Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Canada
Emotional support animals are the perfect companion for people who suffer from mental illnesses. Not only are they great to cuddle with during the long cold Canada winters, but they’re also a comforting presence! Getting an emotional support animal in Canada has plenty of advantages. Whether you live in a big city like Toronto or in a small town such as Jasper, becoming an ESA owner might be just what you need…
An emotional support animal isn’t like every other pet. They help people with mental disabilities recover on their path to mental wellness once more. ESAs are true companions who will quickly become your new best friend. But how do you get an emotional support animal in Canada? Keep reading to find out!
Disclaimer: CertaPet has qualified therapists in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario only at this time.
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How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Canada?
An emotional support letter is official proof that your companion is a real ESA and not just your pet. Emotional support letters are used to separate pets being passed off as ESAs from actual ESAs.
But how can you get it? Writing an emotional support letter in Canada isn’t something you, the ESA owner, can do. You have to ask a qualified mental health professional who can practice in your province to write it for you. Your therapist will assess your mental state and then write the letter if they think you can benefit from having an ESA.
This letter surely opens a lot of doors for you. Therefore, it’s important to get yours from a legitimate professional and to always have it on you!
Canada Emotional Support Animal Laws
Firstly, there are the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Air Transportation Regulations. This is what you will need to be aware of if you choose to fly with your assistance animal.
When it comes to housing laws, it is a bit more tricky. Depending on where you live, there will be different nuances of housing laws. Laws that apply specifically to ESAs are still in the process of being created, so, for the time being, these are the ones enforced.
Exception to Rules
The housing and travel laws might not apply to you in certain situations. If your ESA acts unruly and puts other people in danger, then the laws will not apply to them anymore. If they’re too large to be carried on a plane, they will also be denied boarding and may have to be placed in cargo.
Punishment for Misrepresenting an Emotional Support Animal
Stories of people passing off a pet as a service or emotional support animal aren’t uncommon, sadly. Some people try to abuse the law for their own gains. This harms those who actually do need a SA or ESA to live a good life. Because of this, the judicial system punishes those who misrepresent emotional support animals and service animals.
In the United States, for example, you can be heavily fined if you misrepresent an ESA. We’re sure you don’t want to risk this happening to you! Plus, getting an emotional support animal in Canada isn’t as hard as you think it is. It all starts with a simple screening test CertaPet offers!
Vital Facts You Must Know Before Becoming an ESA Owner in the Great White North
Having an emotional support animal in Canada is great. You get the emotional benefits of having one of these companions with you and help you live a better life. What more could you ask for? But it’s very important to know what laws apply to you in your province.
Legally speaking, an emotional support animal and a pet are not the same things.
An emotional support animal, unlike a service one, doesn’t necessarily have to be a dog. Cats, for example, are a very famous pick and make great ESAs!
From a Reader: ‘Can you Register Emotional Support Animal Canada?’
Only qualified mental health professionals can issue emotional support animal letters. Beware of untrustworthy websites selling fake certificates and requiring you to register your ESA! They scam people for their money and these supposed letters do not have any legal value (and so, won’t hold up in court).
International travel and domestic travel do not work the same way as traveling in country though. If you’re flying to a foreign country, you need to read up local laws regarding quarantine for animals. Always contact your airline for more information (and read our information down below!)
Housing laws are drafted and enforced by each province. If you’re living in Ontario, you will need to learn about Ontario’s rules. If you’re living in British Columbia, you’ll need to understand the British Columbia laws — and so on.
Always keep in mind that service animals and emotional service animals are not the same. Some laws apply only to service animals and not to ESAs. You should fully understand what laws can apply to your emotional support animal in Canada before deciding to get one.
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Traveling with Your ESA: Canadian Transportation Agency Law
Traveling by plane with your emotional support animal is no longer something impossible. The Canadian Transportation Agency makes it possible for ESAs to travel with their owners.
Furthermore, the Air Transportation Regulations and the Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities make sure your rights are being respected.
The most important thing to know about this law is that it only applies to you if you have a valid emotional support letter. You will need to show the airline this letter as proof of your legal status. You will also need to give them at least a 48-hour warning that you’ll be bringing an ESA to travel with you.
Secondly, you must learn if the airline you’re flying with has any other requests. Some airlines only ask for the emotional support letter, while others also request vet forms and other paperwork.
Thirdly, check with the airline if they have enough space on the aircraft to comfortably accommodate your ESA. Some carriers, such as WestJet let you have your ESA on your lap (if they’re smaller than a two-year-old child). Others, however, require that your ESA travels in an appropriately sized carrier.
WestJet and Air Canada Emotional Support Animal: From Airports to Beyond!
Lastly, if you’re flying internationally, you need to keep a few things in mind. There are additional restrictions and laws that apply to your ESA outside of Canada. Before your trip, make sure the country you’re flying to accepts foreign animals into its borders. There might be quarantine laws you have to obey, which could ruin your trip if you weren’t expecting them!
You may be able to live with your emotional support animal in Canada. Different laws apply to each province. But they all have one thing in common: they all shelter people with disabilities from discrimination. This can also be interpreted to apply to housing.
If you live in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, or Yukon, look to the Human Rights Act. Section 5 of this act protects mentally ill people from being discriminated against when renting commercial and dwelling units. [The Human Rights Code provides the broadest protections to service animal users, as it extends the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, and reprisal in all of the social areas covered by the Code, including services, goods and facilities, accommodation, contracts, employment, and vocational associations. We are also fully aware and understand that an ESA does not have to be honored and can be denied.]
Is British Columbia your home? If so, you and your ESA could fall under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act. Note: this piece of legislation doesn’t specifically apply to emotional support dogs. However, the arguments made can be used to justify the presence of your ESA. [There is no legal obligation for the other party to approve an ESA request, but they may be motivated to do so on compassionate grounds.]
