be next to a relaxed psychiatric patient with an ESA than next to a psychiatric patient without one having a panic attack. People with extreme anxiety around flying–who would normally need a strong tranquilizer–are able to fly fine with their emotional support animal,” argues Halyard.

The bottom line is that people are getting tremendous relief from their psychiatric symptoms by having ESA’s serve as their companions–whether it’s at home or on a commercial airline.

Emotional support animals should not be confused with psychiatric service dogs. The latter referring to dogs that require special training to perform specific tasks that help a person mitigate the effects of a mental illness–like turning on the lights for a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Emotional support animals provide emotional security, unconditional love, and act as a secure base for their owners,” explains Halyard.
“Many people struggle due to trauma that triggered a psychological inability to function in day to day activities. Other people have biological-based psychiatric disorders that affect their ability to function. For all of the above, the company of a beloved pet serving as an emotional support animal can considerably diminish or eliminate their symptoms,” adds Halyard.

Halyard says whether it disorders like Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or Schizophrenia, people who have psychiatric disabilities can benefit tremendously from having an emotional support animal present in their lives.

“For some people, their emotional support animal is the one thing keeping them stable in spite of suffering from severe mental illness,” argues Halyard.

Landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodations to allow disabled tenants to have an emotional support animal even when there’s a “no pet” policy if they have the proper documentation. Landlords must waive security deposits for pets, but the owner can be charged for any damage caused by the emotional support animal.
Airlines are accustomed to people bringing their emotional support animals and have policies in place. Most airlines don’t charge an extra fee for emotional support animals, but they do require the proper documentation and notice 48 hours prior to the flight.

In order to have your pet become an emotional support animal, you need to get a letter from your physician or licensed mental health professional recommending the emotional support animal to help with your disability, and the pet has to be able to live peacefully with people without being a danger or nuisance. For airline travel, most people bring their animal in a pet travel crate.

“It’s important to train your animal so that it doesn’t bother other people, as there are still establishments that will allow let them to accompany you–but it is now up to the establishment,” says Halyard.
“People get such tremendous benefit from their emotional support animals! Emotional support animals reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even can return a person to a higher level of functioning. A person who has a major mental illness may be able to live a fairly normal life,” explains Halyard.

“If you already have psychiatric condition that substantially limits at least one of your major life activities, you may qualify to designate your pet as an emotional support animal,” adds Halyard.

Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a San Francisco psychotherapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his San Francisco private practice. He can be found on the websites http://www.sftherapy.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco-psychotherapy.com.

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NOTE FROM SUSSIE:

All and all not a bad article. However there are a few bits of misinformation.

The disabilities that he listed…”Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or Schizophrenia” are actually recognized disabilities that you may use a Service Dog for.

The statement…“If you already have psychiatric condition that substantially limits at least one of your major life activities, you may qualify to designate your pet as an emotional support animal” is true. However if you are using your dog to control that, it is also considered a service dog. Keep in mind that the ADA states the following in their list of what service dogs can do… “helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors”

ANY ESA or Service Dog MUST be well behaved in public! The fact that the child was bit has nothing to do with the fact that the dog was an ESA. The dog was not properly controlled or should just not be out in public period. Unless of course the child provoked the dog then the parents are to blame for not controlling the child.

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Laws differ regarding emotional support animals

by Sue on March 6, 2014

By REBECCA EVERETT

Friday, January 17, 2014

A steady increase in the number of people who rely on emotional support animals adds to the confusion about service dogs and their place in public.

Emotional support animals are not granted the same public access guaranteed to service dogs, but many people don’t know the difference between the two designations, said dog trainer Pam Murphy.

“It’s kind of a gray area,” she said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog (or miniature horse) individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Emotional support animals, while they may help their owner stay calm and feel comfortable, are not trained to perform tasks.

“Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as a service animals,” the act states.

That said, there are some federal protections for the owners of emotional support animals. The Fair Housing Act, for instance, states that a person with a disability cannot be denied access to housing because he or she relies on an emotional support animal. The Air Carrier Access Act allows the animal to ride in the cabin of an airplane with its owner.

