Why More People Should Have Bearded Dragons as ESAs

Nearly two years ago after my therapist suggested I get some type of pet I decided to get a bearded dragon. The question I receive the most is simply “why”? Why would an 18 year old girl suddenly decide to go out and buy an exotic reptile? Honestly, it was because I couldn’t have a cat, dog, rabbit, or hamster. Lizard or fish were my only options, but since I brought Mushu home I have realized reptiles make fantastic pets, and even emotional support animals.

Mushu eating celery greens


As far as pets go bearded dragons are very low maintenance. Bearded dragons are docile in nature (to humans), not known to bite their owners. They enjoy being handled regularly. Unlike many other species like chameleons which are more fragile, beardies are pretty sturdy, surviving in temperatures from 70 to 110 degrees fahrenheit. They only need to be fed once a day, although can go an entire month without eating. Compared to a cat or a dog, or even other reptiles, bearded dragons are extremely easy to care for and a great beginner pet.

Mushu sunbathing on his lizard hammock


Once you have set up your terrarium, 40 gallons for a full grown bearded dragon, the upkeep is fairly inexpensive. Bearded dragons eat an array of vegetables including collard greens, kale, carrots, and squash as well as most fruits. For protein they can eat crickets, mealworms, dubia roaches, or processed pellets. I personally avoid any live food and stick to freeze dried crickets. A container of freeze dried crickets is only around five dollars and typically lasts me almost three months. Other than food all you have to buy periodically are new bulbs for the heat and uvb lamps when they go out.

The main reason I believe that bearded dragons make wonderful ESAs for people with anxiety disorders like myself is how quiet and contained they are, no training required. As much as I love my family’s puppy, he creates chaos everywhere he goes, barking, eating shoes, biting, as puppies do. A lizard lives in a terrarium, making little to no sound or mess. This makes them a great choice for living in a dorm room or small apartment. You don’t have to worry about them hurting themselves or eating something poisonous because they only have access to what you have in the tank with them. While you certainly can take them outside, even put them on a leash, it isn’t a requirement.


Mushu trying to join a game of Cards Against Humanity


It might be hard to imagine that something cold blooded can actually bond with its owner, but I assure you that if you personally feed it and handle it everyday it will begin to show you some affection. They have been known to wave at their owners, a sign of respect. Once they are comfortable with you they’ll be extremely calm while being handled. I feel that Mushu has significantly helped me handle my anxiety and I hope that he can join me here at Agnes Scott as my ESA soon.

Mushu and I spending time together over Winter Break