Emotional support dog - therapy dog - ESA dog - emotional support animal

Emotional Support Animal FAQ

Emotional Support Animal FAQ

emotional support animal questions

When it comes to emotional support animals, or “ESA’s” -there’s no shortage of questions to ask, or misinformation to wade through. Here, we’ll attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions and to clear up the most common misconceptions concerning emotional support animals. If you still have any unanswered questions after reading the articles below, please send them to [email protected] and we’ll be sure to add them to our list.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet that provides companionship to a person who suffers from symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. Learn more here.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal?

In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you need a letter from a licensed mental health professional which outlines your need for the animal. Getting an emotional support animal letter used to be tedious but CertaPet has streamlined the entire process. Moreover, CertaPet is the only HIPPA Compliant website that can give you a certified ESA letter. Learn more here.

What are the benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal?

Having an ESA comes with many benefits, such as being able to live with and even fly with your animal on commercial airlines free of charge. Learn more here.

Does my ESA need an Emotional Support Animal Vest?

A person who is assisted by an emotional support animal must have a properly formatted letter from a licensed mental health professional.

That’s all.

The ESA letter must state that the animal’s handler has an emotional or mental disability identified in the DSM V, and that the animal helps mitigate specific symptoms of the handler’s disability.

The letter is all that is required.

To reiterate however, an ESA vest made of a brightly-colored fabric, such as red or orange will help identify your pet as an emotional support animal.

Learn more here.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically address emotional support animals and primarily addresses Service Animals. Learn more here.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which prevents landlords from discriminating against people with disabilities. Learn more here.

What is Air Carrier Access Act?

The Air Carrier Access Act protects owners of emotional support animals from discrimination by commercial airlines, and allows them to bring their ESA’s in the cabin of the aircraft free of charge, even if the airline does not normally allow pets. Learn more here.

Comments 110

  1. Cheryl Trevethan

    I was devastated after my husband’s early death. 13 days from onset to death! I underwent therapy but the thing that helped me the most was a neighbor who gave me a puppy. This puppy became my lifesaver and I had him registered as an emotional therapy pet. I travel with him, take him to restaurants etc. Time moves forward and I have a new husband, but I still need my dog, in fact, today is the 4th anniversary of Art’s death. My little one holds lots of secrets, tears and joys; I cannot imagine being without him.

  2. Donna

    Isn’t it illegal for a licensed professional that’s treating you for an illness to charge for a letter.? One doesn’t from mail from someone not treating you is fraudulent.

  3. Will

    It honestly sounds like what you need ro help mittigate your symptoms is going to be a psychiatric service animal, not an esa.

    The process to obtain your ‘perscription’ as it were is the same; speaking to a mental health professional and aquiring a letter.

    But the law states that the dog or minature horse must be poliet (its considered vital by most sd handlers that your dog pass a public access test) followed by ‘task training’.

    Thats the big difference between an esa and a service animal. An esa is a pet that provides comfort by simply being there while a service animal performs tasks to mittigate the symptoms.

    My service animal performs blocking and alert tasks to my anxiety and ptsd. It might be a good idea to look into a list of public access test requirments and psychiatric service dog tasks to help you start on the path of getting a fully fledged service animal.

  4. Morgan Turner

    I have seen emotional support dogs in stores but what I have been reading they are not allowed in stores. If I were to have my dog certified it would be so I could take them into stores, and non-eating establishments as I have social anxiety, clinical depression and PTSD. Being able to have my dog with me in a store where I could run into people who make me nervous would be helpful, but I worry that my dog will get taken away if I do take them and it’s not allowed. What is the point of only being able to have them in a home or plane for those of us who need them outside in public?

    1. Maggy

      It’s not that you aren’t allowed to go into a place at all. The dog is simply not protected under federal law to have a right to be in an establishment, unlike an assistance animal. With the proper documentation, most people will allow you to stay as long your dog is well behaved and house broken. But if the dog is misbehaving, the establishment has a right to ask you to leave, but they can not take your dog away or take away its status as an emotional support animal. So you technically are allowed to bring the dog anywhere (besides where it compromises a sterile environment), but that allowance depends on the establishment which has a right to ask you to remove the dog since it is not a service animal. There are many programs like Canine Companions for Independence who are doing studies and providing PTSD dogs. You should look into one of those organizations to see if you qualify!

