Emotional Support Dog Information

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By: Prairie Conlon Updated: March 5, 2021

Free ESA Assessment Test: Do You Qualify for an ESA?
Take CertaPet's free, 5-minute assessment to find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

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.

They do not require specific training and provide emotional or mental stability to their owner through their love and companionship.

Emotional Support Dogs are also commonly called Companion Dogs or Assistance Animals. They are not, however, considered service dogs.

Nonetheless, Emotional Support Dogs are still entitled to certain rights where it concerns air travel and housing. You can read more about ESA (emotional support animal) laws here.

Curious to know if you could potentially qualify for an emotional support animal? Get started by taking our free, 5-minute screening survey and receive an instant result!

Free ESA Assessment Test: Do You Qualify for an ESA?
Take CertaPet's free, 5-minute assessment to find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal. 

What Disabilities Qualify for an Emotional Support Dog?

Social Anxiety Disorder

Your emotional support dog could help you overcome social anxiety and boost your self-confidence and/or comfort levels.

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 day-to-day anxiety you may experience.

Depression

Your emotional support dog is there to comfort you if you struggle with depression and will be there by your side to offer healing companionship and love.

Panic Disorder

Your emotional support dog can help calm you with their presence when you face a panic attack.

Postpartum Depression

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

Bipolar Disorder

No matter your change in moods, energy, or activity levels, 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 can be a challenging disorder that affects your day-to-day life. By being a pet owner to your emotional support animal or dog, you could have a furry friend to help bring you comfort and peace.

Impulse-Control Disorder

Your emotional support dog can help you manage your urges and impulses with 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 to deal with depression seasonally, so having an ESA or emotional support dog at your side as a constant companion can be comforting and healing.

Emotional Support Animal Prescription

An Emotional Support Animal Prescription is simply an ESA letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional or Physician. 

This is the ONLY requirement for your dog or cat to be an Emotional Support Animal.

You do not need to register your animal with any national emotional support dog registries, go through an official ESA registration process, or apply for any sort of ESA certification. Stay away from registration and certification sites, as their practices are more often than not fraudulent

Free ESA Assessment Test: Do You Qualify for an ESA?
Take CertaPet's free, 5-minute assessment to find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal. 

Common Myths about Emotional Support Dogs, Service Dogs, And More

When searching on the Internet about ESAs, psychiatric service dogs, emotional support animal prescriptions, emotional support dog letters, and emotional support dog registrations, 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.

“The only difference between emotional support animals and service dogs is that one is for emotional/mental health disabilities while the other is for physical disabilities.”

While this is true to some extent, it’s not the only thing that differentiates the two assistance animals.

Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs do not require any specific training and there aren’t any qualifications or requirements needed for an animal to become an emotional support dog (making it easy for a pet you already have to become your emotional support animal).

Service dogs and therapy dogs, on the other hand, go through extensive training in order to receive the qualifications necessary to perform their jobs. 

Also, service dogs/therapy dogs are entitled to public accommodation and have permission to enter just about any public establishment. Emotional support animals have rights too, but they're more limited. 

“An emotional support animal prescription is your ESA letter AND a certification of your emotional support animal registration.”

An emotional support animal prescription ONLY consists of an ESA letter.

Emotional support animal registration is not a real thing. While there are a number of fraudulent websites and companies that offer to “register” your dog, cat, or other animal as an emotional support animal, registration of any kind is actually not required by law.

Furthermore, the 'certificates' these companies provide mean nothing legally. They won't allow you to travel with your pet or entitle your animal to housing. Unfortunately, these scams are popular on the internet - here's a story of just one person who fell victim to them.

Emotional Support Dog Registration: Is it Necessary?

Many pet owners think they can register their pets as ESAs, and that this registration is all they need to enjoy the legal rights that come with being an ESA owner.  

As previously mentioned, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There’s no such thing as an “emotional support dog registry” or “certification.” Companies selling these are fraudulent and sadly only out to get your money.

