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Emotional Support Animals: Everything You Need to Know

Dara Brewton

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Medically reviewed by Ramakrishnan, G., Ph.D

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emotional support animal

If you have a pet, you already know the benefits of having a loving companion. Yet, for those with mental health conditions or emotional distress, their pet can be more than just a companion. It can be critical to their quality of life. Pets that provide emotional comfort in this way are called emotional support animals.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support dog is an animal that accompanies a person with a diagnosed mental condition to provide comfort and ease in various situations and environments. While the idea is intriguing to many, some wonder how an emotional support dog could be any different than an average household-trained dog. 

We will be going over the differences, ways to prove that your dog is a legitimate emotional support animal, and answer a few other questions related to the topic.

Get An ESA Letter With CertaPet

One of the ways you can make a dog an official emotional support animal — with proof to show to others — is by getting an ESA letter from CertaPet. 

As stated on their official website, CertaPet is an online telehealth provider that improves mental care in the United States. However, their main focus revolves around animal-provided services. 

One of the services they offer is a professional checkup and diagnosis with a medical professional. After the checkup, you may be ‘prescribed’ your emotional support animal and given a letter that solidifies the diagnosis.


How To Qualify For An Esa Letter?

To receive an ESA letter, you must meet the formal requirements and qualifications when speaking with your designated mental health professional. While in the end, it is really up to the mental health counselor’s judgment, you will have an easier time obtaining an ESA letter if you have been professionally diagnosed with a mental health condition[1]

The process is somewhat similar to CertaPet, though you will have to put in more time and effort without the assistance of a service. To obtain an ESA, you will need to meet up with mental health professionals for a proper consultation.

If the professional decides that you are a patient who needs emotional support animals, they will issue you an ESA letter to get assistance animals. Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD may qualify you for an emotional support animal.

It is important to note that you will only get your ESA letter from a licensed mental health counselor who is legally allowed to write those letters. You can do an online search to find professionals in your area, consult with our primary physician, or check with your insurance company.

Emotional Support Dog Differs From Psychiatric Service Dog 

Many wonder about the differences between emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs. 

There is a difference. A psychiatric service dog has been specifically trained to react to its owner’s mental or psychiatric conditions and assist them if something is going wrong. 

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have received little to no training regarding a person’s specific mental disorder and instead help comfort their owner by offering companionship.. 

Is Emotional Support Dog Allowed On Flights?

The rule regarding whether emotional support dogs will be permitted on flights or not is up to the airline themselves. If they do allow emotional support dogs, then ESA letters will likely be required. 

On the other hand, psychiatric service dogs are permitted to air travel, though a DOT Service Animal Transportation[2] form must be submitted in advance. The passenger must certify on the record that their dog has been specially trained to offer help and services regarding their disability. 

Housing Registration For Your Pet

You are interested in moving into a place, but the landlord does not allow pets. If that is the case, would showing an ESA housing letter change the landlord’s mind about letting the pet live with you? 

A landlord cannot simply deny your emotional service animal because of the no-pet policy. If you do have an emotional service animal, you are allowed to request reasonable accommodations[3]

In some cases, the landlords may ask to see your letter, which you will need to provide. 

Where Can I Get My Emotional Support Dog? 

You can get an emotional support dog from places such as dog shelters, breeders, and stores.

Since emotional support animals do not require any extensive training, all you will need is to check up with a veterinarian to ensure the animal is healthy and has all the necessary shots. 

Aside from that, you can get an emotional support dog the same way you would look into getting any other average pet!

Final thoughts: Is ESA Letter Legit?

ESA letters are indeed legitimate letters that you can get from many services. These letters may be required to board flights or purchase an apartment where normal pets may not be considered. 

By confirming your dog as an emotional support animal and having a letter to back it up as evidence, you should not have any trouble bringing your pet to those types of places. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring my dog to a public place?

You should be able to bring your dog to outdoor locations that are considered public property. Private establishments may have their own policies, however, due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed in any store, government building, restaurant etc.

What qualifies for an emotional support animal?

Any dog that provides the owner with a calm and stable mood can count as an emotional support dog when having mental difficulties. It is important to note that emotional support dogs usually don’t receive any form of training, and aside from the name and letter, they almost always act as average dogs.

Is it hard to get an emotional support animal?

The first step is to meet with your therapist or a mental health professional to gain an ESA letter and prescription for your support animal. The easiest way to find an emotional support animal is by visiting local shelters, breeders, and stores that offer pets!

Can I get an emotional support animal for anxiety?

Yes, you can! The next time you meet with your therapist or mental health professional, you can formally request approval for an emotional support animal.

Can any animal be an emotional support animal?

Yes, as long as the animal is domesticated, it can prove to be an emotional support animal for when you are having mental troubles. Only dogs can be qualified as service animals, however. 

Do I qualify to get an emotional support animal?

To determine whether you qualify for an emotional support animal see our therapist or mental health professional. Generally speaking, those with a diagnosed mental health condition can almost always qualify for an emotional support dog.

+ 3 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. America (2018). How to Get ESA Evaluation Letters for Therapy Animals. [online] ESA Registration of America. Available at: https://www.esaregistration.org/esa-letter/#:~:text=To%20qualify%20legally%20for%20an,Americans%20with%20Disabilities%20Act%201990. [Accessed 20 Jan. 2022].
  2. ‌U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form(1995), Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2020-12/Service%20Animal%20Health%20Behavior%20Training%20Form.pdf
  3. Hud.gov. (2018). HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals.
Dara Brewton

Medically reviewed by:

Dara is a full-time freelance writer with experience in several fields including politics, travel, and ophthalmology. When she isn't sitting at her computer, you can find her dabbling in filmmaking and acting.

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