    2. Donna

      My ESA goes every where with me. A Service Dog can go anywhere unquestioned. A ESA can go anywhere with permission. I carry my dog in a cross body pouch with a medical ESA badge on it. She also has the ESA red jacket. I asked the dentist and they allow her to sit in the chair with me. Of course she goes to the doctor with me. I asked at church and they allow it and so do our grocery stores. So far even Restaurants have even allowed her in.
      I will say that my dog has had a lot of training. She is an 8 pound Brussesl Griffin and I carry all her paperwork in a leather folder in my purse. Her letter from the trainer (ESA training) says her manners are impecable. If you need an emotional support animal than you need it wi
      th you all the time with you. So the training is really worth it.

    3. Donna

      Morgan, to take it every where you would have to get permission from the establishment first. . You would have to train it so that it would be very mannerly. Be sure you have your doctors letter on you. With that letter you can certify or not. Don’t put it in the grocery cart. If it is small get a cross body pouch to carry it in. When you go into the store (grocery) get permission first. Some Department stores are dog friendly and you can take your dog in without permission. Macy’s is one that comes to mind. My ESA goes everywhere with me. She is with me 24/7. ( even dentist, doctors and restraunts and church) She is trained and I carry all her paperwork with me ( doctors letter, certification, shot records and letter from a Certified dog trainer that says she has been through what she calls the full ESA training course and that her manners are impeciable) and I have the ESA medical badge on her pouch. When out of the pouch she wears a red Certified ESA jacket. The training was well worth it

  5. Maddison

    If my ESA is less than four months old, lives in Los Angeles, (therefore not licensed yet), can my apartment turn my esa away? Also, in LA, is my esa required to be spayed at 4 months?

    1. Jeanne bassett

      Although sometimes I feel suicidal I would never take my own life but that’s where I need my dog to help me keep it together for me to care for someone and have him with me at all times to help me Go forward

    2. Buffy Convert

      I don’t know what the law says about it, but I have frequently seen small dogs (one at a time) at Wal-Marts. I didn’t see or hear anyone complaining. I don’t complain because the human keeps the dog with him/her. Unlike some parents who leave their children in the toy department or let them lean into the fresh food areas or punch holes in various products.

  6. Maddison

    If I put TBD on my housing letter and updated it with my pet’s information, how long will it take to update my physical letter? Also, will I be mailed a physical copy now that I updated the pet information? Also, how long will it take to approve my letter for my pet ID?

  7. Henry

    My girlfriend lives in a condo that does not allow pets, I usually visit and stay several days at a time with 2 of my very well trained dogs. In this case would it better for her to get an ESA Certification or just me or both of us?

    1. Maggy

      NO! It is not okay to get your pets certified just to enjoy the housing perks. Even if your dogs are well trained, many people have the same idea that you do but their pets are NOT well trained. When they take these unruly animals into public, it gives a negative stigma to legitimate ESAs and assistance dogs. Even though it is against the law to deny assistance animals, it still happens, and the humiliation and embarrassment a person with a disability faces when they are publicly asked to leave cannot be rectified with a court case and a fine for the establishment that turned them away. You should never certify your pets solely for the purpose of free pet air fares and housing. I understand it seems harmless because you wouldn’t be taking your dogs into public, but to do that you would have to go through an online registry that simply has you pay a fee to skip the psychiatric evaluation, and by using their services, you are only giving them more money and make it easier for people to exploit this very accessible, but psychiatric need based, option.

  8. Nancy

    Hi,

    I was wondering did you have any specific training for your dog so he was well behaved in public? Did you teach him certain commands to keep him by your side?

