How Many Emotional Support Animals Can You Have? [2021 Updates]

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Emotional Support Animals

Mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting millions of people[1] each year. Unfortunately, only half of the people[2] with a mental illness will receive treatment. 

More than ever, we need joy and support in our lives. Recently, emotional support animals (ESAs) have gained traction for helping people combat a variety of mental illnesses. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mental disability, an emotional support animal could be just the prescription you need. 

In some cases, people may even need multiple emotional support animals to live comfortably with a mental or emotional disability. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding ESAs, including how many emotional support animals you can have. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about owning and qualifying for more than one emotional support animal.

Can I Own More Than One Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, you can own more than one emotional support animal. 

To qualify for more than one emotional support animal, you and a licensed mental health professional must agree that multiple assistance animals are needed for symptom relief.

How Many Emotional Support Animals Can I Have?

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) does not limit the number of service animals one may own. In fact, the FAQs section of the ADA website[3] specifically acknowledges the occasional need for more than one ESA.

However, under Title II and Title III of the ADA[4], emotional support animals are not considered service animals. While service animals are trained to perform a specific task, emotional support animals and therapy dogs are untrained and are not protected by the ADA.  

With that being said, there are no current laws governing the amount of ESAs one may have. Since there are no limits on emotional support animals, it boils down to your licensed mental health professional’s recommendation and how many ESAs you can handle. Your ESAs also cannot violate any state or local laws.

Animals require upkeep. The animal’s welfare should be taken into consideration when determining how many emotional support animals you need. You’ll also want to consider the size of your animal of choice. For example, owning multiple large animals would probably not be a good fit if you live in a small apartment without a backyard.

You’ll also want to take into consideration the financial aspect of owning more than one ESA. You should consider the cost of veterinary bills, grooming, and feeding before going out buying several emotional support animals.

Remember, you want your animal to help with your emotional or mental disability, not add a financial burden or cause unnecessary stress.

How To Qualify for Multiple ESAs?

To qualify for more than one emotional support animal, you’ll need to be sure your emotional support animal letter (ESA letter) includes each support animal. Your letter should also outline how each ESA provides you with mental therapy. Keep in mind, more than one ESA can help with the same disability.

With telehealth services on the rise, getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional online is relatively simple. Although you may find many websites offering ESA letters, it’s important to remember that you cannot simply purchase an ESA letter online. You must see a medical professional prescribe a valid ESA letter for any number of animals.

Thanks to well-respected, web-based companies like Certapet, you can be connected with a mental health professional and get an ESA letter in the comfort of your own home.

Certapet.com[5] is an online telehealth platform designed to improve access to mental health professionals across the United States and Canada. Moreover, Certapet focuses on providing access to animal-assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan. 

According to their website, here’s a few mental health conditions applicable to an ESA letter:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Phobias
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • General anxiety disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder

If you believe you meet the criteria for an ESA letter, here’s how you apply on Certapet’s website in three simple steps:

Step 1: Take a free online pre-screening test

In less than five minutes, you can find out if you’re a good candidate for an emotional support animal letter. 

Step 2: Speak with a licensed mental health professional

Once you pass your pre-screening test, Certapet will connect you with a licensed mental health professional in your state. The provider will set up a telehealth appointment to further evaluate your condition and determine how many emotional support animals are suitable for you.

Step 3: Get your ESA letter

If you’re approved, you’ll receive an electronic copy of your ESA letter immediately via email. You’ll also receive a physical copy delivered to your home via USPS priority mail within five business days. Your ESA letter will be valid for one year. 

Therapists often continue providing ongoing support after you receive your ESA letter.

It’s important to note that, according to the FAQs[6] on Certapet’s website, it is uncommon to be approved for more than one ESA. They claim it is challenging to justify the need for more than one ESA. Certapet also acknowledges having more than one ESA can cause pushback with housing authorities. 

Federal Law About Multiple ESAs

Whether your ESAs are cats, dogs, birds, or other animals, it’s essential to be aware of your rights by knowing the federal laws. Emotional support animals are protected under two primary federal laws, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. 

Fair Housing Act

While the Americans with Disabilities Act limits the breed of service animals and excludes emotional support animals, The Fair Housing Act[7] (FHA) broadens the definition of a service animal by including ESAs. Under this act, persons can request reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals. It prohibits verified ESA owners from being denied housing or paying required pet fees.

The FHA act clearly outlines that an assistance dog is not a pet. To be protected under the FHA, one must have a diagnosed disability and provide a proper ESA letter to the property owner.

While landlords are not required to ask specifics related to your disability, they are allowed to interrogate. They can require a resident to show an ESA letter to prove how many animals have been prescribed and ask whether you contacted the servicer for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA letter.

