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Emotional Support Dog Requirements

Emotional Support Dog Requirements - ServiceDogCertifications

Are you confused when it comes to emotional support dog requirements? You’re not alone. There is a lot of information out there on this important subject, some of which is misleading or just plain false. 

If you want to designate your dog as an emotional support dog (ESD), it’s important to understand all of the requirements, rules, and regulations.

In this post, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about emotional support dogs/animals.

1. What is an emotional support dog?

An emotional support dog (ESD or emotional support animal, ESA) is a dog that is recommended by a licensed doctor, therapist, counselor, or social worker to help those that suffer from an emotional or mental health condition. 

Emotional Support Dogs have rights that normal pets do not:

  • An ESA has access to almost all types of housing regardless of no-pet policies. ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act so that they can live with their owners.
  • Under this law, an ESA owner cannot be charged any fees for having an animal in their home.

2. Can I qualify for an emotional support dog?

Emotional Support Dog
Emotional support dogs help people with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and more.

You can qualify for an emotional support dog if you have an emotional or mental illness(es). If you suffer from one or more mental conditions listed below, you may qualify for an emotional support dog.

  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Learning disorders
  • Autism
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

It is up to a licensed healthcare professional to determine whether you have an eligible condition for owning an emotional support dog.

3. Emotional support dog training requirements

ESAs do not require specialized training, unlike service dogs, which require extensive training. Service dogs must perform specific tasks to aid in their handler’s disability. 

While ESAs do not need any specialized training, they should still be well-behaved and under your control at all times. A landlord can kick out an emotional support dog if it is acting in an unsafe or destructive manner.

4. Emotional support dog registration requirements

Federal and state rules do not require you to register your emotional support dog. You also do not need a vest or ID card for your emotional support animal. Many ESA owners, however, choose to voluntarily register their animals and obtain ID cards and other accessories.

These items are helpful in buildings that normally don’t allow pets. They notified staff and other tenants that a legally protected assistance animal accompanies you. However, remember that your landlord can insist on seeing your ESA letter but not any other form of documentation.

5. Where to get an emotional support dog certificate

Many people think they need to obtain an ESA “certificate” to qualify their dog as an emotional support animal. They are often confusing a certificate with an ESA letter. You can obtain a certificate for your emotional support dog after getting an ESA letter, but a certificate alone will not qualify your dog as an ESA. 

You must have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional confirming your need for an emotional support animal. An ESA letter should have the following: 

  • The ESA letter should be dated within one year of submission
  • The ESA letter should be on your provider’s official letterhead
  • The ESA letter should include the provider’s license number, date, and direct contact information

6. Emotional support dog vest options

Emotional support dog with girl
Emotional support dogs can live in “no-pets” apartments and condos without being charged extra fees.

Emotional support animals can live in “no-pets” apartments and condos without being charged rent or fees. An emotional support dog does not need to wear a special vest when on the premises. 

However, some owners prefer to have one. The ESD vest is a great way to identify your canine as a legal assistance animal and will help prevent any confusion and questions you encounter from building staff and neighbors.

7. Can my ESD go into restaurants or markets with me?

No, emotional support dogs are not allowed in public places that prohibit pets. ESAs have rights under federal and state housing laws but not under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The only type of mental health assistance animal that has public access rights are psychiatric service dogs.

8. Are there breed or weight restrictions for emotional support dogs?

No, your emotional support dog can be of any size and breed. This rule even protects breeds that are commonly discriminated against, such as Pit Bulls or Dobermans. You can even have more than one emotional support animal if your therapist recommends it.

Emotional support dogs work

If you believe you or a loved one may benefit from an ESD, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your mental health professional to start the process. 

If you do not have access to a healthcare professional or are intimidated by the idea of reaching out for help, consider using an online service to get your ESA letter. ESA rules specifically allow for remote online providers to write ESA letters, so your letter will be just as valid as one obtained in person.

Emotional support animal registry - Banner

About the Author: The writing team at Service Dog Certifications is made up of folks who really know their stuff when it comes to disability laws and assistance animals. Many of our writers and editors have service dogs themselves and share insights from their own experiences. All of us have a passion for disability rights and animals.

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