  9. Rebecca Stevens

    I am a certified disabled person. My therapist did write a letter for me. I have 2 dogs; I’ve had 1 for 10 years & the other is her son who is 8 years old. They are all I have to hold onto. This last year & a half I moved to another state next door to my sister. She was supposed to help me get “back on my feet” financially & help me to gain some emotional stability in order to function w/ day to day basic challenges w/ the help of a psychiatrist & counselor. Anyway, the opposite occured. She stole money from me, tried to use my credit card several times, told people I was an awful person, a bad mother, daughter, sister , & friend & most importantly I was crazy & I was using her. And many people believed her, because I had become so depressed, anxious, sometimes having suicidal thoughts, I’d become a recluse & afraid to leave the house or be around people. After a few weeks in a mental facility I became a renewed person; ready to move forward positively to a new life. It all fell apart after she began & continued w/ emotional, financial abuse & even tried to give me wrong medication on purpose. It was not until she had taken 90% of what I owned, yelling at me in the middle of the street, on the phone, & texting me that I was worthless & should go ahead & kill myself, she wanted to rip my _______, _____ head off, & tell the police & local sheriff department lies about me & how I had stolen from her, someone finally believed me & said I could stay in one of their bedrooms for a couple months & save;some money to move back to my home state. She said she’d take a lie detector test because she knew how to beat it. My life became a living nightmare, a LIFETIME MOVIE OF THE WEEK, if you will. Anyway, now I’m broke, w/ bad credit due to medical bills, & I’m trying to find someplace to live & dole money out to keep my 15 year old car still drivable, I eed glasses, oral surgery, I’ve list some bone & find koney from somewhere to et ome dentures. Sometimes i winder ehy bother, its just becoming too much. MY dogs are the only love I receive & it would tear me apart to have to get rid of one, which one would I choose. SO, I’m sorry for the short story, please tell me I can keep both dogs as ESA’s.

    1. Janine Kosek

      I’m sorry for what you are going through — it sounds like you need immediate help beyond ESAs. There are numbers to call to report people abusing/exploiting disabled and elders. In FL the number is 1-800-ABUSE. Please call! and also call your local services for assistance. Hope things will go better for you soon, Janine

  10. Shearbeautygrl

    I take my ESA with me everywhere. She has a vest I put on her so they recognize her as such. The only time/place she doesn’t go is restaurants & doctors office, otherwise she’s with me at all times.

    1. Donna

      My ESA does go to the doctors with me, church, dentists, shopping and most restraunts. She is with me 24/7. She may go with permission, which I get. She has her Red ESA jacket and I carry her in a cross body pouch. I carry all her paperwork with me. Doctors letter, Certification, shot records, and letter from a Certified dog trainer that she has completed w
      hat she calls a full ESA training course. The letter mentions that her manners are impecable.

    1. Amy

      My son and his therapist have submitted paper work to get one, he is in college too. Did your daughters college have any issue with it?

  11. Julia wright

    I know personally through a manager of wal mart that they cannot ask u of ure dog is a support dog or ask u for a letter.. just to let u know so if u need ure four legged baby with u in there u can take it in there.

  12. Katelynn

    Just letting the people know in the comments ESA are not covered under the ADA meaning they are NOT allowed in public. They are only allowed on planes and housing that’s it. They can’t be taken to school with you they can’t go to Walmart with you etc

    1. Donna

      Katelynn, A trained ESA can go any where with you “with permission”. I have permission from all the places I go so mine is with me 24/7. Doctors, Dentists, Church, shopping and even most Restaurants. If I need an emotional support I need her all the time so I took the time to get her trained and then made sure I had permission. The training was just to make sure she would get her permission to enter.

  13. Bella

    Hi,
    Is there an airline that always takes your letters? For example, what if I am denied to get on a plane with my dog?
    Thank you

  14. Justin

    I’m thinking about buying this letter, would Certapet also complete the verification form for the pet to fly with United Airlines?

    1. Donna

      A doctor’s note (mental or emotional disability) that says you need the dog to be with you. You don’t have to certify it to fly. Just the letter.

  15. Richard gosetti

    We have two dogs and 2 people. What would be necessary for us to keep them in a mobile home Park that does not accept pets . We own the land and mobile.

  16. Sc

    An Esa must be potty trained and basic obedience trained to not only b an esa but live in housing the otherwise doesn’t accept pets

    1. Lindsey

      An ESA does not have to be potty trained. It does not have to be “basic obedience trained.” The only thing is a letter from your doctor stating that an ESA will be beneficial to you for whatever your reasons may be. (I have an ESA because my doctor felt one would help with my anxiety, depression, and PTSD.)

  17. Jean

    my sister has a ESA psychiatrist prescribed her to have one in May so she chose a 4 month old pup this month on the 8th two days after we turned in a reasonable accommodation and a second letter the inspector for the unit and dog warden come and take him he is at the APL and I am fighting for him back today to bring him back to her… was I in the right or wrong and were they wrong to remove him even after the papers

  18. Kayla

    I feel like you should be able to go to your mental healthcare provider and talk to them about the possibility of a dog helping you out with their problem…. Then they should be able to get you a letter at least stating your need for the dog, then once you adopt the dog they should be technically already your ESA since you already have the letter. Idk, I haven’t actually gone through any processes yet but if I were you, I would start with my mental care provider and see what they say about your condition and how a dog mixes in…

    1. Jaime

      Can I fly with 2 emotional support animals? What I mean is, can one person bring on both of their dogs as ESAs? Or is it one per person?