But both airlines and landlords are allowed to require a signed letter from a licensed mental health professional that states that the person has a mental health disability that requires a support animal.

Meanwhile, an incident at a local shelter in 2012 illustrates just how confusing — and to some degree, contradictory — the regulations can be when it comes to emotional support animals.

When Christy McNerney and her 9-pound spaniel-bichon frise mix, Scruffles, showed up at the Craig’s Place shelter, staff were unsure whether the dog should be allowed. She insisted the dog should be treated like a service dog and the police were called, at her request. A police officer read a letter from McNerney’s psychotherapist that said she needed an emotional support animal and the officer told shelter staff they must let the dog stay.

Kevin Noonan, executive director of Craig’s Doors, the organization that runs the shelter, said he contacted Disability Services at UMass and was again told that the dog must be allowed. “Our worry was that someone here would be afraid of dogs,” he said.

In the end, McNerney and Scruffles stayed at the shelter for a few months and Noonan said Scruffles was a very well-behaved guest. They have not had anyone ask to bring in an emotional support animal since, he said.

The Fair Housing Act states “a housing facility, program or service must permit the assistance animal as an accomodation,” and issued a memorandum in 2013 specifying that shelters and other housing that receives public funds are required to comply.

Another difference between service and emotional support animals is that while the former is limited to dogs or miniature horses, emotional support animals can be any species, from ducks to pot-bellied pigs.

That’s what troubles Ellen Kennedy, a JFK Middle School teacher who has a service dog. People may feel that they need their snake to be with them for emotional support, she said, but you can’t train a snake to behave appropriately in all situations.

“I’m sure the animal does provide support, but I’m not sure that can be justified if they’re not trained properly,” she said. “I do think ultimately we’ll see legislation limiting it to dogs and miniature horses.”

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Service Dog Tags will never give out certificates to “register” or “certify” an animal.

by Sue on January 15, 2014

Do certificates prove tenants’ pets are emotional support animals?

Tenants are using official-looking certificates from a website to argue that by law, a property manager must let them keep their animals. Are they right?

November 10, 2013|By Martin Eichne:
Question: I am a partner in a small property management company. I know that disability and reasonable accommodation issues need to be handled carefully, so I try to keep up with the latest rules. However, I have recently received “certificates” from tenants for their pets from a website, certifying their pet as an emotional support animal. My owners are very worried about being sued and are afraid to say no when they see these very official-looking certificates. Are we bound to allow these pets just because we receive these Internet certificates?

Answer: The short answer to your question is no. A certificate from a website, in all likelihood, has nothing to do with whether a tenant is entitled to have an emotional support animal.

As a housing provider, your decisions regarding whether to accept a tenant’s emotional support animal are guided by the state and federal fair housing laws. Some people confuse these laws with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Service animals are treated differently in some ways under the ADA, which applies to public places, such as restaurants.

However, none of these laws requires a service animal to be “certified.”

Under the ADA, a service animal must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Under the fair housing laws, an emotional support animal or other type of medical support animal does not have to be individually trained. All that matters is that the tenant has a disability within the meaning of the fair housing laws and that the animal ameliorates the effects of the disability in some way.

The required paperwork for a tenant seeking to qualify a support animal is a letter from a medical professional familiar with the tenant’s condition that attests to the tenant’s disability, and to the role the animal plays in treating the tenant’s disability.

The question remains whether a service animal “certificate” from a website establishes a tenant’s right to have an emotional support animal. The answer to this question is almost certainly no.

Regardless of the seemingly official nature of the website certificate, you do not know what standards were used in issuing the certificate, if any, or what kind of information the applicant submitted to secure the certificate. First and foremost, a certificate from a website is unlikely to be from a medical professional personally familiar with the tenant’s disability. A website cannot honestly state whether or how this specific animal facilitates his or her disabled owner’s ability to use and enjoy housing — which, after all, is the standard the tenant must meet under the fair housing laws.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to info@housing.org.

 

 

But from a company that supports the laws. Buy from ServiceDogTags.com!

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Kendra Velzen Sues Grand Valley State University To Keep Guinea Pig In Her Dorm

by Sue on February 28, 2013

A student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan believes the school violated federal housing policy by not letting her keep Blanca, a pet guinea pig, in her dorm.

