how to get a companion dog

2018 Update: How to Get an Emotional Support Animal



  • Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is for those who suffer from an emotional or mental disability.
  • An ESA can only be prescribed to a patient by a Licensed Mental Health Professional.
  • CertaPet is a legitimate service that connects patients with LMHPs licensed to practice in their states.
  • ESA owners are subject to a number of ‘reasonable accommodations’ as afforded by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.
  • An Emotional Support Animal is NOT a Service Animal.
  • There is no such thing as an ‘Emotional Support Animal Certification’. All Certification Services are scams and the certificates worth nothing.
  • You do NOT need to register your ESA with any ‘Emotional Support Animal Registration’ service.
  • Check if you may qualify in as little as 5 minutes. Take CertaPet’s pre-screening test here for free.
An estimate of 61.5 million Americans (or 1 in 4) suffer from a mental or emotional disability.
From post-traumatic stress disorder to depression to over-stressing in situations, what if there was a way to help all of these conditions by only a simple letter and the love of your dog?
Emotional Support Animals are there for you and helps alleviate symptoms of a mental or emotional disability through companionship and affection.
Unlike most types of assistance animals, such as service dogs, ESAs are not required to have any kind of specialized training or experience.
Recognized as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), here’s what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a government agency overseeing the FHA, has to say about Emotional Support Animals:
“The Department’s position has been that animals necessary as a reasonable accommodation do not necessarily need to have specialized training. Some animals perform tasks that require training, and others provide assistance that does not require training.”
People have used emotional support cats, pigs, and even miniature horses as Emotional Support Animals!
Moreover, an Emotional Support Animal isn’t limited to just companion dogs.
See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal Image

Step 2: Get Acquainted with Related Laws and Regulations

There are two main federal laws applicable to ESAs and their owners, these include the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.
It is important that anyone considering obtaining an ESA letter be aware of the laws that apply to owners and what they should expect from business owners under the law.

Flying Laws 101: The Air Carrier Access Act

As long as ESA owners provide verified identification for their Emotional Support Animal, airlines cannot refuse transportation or require advance notice before offering service to individuals who are disabled emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Housing Laws 101: The Fair Housing Act

Commonly known as FHA, this law requires apartments and housing communities that ordinarily restrict pets to make “reasonable accommodation” for ESAs.
A landlord cannot deny housing to a verified ESA owner AND cannot charge an advance deposit or fees for ESAs with the exception the ESA owner is neglecting the animal or significant damage is done to the apartment/house.
Unlike most other places, you can get an ESA letter online, ours meets all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act, and other Emotional Support Animal laws.
Oh and is 100% HIPAA compliant.

Step 3: Learn the Conditions that Qualify You for an Emotional Support Animal

In order to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA, all you need is an official Emotional Support Animal Letter written by a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP), such as a Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or Psychologist.
Typical qualifying conditions are (but not limited to): post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, anxiety, depression. fear/phobias, panic disorder/panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, social anxiety disorder, etc.
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.

Step 4: Take CertaPet’s 5-Minute Pre-Screening

To get your ESA Letter online, all you need to do is take a free 5-minute pre-screening which will determine your eligibility for an ESA dog, ESA cat, or other animal today.
Completely confidential, our brief questionnaire only takes a few minutes to finish.
Find out if you qualify by clicking below:
See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

Step 5: Get Connected with a Therapist

Once you qualify, you will have access to a licensed mental health professional and begin the process of becoming an Emotional Support Animal owner.
We understand time is essential, especially when you have a flight booked or looking to move into a “No Pets Allowed” community. So once you finish the 5-minute pre-screening, it’s smooth sailing from there.

Step 6: Receive the ESA Letter within 48 Business Hours!

After your Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) signs off, you will obtain your ESA Letter within 48 business hours!
This means you don’t have to wait weeks on end to travel or live with your pet.
No line, no wait, and no hassle.

The Top FAQs You Must Know

What is 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 Emotional Support Dog certification 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.
There is no such thing as an Emotional Support Animal registry.
This is CertaPet’s #1 job!
To make it clear, the ONLY way for people to qualify for emotional support animals is an ESA Letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional.
If you see a site claiming to be a “national service animal registry,” “emotional support dog registration,” “official service dog registry,” or a “US service dog registry” they’re handing out false information and only wanting you to pay for a “fake” document.