An emotional support dog certificate or registration means nothing in the eyes of the law. All you need is an ESA letter written by a licensed mental health professional or physician. 

Steer Clear From Emotional Support Dog Certification Sites!

The fraudulent selling of fake ESA letters is unfortunately a booming industry.

However, you will NEVER get a legitimate ESA letter from an online company offering ESA documentation in exchange for money.

Luckily legislation changes across the US are making it more difficult to get (and use) fake ESA letters. There is also an increasing number of states making misrepresenting an ESA a felony.

Steer clear from anyone trying to sell you an ESA letter, no matter how convincing and “legit” they sound. They will try draw you in with their ESA 'swag' like vests and ID cards, but none of that is official or legally binding!

Emotional Support Dog Requirements: Any Dog Can Be an ESA Dog!

Any dog can become an emotional support dog, even a pet you already have!

If you don't have a pet yet, that's okay too. You can adopt one from your local animal shelter or from a rescue organization in your city. 

Your dog will not need any special training in order to become an emotional support dog. Their love and companionship, and the bond you share with them, is enough. This connection alone is often enough to have a calming effect on a person, allowing them to feel loved and supported. 

For your pet to officially become an emotional support dog, all you need is an ESA letter written by a mental health professional or physician. 

Legal Protections for Emotional Support Dogs: Laws You MUST Know

Although an ESA's rights are not as extensive as those granted to Service Animals, there are stlil special entitlements that ESA owners should 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, even in a housing unit with a 'No Pets' policy. 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 by the animal, they may be able to charge fees later on.

Traveling With Your Dog

The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits airlines from discriminating against those with disabilities. However, the ACAA only applies to Service Animals, not Emotional Support Animals. This is due to new regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 11, 2021. The allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights now varies from airline to airline. Please contact your airline of choice for their most up-to-date policies on Emotional Support Animals.

Here are just some of the airlines who have already announced changes to their ESA policies. You will still be able to travel with your ESA on most of these airlines, but your ESA will now be recognized as a pet, and you will have to pay a Pet Fee for them. If your pet is too large, they may also be forced to travel via airline cargo hold. 

DOT regulations emotional support animals

On the other hand, Service Animals like Psychiatric Service Dogs, enjoy more extensive privileges when it comes to public access and travel. You can learn more about Psychiatric Service Dogs, and the process of getting one, here

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal: CertaPet’s Process

CertaPet makes the process of getting a legitimate ESA letter for your dog simple and easy. 

We know the invaluable contribution animals make to help people cope with mental illnesses and other emotional disabilities. Whether a person is living with depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or another disability: ESAs can have a massively beneficial and life-changing impact on their owners.

So how does CertaPet work?

We know that for some people, the process of finding, traveling to, and meeting up with a therapist can be incredibly overwhelming, stressful, and/or anxiety-inducing.

That's why we make it easier than ever for you to connect with a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) in your state, who you can consult with virtually, allowing you to go through the ESA process from the comfort of your own home! 

Ready to get started? All you need to do is to take our free, 5-minute pre-screening test. If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a LMHP in your state, who can issue you an ESA letter.

Free ESA Assessment Test: Do You Qualify for an ESA?
Take CertaPet's free, 5-minute assessment to find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal. 


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    Thank you for your help.

  • I live in a foster home which has refused my Certapet letter stating she is covered b the Fair Housing Act. Which stipulates that I live i a house that has no more than 4 rooms occupied. Why 4 rooms? Would Certapet letter be accepted in 5 rooms or more occupied. It seems unfair and why do I need a housing letter when it does no apply to me?

    • Hi Shirley,
      The Fair Housing Act covers the vast majority of housing in the country. If they are claiming they are no covered by the FHA (there are definitely exemptions to who is covered), please call your local HUD branch and confirm what they are saying is accurate. It is a free service meant to prevent housing discrimination.
      -CertaPet

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