Kendra Velzen, a 28-year-old GVSU student who reportedly battles a heart condition and severe depression, wanted to keep a pet guinea pig in her dorm as an “emotional support animal.” However, campus housing rules say students can only keep non-predatory fish and service dogs in their dorm rooms.

Under the Fair Housing Act, the school should’ve made an exception for Velzen’s Blanca, her attorney Stephen Dane claims.

Velzen has now filed a lawsuit against the school and a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Department. The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan is assisting Velzen.

GVSU officials told the Grand Rapids Press that they never told Velzen she could not keep Blanca; instead they offered a compromise. She could own the guinea pig but she could not take it to common areas, class or to food-service areas. Velzen’s attorney said those restrictions were not acceptable.

“The university has never said, ‘OK, you may have your guinea pig, no conditions,’ Dane told the Press. “They haven’t given her any unconditional permission to have her guinea pig. She’s in limbo.”

Negotiations have stalled between Velzen and GVSU. Blanca has since died.

The AP reports the university has not yet received the lawsuit.

A student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney made a similar argument in 2011 to keep a small dog as an “emotional support animal” in their university apartment.

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Pot-bellied pigs WILL fly (along with miniature horses and monkeys): Passengers to be allowed to take exotic pets on flights for ‘emotional support’

by Sue on January 30, 2013

By Daily Mail Reporter

Maybe pigs can fly after all.

Pot-bellied pigs, as well as miniature horses and monkeys, could be permitted to travel on planes under new Department of Transportation rules.

The guidelines are part of a draft manual on equality for disabled people traveling on commercial passenger planes.

Animals should be allowed on flights if they are used for ‘emotional support’ by their owners, the manual states.

Transportation officers would have to determine whether the animal is permitted on the plane by running through a list of guidelines.

‘A passenger arrives at the gate accompanied by a pot-bellied pig,’ the manual states. ‘She claims that the pot-bellied pig is her service animal. What should you do?’

According to CNSNews, it continues: ‘Generally, you must permit a passenger with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal.

‘However, if you have a reasonable basis for questioning whether the animal is a service animal, you may ask for some verification.’

Airline employees should enquire about how the animal aids the passenger and what training it has had.

If the employee has doubts that the animal is a service animal, they can ask for further verification or call a Complaints Resolution Official.

WHAT SUPPORT CAN THESE ANIMALS GIVE?

Service animals help perform some of the tasks that people with a disability have difficulty with or cannot perform for themselves.

Pot-bellied pigs, which can weigh upto 300 lbs, are favoured service animals for people allergic to dogs. They are intelligent companions and attuned to dangerous situations.

Miniature horses work as guide animals for the blind and visually-impaired. They are more cost-effective than guide dogs as their life spans are longer, around 30-40 years. They are also chosen for their calm natures, excellent eyesight and stamina, according to the Guide Horse Foundation.

‘Finally, if you determine that the pot-bellied pig is a service animal, you must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger to her seat provided the animal does not obstruct the aisle or present any safety issues and the animal is behaving appropriately in a public setting,’ the manual adds.

Pot-bellied pigs can grow as large as 300 pounds. They can be trained to open and close doors and use a litter box.

‘They seem to have a sense if the owner is not feeling well to stay by them,’ said Wendy Ponzo, from the North American Potbellied Pig Association.

Ponzo, who has multiple sclerosis, added: ‘They help me a great deal when I feel at my worst.’

Not all animals that could help humans are allowed in the cabin, including ferrets, rodents, spiders and snakes.

But miniature horses and monkeys are also ‘commonly used service animals’ and are allowed inside, the manual states.

It adds that cases will be dealt with individually and animals can be turned away if they are too large or heavy, or will cause disruption.

The owner must also provide a ‘relief area’ for his or her animal.

The rules come despite the TSA banning less potentially troubling items, such as sporting goods and snow globes.

They are outlined in the DoT’s Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Draft Technical Assistance Manual.

The manual, which is open for public comments until October, is designed to ‘help carriers … provide services or facilities to passengers with disabilities’.

