Legitimate Emotional Support Animal Registration

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Girl traveling and holding dog in her lap with blanketStudies show that being around dogs can help relax and calm people in as little as 10 minutes. So, it’s no wonder that people suffering from anxiety and depression commonly use dogs as emotional support animals.

Find out how to accurately obtain emotional support animal documentation and provide proof that your condition requires the need for an animal when renting a home or traveling.

What Are Emotional Support Dogs Requirements?

There is no training required for an emotional support dog. A dog  trained to “ground” a person with a psychiatric disorder does work or performs a task that would qualify it as a service animal.” Any dog can be an emotional support animal (ESA) without any training. The dog has to provide comfort to the person it is assisting. Unfortunately, you may see some ESAs that aren’t the most well-behaved because there are no requirements.

How Does The ADA Look At ESAs?

Emotional support animals are not considered service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ESAs provide comfort to a person by being with them. However, since ESAs have not been trained to perform a specific job, they do not qualify as service animals under the law.

Some states have laws that allow people to have their ESAs with them in public. It’s important to check local government offices to know what laws are in your area.

Can A Landlord Deny My ESA?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits the discrimination in housing because of many things, including disability. Under this Act, landlords cannot deny tenants who use animals for assistance, to perform tasks or provide emotional support. Additionally, it is illegal for landlords to charge extra fees to those who have an ESA.

Please know that a landlord can request documentation from a qualified physician, psychiatrist or other mental health professional establishing the disability and the need for the ESA. Unfortunately, many people abuse the need for an ESA to try and get into “no pet” housing by stating their dog is an ESA. This isn’t fair to those who genuinely require an ESA. It’s also why landlords often request documentation of disabilities.

You can read up on some recent FHA cases regarding reasonable accommodations.

Can I Fly With My Emotional Support Dog?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, ESAs are allowed in the cabin portion of an airplane that is flying within the United States. Airlines can request documentation for ESAs 48 hours in advance before allowing the pet in the cabin area.

However, if the animal is too large to fit in the cabin (or over 20 pounds), the airline may not allow it. Additionally, if the pet poses a direct threat to the health of other passengers, it may be excluded.

If you are traveling outside of the U.S., foreign airlines are only required to accept dogs. Your destination country must also permit the dog to enter. This is something you’ll want to research ahead of time.

If you feel your rights are being violated under the Air Carrier Access Act, you should ask to speak with a Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO). A CRO is an expert on disability accommodation disputes. It is a requirement for all airlines to have one available to you at no cost.

Do You Have To Register An Emotional Support Animal?

No, ESAs don’t require registration. Unfortunately, there are many websites online that say if you pay a fee your dog will be a registered ESA and listed in a database. However, this database doesn’t hold much real value since landlords and airlines can still require a letter from a medical professional stating your disability.

There is no certification requirement. You’re basically paying a one-time fee for a letter from a medical professional stating your need for an emotional support animal (assuming you meet the pre-screening requirements). This letter holds no value unless it is from a licensed medical professional (either through an online service or from your mental health professional).

Emotional Support Dog Vest

Emotional Support VestView on Amazon

It isn’t a requirement that you have your dog clearly marked as an ESA, but it may prevent some questions as to why you have an animal in a place that does not normally allow dogs. Identifying your dog as an ESA can also help prevent people from petting the dog without asking you first. Additionally, a dog wearing an ESA vest may aid in easier travel requirements.

The vest we’ve linked to above is available in multiple sizes. It’s high quality and has a 1-year guarantee.  The harness has “Emotional Support” clearly marked to prevent any confusion.

How To Get An Emotional Support Dog

If you have an emotional condition, speak with a mental health professional about the potential benefits of  an ESA. The doctor or counselor will be able to tell you what characteristics to look for in an ESA, so you adopt the best fit for you. Be sure to obtain an ESA letter from a mental health professional. You’ll need this should a landlord ask, or when airlines require documentation.

If you don’t have the time to meet in person with a mental health professional, you can obtain an ESA letter from one of the websites listed below. There are dozens of sites out there but feel these are your two best options.

Note: online services require a mental health pre-screening questionnaire to determine if you qualify for an ESA (similar to what a mental health professional would ask prior to issuing you a letter).

Emotional Support Dog vs Service Dog vs Therapy Dog

These three types of working dogs are all different, so don’t confuse them with one another. If you want to know how the training, certification and use of these different dogs varies, read our Service Dog vs Therapy Dog vs Emotional Support Dog article. Additionally, being around a dog frequently can boost your health in many different ways.

Have you ever had your ESA accommodation request denied?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

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July 16, 2020 10:37 am

I own my home and the city has ordinance against my ESA, but I have several psych dx and my psychiatrist has written me an ESA letter. Can I do anything about that? Will the fair housing act cover me?

Deborah Owens
December 11, 2019 4:44 am

I’ve already obtained an ESA Letter from my psychiatrist. What do I do now?

November 23, 2019 9:46 pm

I have 2 ESAs. I have the letter from my psychiatrist documenting them as Emotional Support dogs. I’ve had landlords, shelters and in patient rehab centers deny them.

Marjie DeRose
October 31, 2019 11:17 am

I need to get an emotional support letter for my furbaby. What site can you trust? I have checked and also call a few Therapist and not having any luck. I have reviewed some of the sites and they are scams.

Debbie Owens
December 11, 2019 5:03 am
Reply to  Marjie DeRose

If you’re seeing a licensed psychiatrist on a regular basis, just ask the psychiatrist for an ESA Letter. Websites are all scams. The ESA does not have to be registered. These register your ESA free have vests, leashes, certificates, tags, everything that makes your dog legit. It’s a scam. Service dogs are not registered, but the person that sold you that stuff you paid good money for, just scammed you. Do not purchase one of those fake letter.

Candi Clark
June 27, 2019 10:38 am

As a mother of a veteran who has a service dog, I believe that the ADA should issue all licenses, certifications, etc not Amazon. It would be similar to getting your drivers license which can only be obtained from the DMV. ESAs should be certified by a official trainer since some ESA animals are good for the person, they are also very protective and will attack others. Basically there needs to be a standard nationwide for ESAs and service dogs. They should all be required to take public access tests.

BJ Bogner
May 31, 2019 10:10 am

Thanks for explaining the difference, and how easy it will be to join the people who are “gaming the system” by declaring their dogs as Emotional Support Dogs… WHO DOESN’T have some degree of anxiety in their lives, and feel more calm when their dog is around? I have two big dogs and currently have to pay $5000 per hour for a private jet when I fly with my dogs!
And good to know, in case I ever sell my house and move into a rental, I can scam the landlord out of money also!

November 23, 2019 9:50 pm
Reply to  BJ Bogner

They have passed a law making it a crime to claim your pet is an ESA when it isn’t. You have to provide documentation from a doctor and proof of vaccinations. I guess you missed your window.

Pdscenter USA
April 1, 2019 7:18 am

Thanks for sharing a great article with us.

Lillian Schaeffer
January 24, 2019 11:48 am

Thanks for letting me know that emotional support animals don’t require any training. I’m going to be moving out to college, and I suffer from pretty severe anxiety. My dog helps to calm me down, so maybe I should get her registered as an ESA so I can take her with me.

May 8, 2019 2:20 am

There are legal protections that allow ESAs to stay in homes where pets are not allowed or on flights. However, most public places prohibit access to ESAs, in contrast to service dogs, which are not denied access.