Emotional Support Animals

Requirements, Rights and Registration


How to Register an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional Support Animals are considered a valuable part of mental wellness and care. Therapy animals have long been used in mental health inpatient and outpatient programs and are now understood to be an important aspect of mental health treatment. An emotional support animal can save the lives of those living with mental health issues. Emotional Support Animals are guides through anxiety-causing social situations, provide companionship, and reinforce the necessity of having a routine. Animals provide unconditional love, non-judgment, and listen – and they give that love and kindness freely.

Emotional support animals—often abbreviated to “ESA’s” are not standard pets. However, they are not certified therapy animals or service animals. Emotional Service Animals do have certain allowances permitted to them if they are designated a support animal. Specific legal rights apply to registered ESA’s.  However, just because your pet has saved you from emotional distress and provides the emotional support that you need in a mental health capacity, an emotional support animal has to be qualified by a professional mental health care provider as a medical necessity for the owner’s mental support, health, and stability. The documentation and classification of your pet as an emotional support animal is commissioned and provided by the individual owner of the emotional support animal to prove their pet is specialized and is therefore not subject to certain pet-discrimination policies.


The Differences Between Service/Therapy Animals and Emotional Support Animals

If you are considering registering your pet as an emotional support animal, it is helpful to know the difference between the various types of registered specialty animals and what sets apart services and therapy animals and their various categories.

Emotional Support Animals provide therapeutic benefits to their caregivers. An emotional support animal supports their person completely by providing companionship and love. A service dog is trained to do services that benefit their owner’s mental health such as turning on lights before their owner enters rooms if the owner suffers from nyctophobia (fear of the dark) or has PTSD. Service dogs do services to ease mental discomfort and improve the patient’s interaction and comfort in the environment.

Our pets are who people go to and cry on their furry shoulder and our pets will listen to us without being judgmental. They do these naturally and are not made to go through professional accredited training programs a therapy or service animal goes through to make them specialists. Animals connect with people and provide us with beloved companions.

While emotional support animals provide essential and vital services, they are in the abstract sense. Emotional support animals are above common pet animals and stand below trained therapy and service animals on the reputation winners’ podium. While an emotional support animal gets less legal privileges and rights than a certified therapy dog or service animal, they do receive some recognition and special rights. However, they can only receive these advantages if they have been registered. The burden of proof of your pet being an emotional support animal being a mental health necessity requires the support of a qualified mental health professional. Once approved, they are officially recognized as the wonderfully supportive and essential emotional care provider they are.


Emotional Support Animal Requirements, Rights and Registration

Emotional support animal rights are permitted only in two areas where they are also controversial. Travel and housing are the areas people use emotional support pets’ benefit from their presence. A pet verified as an emotional support animal can be permitted to allow a potential lease to rent in a no-pets allowed unit and a verified pet is allowed to travel by plane without being in a pet carrier or for an additional fee required to fly with other pets. The fact that common pet owners must keep pets in carriers or pay to have them in the cabin has caused a lot of controversy regarding the privileges of emotional support animals. These rights are lifesavers for those who need their ESA for support.

There is no national database or registry for emotional support animals which fuels the argument over their legal liberties other pets do not have and which are often permitted to service animals only. With the unfair negative stigma attached to mental illness, many people look down on both these wonderful animals and those that love them and use their companionship for a better quality of life, self-care, and mental health. Case management and compliance with treatment is shown to be higher in those with ESA’s.

To use an emotional support animal’s allowances, the value of emotional support must be backed up and supported with an official letter from a fully licensed and qualified mental health professional. The letter must be on official letterheads and can be from a medical doctor or a licensed mental services provider, ideally a social worker, clinical counselor, psychologist, or physiatrist. The letter must be able to be confirmed by proving full contact information and the signature and date legible and legally admissible. The provider who declares a pet an emotional support animal will also have to state their license number on the documents for the owner. The document must clearly explain your need for an emotional support animal.

In the situation you do not have or are recently moved and do not yet have a mental health provider, you can wait until you have one or use a paid Emotional Support Animal serve. ESA letter services include paid services such as Emotional Pet Support, ESA Doctors, or CertaPet. To get a letter from these services, the applicant pays and is required to undergo a complete mental health evaluation before receiving your letter. Some consider this no better than buying a letter to get your dog or cat in a pet-free building, however, the cost and psych evaluation would already be done by your mental health professional as well so in both cases, the need for the animal is known and established that the applicant for ESA status lives with a mental illness and relies on their pet for support.

Once you have certified your ESA, it should always be available when flying with your pet or when looking for new housing. Vests are available for ESA animals just like other service animals wear vests that denote they are not typical dogs and can accompany their owner places other animals cannot.  The ESA letter should always be readily available to provide to those who refuse your pet boarding or housing with you. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a landlord cannot discriminate against tenants who use an animal for assistance, and the law covers the use of animals for emotional support.



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