"An emotional support animal(ESA), or simply "support animal", is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability. This may include improving at least one characteristic of the disability. Emotional support animals, typically dogs, but sometimes cats or other animals, may be used by people with a range of physical, psychiatric, or intellectual disabilities." - Wikipedia
"What’s the difference between an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and a Service Dog?Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are animals that provide therapeutic benefits to their owner through affection and companionship. A Service Dog is specially trained to perform a task to help someone with a disability. A seeing eye dog is one example of a Service Dog. Unlike a Service Dog, an emotional support animal does not need specialized training to handle a task. Further, Emotional Support Animals come in different breeds and animal types and are not just limited to dogs, while Service Animals are either dogs or mini horses." - ESA Registration of America
It's official, Champagne is now registered as an emotional support animal and is duly certified as an ESA companion. I got fed up of explaining why I take her along on trips, and of the criticisms. First off, Champagne is the exception to all the rules. I have never had a cat or a dog who is as enthusiastic and patient about travel as Champagne, and many cat owners I have met along the way are truly envious. Generally speaking, cats are not as patient or trainable as dogs when it comes to traveling in any form of vehicle, and 98% of cats will complain about being in a transport basket or pet backpack. I have had the fortune of landing a cat who belongs to that 2% who wants to go everywhere I go.
Keep in mind that Champagne is an emotional support animal, not a service animal. The distinction between the two is something I learned recently, and much to my disappointment, also discovered that the concept of ESA does not officially exist in Germany. Service animals are defined as dogs in Germany, and cats do not come into the formula at all. So much as I tried and researched extensively, I could not find any legal definition in German for an ESA, let along an association where I could register Champagne. When I asked my therapist about it, she said point blank that the concept simply does not exist here.
So I turned to the USA and registered Champagne as an ESA without a hitch. Her official tags and vest are arriving later on, but I have the certificate in my possession to counter any stupid questions and remarks. Curiously enough, the day after I registered I received two queries here in Berlin about whether Champagne could be borrowed for a couple of group therapy projects, one for senior citizens and another one for special children. They couldn't have asked for a more sociable and friendly cat! She even tags along to tennis with me, although my trainer is disappointed that she won't run after the balls and collect them for us.