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Shannon

      I had my primary care write me one as she is one the one cares for my disabilities. And she diagnosed me with my disability and prescribes my anxiety meds

  19. Breanne

    I am considering getting a dog and registering him/her as an ESA since I struggle with anxiety.
    However, my apartment complex does not allow dogs, so I want to have the certification letter before I even adopt a dog. Is it possible to receive the letter before I get a dog? Or do I have to register the dog with the letter?

    1. Lindsey

      You don’t need to “register” an ESA. There is no ESA registry. In my case, I saw my doctor, got my letter, submitted it to the landlord, waited for approval from the landlord, and then I adopted my dog.

    1. Min S. Lee

      You would be responsible for sourcing the pet itself. That being said, there are many places where you can adopt an animal for very cheap (if not free).

    2. minlee

      Unfortunately, you would have to source the animal yourself Sonya. As indicated earlier, there are several ways that you may be able to obtain an animal through the humane society or adoption for much less than what it would cost you otherwise. That being said, please also consider the costs of owning an animal in your case.

  20. Julia

    I am seriously considering getting a dog and registering him/her as an ESA. My building does not allow dogs, so I want to have the certification letter before I even adopt the dog. Is it possible to receive that before I have my pup?

    1. minlee

      Julia, the letter can be obtained before you actually find a dog. That being said, ESAs do not require registration. The letter itself is what you would need. The licensed therapist that we would assign to your case would be the one that would provide this.

      1. Post
        Author
      2. Amber

        Actually, Keri you can have an ESA in a college dorm, but it depends on the college. Some are more strict than others and depending on that, it may have to be a service animal instead of an ESA.

    1. Donna

      The letter comes from a licensed therypist or a phsychiatrist stating that there is a mental disability or emotional one.

  21. morgan t

    Hi I registered my dog as an ESA dog and put his weight in wrong. If there anyway to have this updated on my letter so that all of his information is correct?

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Morgan,
      Email customer support at [email protected]

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Tayler

      I know it takes two days to recieve the digital copy, but how long does it take to receive the paper copy? I need it asap to show to my apartment manager to avoid eviction.

  22. Sue Hanson

    How soon can I get ESA certification? I need to travel Sunday night and American Airlines wants a 48 hour notification with a letter faxed to them. Is there any way that I can do this on short notice?

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Sue,
      Contact our team at [email protected] or call at (877) 207-0561 we can connect your with a Therapist.

    1. Post
      Author
        1. Post
          Author
  23. Luisa

    Hi,
    I am experiencing homesickness and feeling depressed. I have a dog, who helps me a lot and I would like to check the possibility of getting an ESA letter, mainly for him to fly with me when I need to visit my family.

    I checked with the airline company and they might call the doctor´s office to validate the letter. Is it ok if the airline company calls you?? Are you used to this validation procedure?

    Thank you,

    Luisa.

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Luisa,
      All The Licensed Mental Health Professionals will be available to validate your letter for the airlines or housing authorities. Email us at [email protected] if you have any more questions.

    1. Post
      Author
  24. Bailey

    Hi there,

    What does the housing letter consultation include? And is there another fee after that to receive my letter or is that just a one time fee?

  25. Angeline

    Hello,

    I wanted to change my payment option. I see that it costs $20 to make some changes on your ESA letter and I don’t mind it, but I want to use a different card. Thank you.

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      It depends, The ADA American Disabilities Act only applies to Service Animals not ESAs. ESAs are covered by the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act.

      However, state law can vary and each institution (stores/school) may have different laws regarding Emotional Support Dogs.

  26. Sophia

    Okay I suffer from anxiety and I am considering an emotional support animal but I was wondering could I have my animal go through training as a service dog would for my sake so it would cause me less stress? Or are we not allowed to send an ESA through training at all?

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Service Animals require rigorous training while Emotional Support Animals do not. If you require a Service Animal you can connect with one of the many Service Animal training centers around the country.

      1. Sophia

        Another question, I keep seeing questions that say you would get a vest. Do you get a vest with your letter? Cause reading those has made me confused I thought you just got a letter

  27. Murphy

    Hello,

    Do your mental health professionals provide signatures for additional documentation that is required by airlines. For example, American Airlines requires an additional document for ESA animals to fly on their aircrafts. I have included a link to their site which contains an additional document.