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Emotional Support Animals on Campus

by Sue on January 23, 2013

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who knew that pets could be so controversial? Here at Wes, the emotional support animal policy has been generating a fair amount of stir over the past couple of months.

From a post on the Parents Talk forum:

“Does anyone have experience with the University’s ‘support animal’ policy? Apparently students go through an application process to bring an animal for emotional support. We are baffled by this.”

From one Wes administrator to another (overheard) (maybe they should make office doors a little thicker?): students should not be allowed to have a new pet as an emotional support animal because “how would that create routine?” and “where is the bond?”

Yeah, I know. Those are things I should have never seen nor heard. But I did. More importantly, if you ask me, those are some things that should never have been said. Based on the amount of skepticism that the policy seems to generate, I thought I would give a brief explanation of what it means and why it exists.

Emotional support animals, as you might have guessed from the name, are animals that live with students who have documented disabilities. Before you, the healthy college reader, exclaim, “Wait, that’s just a pet!” with some indignation, let me break this down a little further.

You are probably aware by this point in your Wesleyan career that you are required to live on campus all four years unless you have a really awesome reason not to. You are also probably aware that you are not allowed to have a pet in campus residences, which means that the University has effectively banned you from having animals in your life for four whole years. Other than the basic stupidity of this (like, I don’t know, we are all adults and should be allowed to own cats), this can have negative impacts on our health.

Research shows that the presence of a pet can improve many conditions and even change people’s prognoses. That’s why there are services that bring dogs and cats into hospitals to visit patients. It doesn’t just “cheer them up” on a surface level, it actually improves their condition. This is especially true for depression. Having a pet helps to create routine, and can give people who are severely depressed a reason to get out of bed and a steady schedule that can help them succeed.

And in case you were wondering what conditions might affect our seemingly healthy population of college students, here’s a quick list: fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, eating disorders, epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, depression, migraines, diabetes, asthma, and severe allergies. That’s a list that I created from conditions that my friends and I have. That probably doesn’t even come close to covering the range of medical conditions that can be found here on campus.

This, as you may have guessed, is why emotional support animals are allowed. But getting an emotional support animal is not an easy process. If I were to make it a step-by-step type of thing, it would go like this: 1) students must have a documented disability and be registered with disability services, then 2) they must get a note from their doctor which states that having an emotional support animal is the best course of treatment for their condition (this is often combined with another treatment such as medication), and finally, 3) CAPS and the health center must agree that this is a reasonable accommodation to have. If the request gets approved, ResLife is then supposed to make sure that a student with an emotional support animal is housed with people who are not allergic to animals and would feel comfortable having an animal in their residence.

In the same way that there are students here with conditions bad enough to get medical weed (jealous?), there are students here who require other accommodations and who, even though you might not be able to tell, are disabled. That’s why it’s called an invisible disability. And as “baffling” as it may be to some people, an emotional support animal can be a valid and valuable course of treatment for these invisible (and visible) disabilities. Were I blind and requesting a seeing eye dog, nobody would question it. We as a society already understand on that level that animals can provide help for those in need, so it’s time to take the next step and realize that they can provide emotional support as well. It’s especially disappointing to see criticism coming from parents and the administration, those who are supposed to be a little more grown-up than we are.

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Fair Housing Act covers emotional support animal

by Sue on January 16, 2013

AVENTURA, Fla. – Sept. 28, 2012 – The Fair Housing Act does more than protect homeowners or renters who use a support-services animal – it also protects residents who need an animal for emotional support. While the definition of an emotional support animal goes beyond “I love him,” the Fair Housing Act covers residents or potential residents who rely on an emotional support animal.

The issue raises questions from landlords and homeowner associations. An existing rule on pets, for example – such as an additional pet deposit – doesn’t apply to support animals under The Fair Housing Act.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced yesterday they reached a Conciliation Agreement with Point Three East Condominium Association in Aventura, Fla., over the issue. The condo association allegedly refused to allow a resident to keep an emotional support animal, even though the resident provided medical documentation attesting to her need for the accommodation. HUD also found that some of the board members who denied the resident’s request had, or previously had, animals in their units.

