How to Adopt an Emotional Support Dog: You Can’t!

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 13, 2021

  • For your dog to be considered as an emotional support dog, you must have an ESA Letter from a Licensed Mental Health Therapist in your state. To learn about the process of getting an ESA Letter, click here.
  • CertaPet can connect you with a Licensed Mental Health Therapist in your state today. To get started, take the free screening test.

Do you want to know how to adopt an emotional support dog? What even is an emotional support dog? Does an emotional support dog come with special skills? Or do you need to do hardcore training with them once you get your emotional support animal (ESA)? Read on for the answers to these questions and more!

What are Emotional Support Animals?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal prescribed to a patient suffering from a mental or emotional illness. Numerous studies prove the benefits and improved healing of patients who own a pet or who often have contact with animals.

Comfort, companionship, support, and love are all coming right your way when you have an ESA! A companion animal can help to ease the symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and phobias.

An ESA is an assistance animal, but they are not to be confused with a service animal!

Can't wait to get started?

The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

What are the Benefits of Having an ESA Dog?

There are so many benefits to having a canine companion as part of your therapy regime.


First and foremost, your emotional support doggo is a loyal and non-judgmental companion, devoted to the end.

Feel Good Hormones

Spending time with your four-legged friend will cause the release of endorphins and other feel-good hormones. The rhythmic petting of your dog is a great way of comforting both you and your pooch. Goodbye depression and anxiety!


Simply having that extra presence in your home can ease the stress of being alone or vulnerable. Your canine companion can also act as a buffer when you are out and about. Thus, helping with social anxiety too.

Stress Keeping You Up at Night?

Your ESA can help to distract you from bothersome and worrying thoughts. This, in turn, will help you to relax and sleep better. With better sleep and a more relaxed state of being, you will be better able to cope with negative issues the next time around.

Stress Levels

Your emotional support pup can help to lower stress levels. Simply by playing with your pupper or going out for a nice walk will help you to let off some steam. Being outdoors in the fresh air will work wonders on stress levels and also help you to sleep better.

Feeling lonely and isolated?

Having an emotional support dog will give you the opportunity to socialize and interact with fellow dog walkers in the park.

Emotional Support Dog Letter? What is an ESA Letter and Why Do You Need One?

So, this is what it all comes down to. You don’t adopt an emotional support dog. First, you must get an ESA letter. Once you have this, either the pet that you have or the one that you are about to adopt will automatically transcend to super-hero status. They will be your emotional support dog!

What is an ESA letter? It is a letter or prescription written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) that states that you, as the patient, require a companion animal as part of the therapeutic regime for your emotional or mental disability.

How to Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter: What CertaPet Does

CertaPet is all about helping people who really need an ESA, to get them. To this end, there is a 5-minute pre-screening questionnaire to establish whether you would be a viable candidate for an ESA. If it seems as though you would benefit greatly from having an emotional support dog, you will pair with a LMHP in your state.

To assess your need for an ESA, your mental health professional will briefly consult with you online. If they think that an emotional support dog will be of therapeutic value, they may write you an ESA letter. Within 2 business days, you could have your very own ESA letter!

how to adopt an emotional support dog

How to Adopt an Emotional Support Cat or Dog!

Once you have an ESA letter in your hand, the rest is easy! You might already have a pet that ticks all the ESA boxes. Maybe you like the idea of having one to improve your quality of life. Now you just need to decide which kind of doggo will be best suited to your lifestyle and emotional or mental needs.

Your emotional support pup can be any doggo that provides you with comfort and support.

Canine Classifieds! Where to Find Emotional Support Dogs

Whether you want to rescue a pooch from a shelter or spend hundreds of dollars on a purebred pup, you will be sure to find the perfect match! Ask your local vet or pet store for details about reputable breeders. Check online for local dog breed rescue groups or animal shelters.

Looking for an ESA?

The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

The Best ESA Animal? A Rescue Dog!

A quirky pavement special or a magnificent mutt! A puppy or a senior dog. There are so many advantages to adopting a canine with mixed heritage! Mixed breeds are less prone to hereditary disease. They usually live longer, healthier lives. Mixed breed dogs can be less demanding when it comes to exercise and mental stimulation needs too.

Adopt, Don’t Shop!

Animal adoption centers and rescue shelters often have many four-legged friends looking to make you the center of their universe. These places are a great place to start your search for your emotional support pooch. If it is a specific breed that you are after, there are plenty of breed-specific rescue groups that you can contact.

The process of adopting a dog and helping it to live a great life can be a fantastically healing process for both you and your new furry friend. There are so many advantages to rescuing a dog:

  • Say “No” to the chewed-up sneakers! You get to skip the naughty, destructive, messy puppy stages.
  • Predictability: You know what you are getting in terms of size, behavior, and personality.
  • Win-win! You will be giving a loving, devoted animal a 2nd chance at the life that they deserve.

ESE Support Dog 101: What You Need to Know About Your Emotional Support Dog

If you are new to the world of ESAs, below are a few points that you might find helpful.

Emotional Support Dog Training?

ESAs do not require special training. Your pooch comes ready-made with all the skills that they need for being your comforting, caring companion! Dogs and Cats have an innate ability to help people with disabilities such as mental illness.

In saying that though, with freedom comes responsibility. With thanks to your ESA letter and the Americans with Disabilities Act, you will have some useful privileges.

You will be afforded reasonable accommodation with your ESA almost anywhere (Fair Housing Act). You will also be able to take your emotional support dog on most airplane flights (Air Carrier Access Act). For the sake of other citizens, passengers, and fellow ESA owners, it is important that you have a well-behaved, well-socialized pooch.

Your hound will not need any hectic skills. However, do take time to do some obedience training so that they can accompany you wherever you need them to be with you without being a nuisance to others. Training your ESA to be a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a very good idea!

Emotional Support Dog Certification: Is Emotional Support Animal Certification Necessary?

An ESA letter is a prescription for a person with a mental or emotional disability. The letter is not for the pet. You do not need to certify or register your ESA. Keep clear of websites offering to do so for a fee. These are quite likely fraudulent!

Does My Emotional Support Dog Need to Wear A Vest?

Your emotional support dog does not need to wear a vest by law. However, wearing a vest when out and about might help to make others more aware of why your dog may be in places where other canines are not usually allowed.

Common Questions About How to Adopt an Emotional Support Dog

Can You Adopt an Emotional Support Dog for Anxiety?

How Much Does an Emotional Support Dog Cost?

Do Rescue Dogs Make Good Assistance Dogs or Emotional Support Animals?

 Is a service dog or service animal an ESA?

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