Air Carrier Access Act

One of the most controversial matters surrounding emotional support animals is allowing air travel. Until recently, the Air Carrier Access Act[8] recognized emotional support animals as service dogs. This called for reasonable accommodations, including waiving pet fees, allowing ESAs into the cabin, and prohibiting airlines from charging for additional seats.

The United States Department of Transportation[9] (USDOT) revised the Air Carrier Access Act late last year. As of January 2021, emotional support animals are no longer considered service animals and are not protected under the Air Carrier Access Act.

While airlines must continue to make accommodations for service animals under the revision, they can limit two service animals per disabled individual on each flight. 

Nevertheless, some airlines continue to allow ESAs on board. It’s always best to check with your airline of choice to see if your companion is allowed.

Accommodation Access With Multiple ESAs

Most of the time, places are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with multiple emotional support animals. This is especially true for housing.

According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development[10] (HUD), an assistance animal is defined as, “any animal that provides assistance, performs tasks, or provides emotional support to alleviate identified effects of a person’s disability.”

Individuals with a disability may request to have multiple ESAs as a reasonable accommodation. 

According to the Fair Housing Act[10], here are a couple of examples of valid, reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals:

  • If a housing provider does not allow pets, you can request to live at the property with your emotional support animals. 
  • You can ask for pet fees, deposits, or any other fees to be waived.

There are certain situations when the landlord has the right to refuse emotional support animals on the property. If your housing provider can demonstrate that your animals pose a financial burden, are a direct threat to the safety of others, or result in damage to the property, you may be denied reasonable accommodation.

For example, you may be denied reasonable accommodation if you request five large breed dogs that frequently bark in an apartment complex. This could lead to other tenants leaving the premises, which may result in a financial burden.

If you believe that a housing provider has illegitimately denied your request, you may file a complaint with the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity (FHEO).

Other Situations

Since ESAs are not covered under the ADA, work, school, and other places are often not required to make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals. However, if you obtain an ESA letter, you’re more likely to have your request for accommodation approved.

Final thought

As emotional support animals continue to grow in popularity for treating mental health issues, there remains debate surrounding the role of ESAs, let alone multiple ESAs. Many believe that emotional support animals can damage property and can be disruptive in public places. 

Although it’s certainly possible to have more than one emotional support animal, in some situations, it can decrease the chances of your request for accommodation being approved. 

It’s also essential to get your letter from a reputable company with a valid prescription from a mental healthcare provider to increase the likelihood of approval.

Finally, be sure to consider the space and care as well as the financial aspect of owning more than one ESA before deciding how many emotional support animals are necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many emotional support animals can you have on a plane?

With the USDOT’s new revision of the Air Carrier Access Act, emotional support animals are no longer classified as service dogs. This means they are not required to be accepted on a plane. In contrast, if you have a service animal, you will be allowed up to two animals per flight.

Do emotional support animals count towards the pet limit?

No, emotional support animals are not considered pets and, therefore, do not count towards your pet limit.

Are emotional support animals allowed in apartments?

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals regardless of their pet policy. However, if your animals present a safety or financial burden, your request may be denied.


+ 10 sources

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  1. Nih.gov. (2021). NIMH» Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  2. ‌Nih.gov. (2021). NIMH» Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that%20mental%20illnesses%20are%20common%20in,half%20of%20people%20with%20mental%20illnesses%20receive%20treatment. [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  3. ‌DEFINITION OF SERVICE ANIMAL. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf#:~:text=A%3A%20Generally%2C%20yes.%20Some%20people%20with%20disabilities%20may [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  4. ‌Adata.org. (2021). Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals | ADA National Network. [online] Available at: https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals#:~:text=Emotional%20support%20animals%2C%20comfort%20animals%2C%20and%20therapy%20dogs,must%20be%20directly%20related%20to%20the%20individual%E2%80%99s%20disability. [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  5. ‌Certapet (2020). Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter | CertaPet®. [online] CertaPet®. Available at: https://www.certapet.com/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  6. ‌Certapet (2020). Emotional Support Animal FAQ | CertaPet®. [online] CertaPet®. Available at: https://www.certapet.com/faq/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  7. ‌Joh asvifia,(2013)U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT. Available at: https://archives.hud.gov/news/2013/servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf
  8. Federal Register. (2020). Traveling by Air With Service Animals. [online] Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/12/10/2020-26679/traveling-by-air-with-service-animals [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  9. ‌Transportation.gov. (2019). U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals | US Department of Transportation. [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-final-rule-traveling-air-service-animals [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].
  10. ‌Hud.gov. (2021). Assistance Animals | 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 [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Medically reviewed by:

Lindsey DeSoto is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based out of Coastal Mississippi. She earned her BSc in Nutrition Sciences from the University of Alabama. Lindsey has a passion for helping others live their healthiest life by translating the latest evidence-based research into easy-to-digest, approachable content.

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