Manitoba residents can refer to the Human Rights Code and to the Service Animals Protection Act for help. These two laws are the ones enforced in this province. They protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against when it comes to housing.
If you call Ontario your home, the Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Code are the ones to look up to. These acts have all the legal information you need to be aware of.
The Service Animals Act is the law you need to know if you live in Alberta. It, too, doesn’t say anything in particular about ESAs but the arguments and base for legal defense are the same as for service animals.
If you’re living in Quebec, then look at the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Lastly, if Saskatchewan is your home, look no further than the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. It has every piece of legal information you’ll need to defend yourself when looking for housing with your ESA!
Where to Find a Suitable ESA!
Since an emotional support animal does not need to be trained, you have the freedom to choose whatever animal you want. As long as you choose an animal and breed that is recognized as an ESA, you will be fine.
If you have a pet at home, they could become your new ESA. In reality, the only requirement for the right emotional support animal for you is that they share a bond with you and can comfort you well. You’ll need their company and cuddles during the long and harsh Canadian winters!
If you don’t already have a pet, consider going to a local rescue or shelter. There are thousands of dogs and cats out there in need of good homes. By choosing a rescued animal, you’ll be bettering their lives just as much as they’ll be bettering yours…
ESAs in Canada: How to Get Connected Today?
Gone are the days when you needed to look for a qualified mental health professional for hours on the phone book. CertaPet now does all that work for you. Our team of qualified mental health professionals is more than qualified to issue your emotional support letter. With it, you’ll have access to all the privileges we mentioned before!
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Currently, we are only servicing British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. We are invoking the Human Rights Code when we issue these letters. The Human Rights Code provides the broadest protections to service animal users, as it extends the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, and reprisal in all of the social areas covered by the Code, including services, goods and facilities, accommodation, contracts, employment, and vocational associations. We are also fully aware and understand that an ESA does not have to be honored and can be denied. We make sure to let our clients know this. There is no legal obligation for the other party to approve an ESA request, but they may be motivated to do so on compassionate grounds. Animals that have little training, are poorly behaved or have damaged property will be rejected.
Common Questions on Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Canada
How to Get an ESA Letter through CertaPet?
CertaPet is the world's no. 1 emotional support animal service and the only online service offering a 100% legal and compliant process.
Start by taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening process to see if you are a good candidate for an ESA, and if you are, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional quickly and easily. You can access your letter online immediately after its issued. You can also choose to receive a physical copy of the letter send to your mailing address.
An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:
- Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
- Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
- Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within 48 business hour
Once you receive the letter, you are free to use it whenever you travel or live with your animal.
What Clients Say About CertaPet
“I got my dog as a Valentine's Day gift from my abusive ex. When she was a puppy, I protected her from him, and she would lick away my tears when I cried. When I finally left him, I left with nothing: no clothes, no home, and more importantly no her. He refused to let me have her and the cops, despite text messages of him threatening her safety, wouldn't let me take her. I fell apart. During that time I suffered from depression, PTSD and anxiety. I was scared of my own shadow. Months went by and finally after a long battle, I got her back! She put me back together piece by piece. My ESA is special because she literally saved me.”
- Kailee Biesenbach
“I love my cat -"Hope". She was named before I got her and she is my Hope! The previous owner said "She may not come to you at first”. She had been trained by her previous owners needs and she had only been with her. I went into the room when I first met her. She came right up to me purring like crazy. It was love at first sight! She is the best PSTD animal ever!!! She calms me right down every time I get near her. She even knows when I need her and she will come to me when I am upset or facing a panic attack. It is an amazing connection!! We clicked right away. It almost feels like she is human and yes she is my best friend. God always knows what we need!! Thank You for letting me share!”
- Tracy Huntington
“After high school, I felt like there was nothing left for me. I felt I was living everyday - day by day. I also moved to a new city so had no friends or family to go too. I felt so lost and depressed. Then I got my ESA dog Chip, and my whole life flipped. I had a reason to be happy, a reason to enjoy life and go out again! Certapet helped make this all happen and thank you guys so much for that!!”
- Lyssa Helton
Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Animals
What is an Emotional Support Animal 'Certification'? Do I need to get my ESA 'certified'?
No, you do not need to get your Emotional Support Animal certified. Frankly, it’s not possible.
Like the misconception of registering your ESA into some database online, Emotional Support Animal certification is just a piece of paper with no real use.
To be a real Emotional Support Animal owner, you must have an ESA letter awarded by a therapist after you have taken an assessment of your qualification to own one.
Many sites, as well as people, claim they sell official Emotional Support Dog certification or offer legitimate Emotional Support Animal registration, but remember all you need is an ESA letter from a LMHP.
Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?
We’re often asked if ESA registration sites are real.
The answer is NO.
If you see a site claiming to be a “national service animal registry,” “emotional support dog registration,” “official service dog registry,” "US emotional support dog registry," or a “US service dog registry” they’re handing out false information and only wanting you to pay for a “fake” document.
Do emotional support animals require training?
Unlike service animals, HUD does not require any special training for ESAs. However, we strongly encourage you make sure your pet understands basic commands, behaves well in public setting and is trained for travelling if you chose take it on a flight.
Does my dog need an emotional support animal vest to travel or live with me?
There is no law stating your ESA must wear a vest. Many ESA owners chose to still go with a vest to make their ESA easily identifiable.
Is the ESA letter all I need to become an emotional support animal owner?
What happens when the airlines staff or landlord ask to see my proof that I’m an ESA owner? Are they just asking for my ESA letter?
Yes! Just that!
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