How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Prescription

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 13, 2021

Mental health problems are more common than you may realize. It’s important to address them. Therapy and medication are great steps to recovery. But animal companionship is also crucial. Many people ask us how to get an emotional support animal prescription. Today, we’re filling you in on all you need to know about the process!

What Exactly Is an Emotional Support Animal Prescription?

Animal-assisted therapy is a real thing. Puppies and kittens increase the wellbeing of people who have a mental health problem or an emotional disability.

Thus, it’s no surprise that therapists prescribe emotional support animals (ESAs) to those with a mental illness. Enter an emotional support dog or cat comes in. They are a companion animal whose job is to make living with mental health conditions easier.

When you go to the hospital, you’re usually given your medication prescription in paper form, right? An ESA prescription works in a similar way. Your licensed mental health professional issues you  an emotional support animal letter. It states that you have a mental health disability and need your companion animal’s presence in your home or during travel without fear or no pet policies or additional fees.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Prescription!

Forget about “emotional support animal registration” websites. They’re scams. The only real, legal way of getting an emotional support animal is by talking to a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).

During your appointment or consultation, they’ll evaluate the state of your mental health. Then, they will diagnose you following the DSM-5. IF you’re diagnosed with a mental illness, they can write you an emotional support animal prescription.

These are some of the mental disorders that can validate your getting an emotional support animal letter or prescription:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

ESA prescription

Who Can Write an ESA Letter?

Only a licensed mental health professional or a medical professional familiar with your diagnosis can write an ESA letter. The answer to “how to get an emotional support animal prescription” always involves a trip to their office.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep this in mind: there are dozens of illegitimate businesses out there scamming people desperate to get an ESA. They sell “emotional support animal vests” and other things that have no legal worth. Don’t fall for their traps, or else it can get you into serious trouble.

Find a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) in Your State!

Now it’s time to find a therapist you like and connect can with in your state. Asking your friends and family for recommendations is a good place to start. Alternatively, you can search on local Facebook groups or online forums for recommendations.

If you want to save time and effort, CertaPet is here to connect you to a therapist in your state. Keep reading to learn how we make the whole process easier!

Find Your Perfect Canine (or Feline) Companion: Any Dog or Cat Can Be an ESA!

Once you have your ESA letter, you need to find a furry companion to help you cope with your mental disability. The only requirement an ESA has to meet is that they have the ability to bond with you, and that they are not aggressive. This means that virtually any dog or cat can become a support animal.

Do you already own a pet? If so, they can now become your assistance animal. If you don’t, adopting a cat or dog is a great idea!

Pets, Service and Emotional Support Animals: What’s the Difference?

Let’s clear this up: a pet is neither a service animal nor an emotional support animal. They’re all different!

A service dog helps a disabled person perform specific tasks. Think of guide dogs, for example, helping their owners across the street. Or of a service dog helping someone with a psychiatric disability when they have panic attacks. These pups with jobs are intensively trained and are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They have rights ESAs and pets don’t. For instance, they can go into all public accommodations, even those with a “no-pets” policy.

ESAs vs Therapy Animals

An emotional support dog or cat also has legal rights and a job. Their goal is to help their owners cope with their mental health problem. They do this by showering them with love and affection. Luckily, they’re protected by two federal laws.

Therapy animals are also sometimes confused for ESAs. However, they’re very different. Whereas an ESA is an assistance animal, a therapy dog is not. Therapy dogs help more than one person, whereas an ESA assists an individual with their disability.

Lastly, we have pets. Although they’re adorable and brighten up their owners’ day, they are not assistance animals. They are also not given to people with disabilities. Thus, they aren’t protected by any special laws.

how to get an emotional support animal

The Two Federal Laws That Protect ESA Owners and Their Assistance Animals

People with disabilities and their furry companions enjoy the protection of two federal laws. These concern housing and travel by plane. No landlord or airline can infringe upon these two laws without a very good cause.

A Quick Look at the ACAA and the FHA

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) gives ESAs and their owners the right to fly together. As long as they comply with all the airline ESA rules, they can conquer the skies together.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) states that ESAs and their owners have the right to live together. This applies to all rented housing — even those with a no-pets policy. The landlord must provide reasonable accommodation.

Both these laws also make it illegal for an airline or a landlord to charge you a pet fee. Your emotional support animal isn’t a pet and should never be treated as such!

Of course, you will only be covered by the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act if you have an ESA letter.

How CertaPet Helps People Get Their ESA Support Dog or Cat Letters

Now that you know how to get an emotional support animal prescription, it’s time to get that letter. As we mentioned, only a licensed mental health professional in your state can issue you one. But finding one when your schedule is busy isn’t easy.

That is why, here at CertaPet, we connect you to a therapist in your state hassle-free. They will be the ones having consultations with you and, if you qualify, writing your ESA letter.

On top of all that, we hold your hand throughout the whole process. We have dozens of articles explaining everything you need to know about emotional support animals.

5 Steps on How to Get an Emotional Support Dog

There’s no need to complicate things. Here is a recap of the 5 main steps on how to get an emotional support animal prescription:

  1. Book an appointment with your therapist.
  2. If you don’t have one, complete CertaPet’s thorough 5-minute pre-screening test for free and book your online appointment
  3. Adopt a pet (if you don’t already have one) to become your ESA.
  4. Wait for your diagnosis and emotional support animal letter.
  5. Have fun and reap the benefits of animal-assisted therapy!

how to get an esa

See how easy and straightforward the whole process is? CertaPet is here to help you as soon as you are ready to welcome a loving emotional support kitten or a playful emotional support puppy into your life?

Common Questions on How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Prescription

Who can become an ESA owner?

Is an ESA the same as a pet?

Do I need a family doctor to get my ESA letter?

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