Emotional Support Dog Certification and Registration
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
Anyone who has owned a dog knows the unconditional love and support they give. There’s nothing like coming home from a bad day at work and waiting for you at the door is your furry friend waiting to give you all the love you need and turn your day around. Because of their ability to provide support and unconditional love, the mental health profession has begun using dogs (and other animals) as emotional support for individuals with varying mental health issues. Emotional support dogs have been shown to help individuals suffering from the following:
- Aerophobia (the fear of flying)
- Agoraphobia (the fear of leaving the home)
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Social Shyness
- Stress-Induced Situations
With the help of emotional support dogs, those suffering from the above disorders have been able to begin recovering and regaining the confidence and freedom with the help of their emotional support dog.
How Can I Make My Dog An Emotional Support Dog?
- Get an ESA letter from a licensed medical healthcare provider.
- Provide your ESA letter to your landlord or airline representative.
- Get your ESA identification card and register your Emotional Support Dog.
- Enjoy living and traveling with your Emotional Support Dog.
In order to receive the rights under the laws afforded to emotional support dogs, the dog must be prescribed by a mental health professional for an individual who is suffering from a disabling mental illness. Emotional support dogs do not have to be licensed or registered, but you do need to have an ESA letter written by a mental health professional (on their letterhead) that states that you are suffering from an emotional disability and the emotional support dog is vital to your wellbeing. The letter must be signed, dated, and include the mental health professionals license number and the date and place where their license was issued. It is important to note that the letter prescribed by your mental health professional is only valid for one year. Emotional support dogs do not require any specific training and the only difference between them and a pet is a letter from the prescribing mental health professional. While emotional support dogs are not required to be registered many individuals choose to register their support dog and carry an identification card and have their dog wear an ESA (emotional support animal) vest because it makes it easier to travel with their emotional support dog.
What Rights Do Emotional Support Dogs Have?
While emotional support dogs (animals) are afforded rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act it is important to understand that they are not afforded the same rights as service dogs or psychiatric service dogs. Service dogs have been specifically trained to help perform tasks for individuals with disabilities and have the right to accompany them into any place the normal public has access to. Because service dogs are trained and are needed by a disabled individual to perform tasks like pulling a wheelchair, alerting an individual they are about to have a seizure, or assisting a visually impaired individual across the street they are afforded more rights than are emotional support dogs. There is also a difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs as again they are specifically trained to help assist individuals suffering from a disabling mental illness. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to detect and recognize the beginning of a psychiatric episode and then help to ease the effects of that psychiatric episode, once again because they are specially trained and licensed they are afforded more rights than emotional support dogs. When out in public establishments including restaurants, theaters, stores etc. have the right to ask two questions:
- Do you need the animal because of a disability?
- What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?
If an individual is unable to answer these two questions then they do not have a service animal that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the establishment has the right to refuse to allow the animal on their premises.
Because emotional support dogs lack specific training and licensing they do not have as many rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they do receive some rights and they include the following:
- Fair Housing Act (FHA) – Under this act individual with emotional support animals are allowed to have them in their residence even if there is a no pet rule in effect. Emotional support animals are protected and property managers are required to make accommodations for them.
- Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) – Under this act individual with emotional support animals are allowed to have them on airplanes, and the airline must make accommodations for them.
While emotional support dogs provide an essential service to many individuals suffering from certain mental health issues, because they do not require any specialized training, registration, or licensing they are not afforded the same rights as service dogs are. Having said this, they are protected under housing rights and air travel rights so you can still live and travel with your emotional support dog even if you can’t take them to the local restaurant with you. Since qualifying for an emotional support dog only require a letter from your mental health professional you can receive the benefits from your own animal saving you time and money searching for a dog that provides you with the emotional support you need.