Under the agreement, Point East Three Condominium Association will allow the resident to keep her emotional support animal and pay her $18,000. In addition, the condominium association will enact a reasonable accommodation policy and obtain fair housing training for all its board members.

“Condo associations are not exempt from adherence to the Fair Housing Act,” said Carlos Osegueda, HUD’s Region IV director for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Their policies and practices cannot discriminate against persons with disabilities, and HUD will continue to take action anytime we find that they do.”

For more information on emotional support animals protected by The Fair Housing Act, visit the American Bar Association website.

People who believe they are victims of housing discrimination can contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or 1 (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

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Emotinal Support Animals

by Sue on December 27, 2012

Senator George Graham Vest, of Missouri, won a court battle over the shooting of a dog with a speech that included the line, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.” Read more of this moving eulogy at: http://www.warrensburg.org/drum.htm .

Dogs have shared their lives with humans for at least 14,000 years and possibly much longer. During those millennia dogs have been man’s helper, protector, and companion. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 39% of U.S. households include one or more dogs and 34% include one or more cats.

An Emotional Support Animal is a dog or other common domestic animal that provides theraputic support to a disabled or elderly owner through companionship, non-judgmental positive regard, affection, and a focus in life. If a doctor determines that a patient with a disabling mental illness would benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal, the doctor write letters supporting a request by the patient to keep the ESA in “no pets” housing or to travel with the ESA in the cabin of an aircraft.

ESAs are not task trained like service dogs are. In fact little training at all is required so long as the animal is reasonably well behaved by pet standards. This means the animal is fully toilet trained and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors such is frequent or lengthy episodes of barking. The animal should not pose a danger to other tenants or to workmen. But there is no requirement for fancy heeling or mitigating tasks since emotional support animals are not generally taken anywhere pets would not ordinarily go without permission (the exception being to fly in the cabin of an aircraft, even if the airline does not ordinarily accept pets).

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Note from Service Dog Tags about the upcoming holidays

by Sue on October 10, 2012

Our holiday hours will be as follows…

November 22nd…Closed

December 24th…Open from 8am to Noon (Pacific Time)

December 25th…Closed

December 31th..Open from 8am to Noon (Pacific Time)

January 1st, 2013…Closed

If you plan to order tags for the holidays, it would be wise to order them early. Granted we do have a FedEx overnight option. But right around the holidays FedEx raises their prices to an insane amount. Trust me on this one. It almost doubles.

We decided to give everyone to a special treat around the holidays. We have lowered the price of our tags for the holiday season. They are now on sale for $27.95 (normal price being $29.95) These tags make great gifts. And we do have gift certificates available if you would love to buy a set for someone but not quite sure want they want for tags or what they want the tag to say.

Sussie
Gunny, Rainy, Lucy, Squeaky and T.

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Validate Your Emotional Support Animal With a Letter From Your Doctor

by Sue on October 4, 2012

Occasionally I get phone calls from people asking me how they can “certify” or “register” their Emotional Support Animal. I tell them that there is no such process, however there is a validation.

The most effective method to officially validate your emotional or mental disability and legally qualify for an emotional support animal is to have a letter from your physician or mental health professional that prescribes or endorses your use of a “support animal.” For best results be direct with your physician, swallow your pride, and accept the fact that you are emotionally disabled – with or without your physician’s blessing. If your physician balks you must convincingly plead your case with your physician, finally asking your physician for a letter on their letterhead to facilitate traveling with your dog (or other animal) or for a specific housing-related need. It’s important to credibly describe the severity of your symptoms to your physician, and, for example, you might express how surprised and relieved you have been to discover that having your dog with wherever you go you has made successful functioning in public and private possible. And that, without the animal, you’ve been a wreck. Here are some examples of the symptoms you may be experiencing:

Examples of the symptoms of an emotional disability include, but are not limited to

An inability or difficulty to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships.

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

A tendency to develop physical symptoms or irrational fears associated with otherwise normal life problems or situations.

An inability or intense discomfort interacting with others in a public or private setting.

If your physician is unsure what to write, please contact me. I have sample letters that work in various situations.

Sussie
Gunny, Rainy, Lucy, Squeaky and T.

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