Can I Find Emotional Support Dogs for Sale?

While the idea of buying an Emotional Support Dog all ready to go is appealing, it is not actually possible.
An ESA letter is awarded to a patient with a mental disability, not to an animal.
If the licensed mental health professional believes that the patient’s current pet is providing vital mental support to the patient’s well-being, he/she will likely designate the existing pet as the patient’s emotional support animal.
In case the patient does not have a pet yet, the therapist, psychiatrist, or another doctor will advise him/her to get a pet that can provide much needed mental support, and the newly acquired pet will be designated as an ESA.
If you are in need, rescue shelters and animal adoption centers are always overflowing with supportive furry friends and are a great place to start when thinking about Emotional Support Animals.
An ESA dog letter or Emotional Support Animal prescription will typically include the name of the patient plus details about the animal (name of the animal, breed type, etc).

Are Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals the Same?

To make matters worse, registries often (deliberately, we might add) confuse Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals.
While an Emotional Support Animal helps ease the pain of a mental or emotional disability through companionship and affection, a Service Animal (including psychiatric service dogs) is any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled person.
ESA are NOT service dogs.
Here’s a quick rundown on what ESAs, Service Animals, & Other Companion Animals Can and Cannot Do:
It’s true.
We don’t advertise as so and is important for you to understand if you are wanting to obtain an ESA letter.

Public Places

A Service Animal may enter private establishments like a grocery store or restaurant (as allowed by the American with Disability Act (ADA)) while an ESA may not.
However, both can live or fly with their pet owner.


As most cat and dog owners know, a Service Animal must be trained.
An ESA does not!
Note: A Service Dog Vest and Emotional Support Dog Vest are not require but are heavily encouraged when traveling or in public places.

Classified as an “Assistance Animal”

Service Animals ✓
  • They can be a Psychiatric Service Animal used for patients who are in need of physical assistance like applying pressure or other specifically trained tasks as well a Service Animal in general who can assist their person with the help they need.
  • Service and Guide Dogs have a lot of public accommodation due to their job to perform specific tasks for their owners such as navigation.
Emotional Support Animals ✓
  • Emotional Support Animals are not Psychiatric Service Dogs but assist as a companion animal for those who suffer from an emotional or mental disability. The human-animal bond grows stronger when your Emotional Support Dog is by your side.
Therapy Dogs ✖
  • Because Therapy Dogs/Therapy Animals are not usually owned by individual owners, they are not technically considered as an assistance animal
  • As a result, Therapy Dog owners are not eligible to receive the reasonable accommodations commonly extended to service dog or emotional support animal owners.
  • They DO provide comfort to retirement homes, nursing schools, hospices, disaster areas and more.
ESA owners are advised to follow the laws, respect their surroundings and absolutely not try to pass off their animal as a ‘Service Animal’.
We hope this helps clear up any confusion around Emotional Support Animals and why you should only use sites, like CertaPet, that connect you with licensed mental health professionals.
If you have any questions or are about to use an emotional support dog registration site, please contact us first at (877) 207-0561.

How Do I Ask My Doctor for An Emotional Support Animal Letter?

As more patients with valid ESA needs are becoming aware of the regulations and their benefits, it is very likely that a mental health counselor is already aware of the needs and assistance of an emotional support animal and will happily issue an ESA letter for any patient that qualifies for one.
So if you are significantly limited by a disability and believe that an emotional support dog or any other sort of ESA will help with your mental well-being, feel free to confidently approach your doctor requesting to write a letter for you.
If you are not seeing a doctor or a licensed mental health professional, CertaPet is always here for you.
Let us get you connected with a LMHP today, and you could receive your ESA letter in as little as 48 business hours!

Do the ESA-Related Laws Apply for Universities/Dorms? Can I Have My Emotional Support Animal with Me on Campus?

Universities are included in the Fair Housing Act so they are required to accommodate any student who owns an Emotional Support Cat or Dog or any other animal. And of course, the ESA letter to go with them.
If you are need of an ESA letter for college, click the link below to get started!

Any Questions?

You can go to our FAQ section,
Email us at [email protected],
call us at (877) 207-0561,
or chat with us below.

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