This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Racine, DVM.
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One in five adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness (according to NAMI). Studies show that being around dogs can help relax and calm people in as little as 10 minutes. So, it’s no wonder people suffering from anxiety and depression commonly use dogs as emotional support animals. A study by CertaPet and The Assistance Dog Center (TARSQ) found that 100% of participants with an ESA (emotional support animal) dog reported that their quality of life had noticeably improved, and 95% of participants said they would get another ESA.
Find out how to accurately obtain emotional support animal documentation and prove that your condition requires an animal when renting a home.
- What Are Emotional Support Dogs Requirements?
- How Does The ADA Look At ESAs?
- Can A Landlord Deny My ESA?
- Can I Fly With My Emotional Support Dog?
- Do You Have To Register An Emotional Support Animal?
- How To Get An Emotional Support Dog
- Emotional Support Dog Vest
- Emotional Support Dog vs Service Dog vs Therapy Dog
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 an ESA. 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.
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.
A Psychiatric Service Dog Could Be An Alternative For You
If you suffer from a mental disability (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.) that significantly impacts your ability to perform normal daily functions, you could qualify for a psychiatric service dog (PSD). While the ADA doesn’t consider ESAs service dogs, the ADA does give PSDs the same legal rights as service dogs who assist people with physical disabilities. Learn more about psychiatric service dogs and how to qualify.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits 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 get into “no pet” housing by stating their dog is an ESA. This practice 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.
In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it no longer considers ESAs as special assistance animals during air travel. As of January 11, 2021, they are classified as pets. ESAs may fly as pets in the cabin portion of most domestic aircraft if they meet the airline’s weight restrictions and owners pay any additional fees (varies by carrier). Learn more in our complete guide to traveling with pets.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits commercial airlines from discriminating against people who have service animals. However, unlike ESAs, who do not require any training, service animals have been specially trained to perform specific tasks that assist people with physical, emotional, or mental disabilities.
You might be wondering “how to register a dog as an emotional support animal.” However, ESAs don’t require registration. If you pay a fee, your dog will be a registered ESA and will be listed in a database. Unfortunately, this registration database doesn’t hold much real value since landlords 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).
If you have an emotional condition, speak with a mental health professional about the potential benefits of getting an ESA. The doctor or counselor will tell you what characteristics to look for in an ESA, so you can adopt the best fit for you. Be sure to discuss the best way for you to get an ESA letter from a mental health professional. You’ll need this should a landlord ask for documentation.
If you cannot meet in person with a mental health professional, you can get an emotional support animal letter consultation from one of the websites listed below. There are dozens of sites out there, but we feel these two are your best options.
Emotional Support Animal Registration Cost
|Company||Website||Housing Letter||Air Travel Letter||Housing & Travel Combo||Coupon||Features|
|Visit Website||$149||$149||$199||10% off with coupon code CANINEJOURNAL||Available in all 50 states|
|Visit Website||$149||$149||$179||15% off with coupon code CANINEJOURNAL||Offers a full 100% money-back guarantee if the letter ever doesn’t meet your needs|
24-hour turn-around for letter
Online services require a free mental health pre-screening questionnaire online to determine if you qualify for an ESA (similar to what a mental health professional would ask during a visit before issuing a letter). If you meet the requirements, you will receive an electronic and/or paper letter from a mental health professional.
Emotional Support Dog Vest
It isn’t a requirement that you have your dog marked as an ESA, but it may prevent some questions about 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 your dog without asking you first.
The vest we’ve linked to above is available in multiple sizes. It’s high quality and has a one-year guarantee. The harness has “Emotional Support” clearly marked to prevent any confusion.
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 types vary, 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.Tagged With: Anxiety, Reviewed By Dr. Racine, DVM