Emotional Support Dog 101

Emotional Support Dog 101

An ESA dog with owner

There’s a reason you’re here.

Not here as your existence, we can’t be the judge of that, but there’s a motive behind you clicking this link.

Whether you are curious about what an emotional support dog actually is or the rights that come from owning one, you want information.

Maybe it’s for yourself or maybe it’s for your friend, either way, we want to share the 101 on emotional support dogs and how you or anyone you know can become an emotional support pet owner.

First, What is an Emotional Support Dog?

A) a stray dog that you sometimes see on the way to work
B) your neighbor’s dog
C) a dog that a licensed mental health professional has determined provides some benefit to an individual with a mental or emotional disability
D) your cat

Did you say C?! You smart dog, you!

An emotional support dog is a dog that a licensed mental health professional has determined provides some benefit to an individual with a mental or emotional disability.

While we all know how our pets can be the light of our lives and bestow such a gift to us mere humans, they cannot technically be an emotional support animal if a licensed mental health professional does not sign off on it.

Without a legitimate ESA letter from a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or another Licensed Health Care Professional or Physician, your dog will not be legally protected against certain federal laws.

(Don’t worry we’ll explain these emotional support animal laws in full detail shortly.)

Emotional support dogs are there to provide emotional or mental stability to their owner through their love and companionship.

Also commonly called Companion Animals, emotional support dogs are a specific type of Emotional Support Animal (ESA) which in turn are an emotional assistance animal just like cats, bunnies, and even miniature horses!

But the main thing to keep in mind is that you must qualify as a dog owner with an emotional disability or mental disability.

What Disabilities Qualify as an Emotional Support Dog?

Social Anxiety Disorder

Your emotional support dog could help you overcome social anxiety fear and boost your self-confidence.

General Anxiety Disorder

Whether you’re constantly worried or have trouble concentrating, your ESA or emotional support dog can be there to relieve some of the daily anxiety.


Your emotional support animal or dog is there to comfort you if you struggle with depression and will be there to get you out of bed each morning.

Panic Disorder

Your emotional support dog could be there to calm you (sometimes this just means having them by your side) when you face a panic attack.

Postpartum Depression

Having postpartum depression can be extremely tough, but your ESA or emotional support dog could help ease the pain you are going through.

Bipolar Disorder

No matter your moods, energy or activity levels alter, your emotional support animal or dog could be your constant in the midst of irregular change if you suffer from bipolar disorder.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Having OCD is real and affects your day-to-day life. By being a pet owner to your emotional support animal or dog, you could have a furry friend help you relax.

Impulse-Control Disorder

Your emotional support dog can help you with your urges and impulses not only with their sweet faces but also their ability to comfort you in need.

Phobias and Fears

It could be a fear of heights or fear of social situations; your emotional support animal or dog is there to reduce some of the stress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD can be anything from nightmares to extreme worry/anxiety of past experiences, but your ESA or emotional support dog can be by your side during hard times and help you with your mental health.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s difficult when dealing with depression at the same time every year so having your ESA or emotional support dog at your feet, hip, or head (it’s not just the small pets that do it either), you can start to feel a little bit better.

A furry emotional support dog

Truth Time on Emotional Support Dogs, Service Dogs, And More

When searching online for ESAs, service dogs, emotional support animal prescriptions, ESA letters, emotional support dog certification, and emotional support dog registration, there is sometimes a blurred line.

So to help you understand more about the full definition of an emotional support dog, let’s debunk some myths.

1)”The only thing different about emotional support animals and service dogs is one is for mental health disabilities and one is for physical disabilities.”

While it’s true to some extent, it’s not the only that separates the two assistance animals apart.

Like other emotional support animals, emotional support dogs do not require any specific training.

It’s true! It’s a great way to distinguish a service dog and therapy dog, which are both trained in their own separate ways.

Also, service dogs are guide dogs who have public accommodation and permission to enter a lot of public establishments. Emotional support animals or dogs do not.

2) “Service dogs can assist your whole family, and emotional support dogs can only be your support animal.”


If your dog Bobo helps with your emotional or mental disability and your mom’s AND/OR other family members in the household who too has an individual disability on the list above, then he can be an emotional support animal to all.

However, service dogs are strictly one to one. A seeing-eye dog or any other service animal can only do its full-time job if he has only one person to care for.

This seems pretty straightforward but is a common misconception when dealing with service animals and emotional support animals.

3) “An emotional support animal prescription is a letter from a licensed mental health professional/physician AND a certification of your emotional support animal registration.”

An emotional support animal prescription is ONLY the ESA letter.

Emotional support animal registration? Not a real thing.

There are a number of websites and companies that offer to “register” your animal or dog or claims to have “legit ESA Registration” – this is not required and does not legally allow you to live or travel with your animal.

Legal Protections for Emotional Support Dogs: The Two Laws You MUST Know

Two Federal Laws primarily protect the rights of people with Emotional Support Animals.

Although the rights are not as expansive as those granted to Service Animals, there are still two very important points to be aware of.

Living With Your Dog

The Fair Housing Act ensures that an individual requiring an Emotional Support Dog will be allowed to live with their animal, as long as an emotional support dog letter is provided to a landlord.

Furthermore, it prevents landlords and rental companies from being able to charge pet fees or deposits.

Disclaimer: If the landlord/owner witnesses neglect of the emotional support dog or significant damage done, they may be able to charge fees later on.

Traveling With Your Dog

The Air Carrier Access Act ensures that people are able to fly with their Emotional Support Dog without having to pay additional fees.

The airlines do require that they are informed in advance and that a recent (less than one-year-old) emotional support animal letter for flying is provided as well.

Emotional Support Dogs 101

1) You must have an emotional or mental disability deemed by a licensed mental health professional in order to become an ESA owner.

2) Emotional Support Dog ≠ Service Dog

3) You do not need to register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal because it is not a real thing.

4) Two Federal Laws to know are the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

5) Your emotional support dog will help you through the ruff times as your fur-ever companion.

An ESA dog with an old man