    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author
  28. Erika

    HI!

    Has this service worked for everyone? I am afraid I wont get the letter after being assessed. I am a college student far from home and having a companion during school stress and being away from my comfort zone would really help a lot, but that isn’t exactly a medical illness is it? This is what I am afraid of I already have a precious little girl and don’t want to have to find her a new home because of our dorm rules.

  29. Seiarrah Johnson

    I got approved 2 days ago and recieved my digital copy. How long does it take for you to receive the physical copy in the mail?

  30. Taylor

    I can’t seem to find the chat feature. I’m trying to find out if there is any way to get a same-day cert. I’m leaving town for the holiday weekend tomorrow and have a dog sitter coming, but was just notified today that my neighbor (whom is crazy lunatic that hates dogs) has contacted my property manager and notified her that I have a dog– and my property manager has asked the dog be removed from the premises within 3 days.

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Hi Taylor!

      Give us a call at (877) 207-0561 and we can connect you with a Licensed Mental Health Professional today. I will let Customer Service know you are going to call.

        1. Post
          Author
    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Jenna,
      We represent Therapists from all over the country so no, you do not have to be a California Resident.

      Shoot us an email at [email protected] or call us at (877) 207-0561 if you have any more questions 🙂

  31. Stephanie

    I have a psychiatrist that believes I would benefit from an ESA. However she is unclear on how to proceed from there. Such as the requirements for a letter, etc. Can you give me some information that will make those more clear?

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Stephanie,
      Your psychiatrist would just write you a recommendation letter for an Emotional Support Animal and you would be good to go :-). Hope that helps!

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Ashlyn,
      If you have a doctor that is a Licensed Mental Health Professional, then YES! If not, we can connect you with one via the CertaPet network.

      If you have any other questions about Emotional Support Animal Letters or how the whole process works, shoot us an email at [email protected]

  32. Keith bergstein

    Is a vest and I’d card included in the cost? This is Saturday I need this done by Saturday of next week. I’m flying next Sunday, can you get me 2 vest and letters before next Sunday?

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Keith,
      Our turnaround time for consultations is typically less than 48 hours. I recommend you give us a call or email us at [email protected] if you need more details on the process.

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Kayla,
      Our technology platform will connect you with a Therapists instantly and the typical turn around time for the consultation is under 24 hours.

  33. Deborah

    Need explanation of what to get asap see counselor on. Wed. Need to turn into apt soon for my service Cat. ! Thanks. Oh don’t have 200.00 to spend on a form to fill out or a letter to wait on for a year ? I am on A S S D I that means I am poor , And this will help
    Me many ways to keep my life saver Cat !:). D L

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Email us at [email protected] and we can answer all of your questions.

  34. Denise

    Hi there,
    I am in need of an ESA letter for my apartment complex. The office tells me that if I give them the letter they will send it off to corporate and then corporate makes the final approval as to whether or not I can have an ESA living in my apartment. What happens if I purchase your service and then the corporate office says well no we won’t accept this letter? Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Denise,
      Shoot our customer service team an email at [email protected]. We have compiled tons of resources to help you better understand your rights. 🙂

  35. evan

    Hello there.

    My name is Evan Beck and I used your service for a housing esa letter back in January. (you were kind enough to provide me with a 10% off coupon at that time). I now have a need for an esa letter so that I may fly with my pet. I dealt with Julie Martinez before and I emailed her regarding my request but did not hear back.
    I was happy with certapet and the service I received but am very price sensitive due to some financial challenges I have lately. I found a competing service that can provide me with an esa airline compliant letter for 99 dollars. I know that you provide this service but charge more than this. I was hoping you could beat this price and I can use certapet for my airline letter. Kindly let me know if you would be able to do so.

    I appreciate your consideration and can hopefully continue to use your service.

    Regards,
    Evan

    1. Post
      Author
      certapet

      Evan,
      Please email us at [email protected] or give us a call at (877) 207-0561 so that we can help you out 🙂 Julie is the VP of Customer Experience so she will make sure that everything goes smoothly.

  36. Margaret E Morgan

    How much do you charge?

    Also I have two pets, two cats, that I want to travel with me. Can you issue one letter with both animals mentioned?

    How long is the letter good for?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *