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Emotional Support Dog Requirements

Are you confused when it comes to emotional support dog requirements and about assistance animals in general?

There is a lot of information out there when it comes to this important subject and some of it is misleading or just plain false. If you want to designate your dog as an emotional support dog (ESD) or emotional support animal (ESA), it’s important to understand all of the requirements, rules, and regulations.

In this post, we will 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 ESA) is a pet or animal prescribed a licensed therapist to provide a health benefit for those that suffer from an emotional or mental disability.

Emotional Support Dogs have rights that normal pets do not.

  1. First, an ESA has access to almost all types of housing regardless of no-pet policies. ESA’s are protected under the Fair Housing Act so that they can live with their owners.
  2. Second, an ESA is allowed to fly with their owner in the cabin of any airplane. They are protected under the Air Carrier Access Act for in cabin travel.
  3. Third, under both of these laws, an ESA’s handler cannot be charged an additional fee for housing or airline access.

2. Can I qualify for an Emotional Support Dog?

emotional support dog

Emotional support animals help people with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and more.

You may qualify for an emotional support dog if you have emotional or mental illnesses. If you suffer from one or more of the mental illnesses listed below, you may qualify for an emotional support dog.

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Learning Disorders
  • Autism
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Gender Identity
  • Bipolar
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any of the illnesses listed above, you may be interested in having an official Emotional Support Animal. If you do not have access to a therapist, the next step is to learn more about how to get an ESA Letter online.

3. Emotional Support Dog Training Requirements

An Emotional Support Dog does not require specialized training. Unlike a Service Dog that does require extensive training. They must perform specific tasks to aid in their handler’s disability. Emotional Support Dog requirements are:

  1. Your ESD must be well behaved and under your control at all times.
  2. Your ESA cannot cause harm or a disturbance either at home or on the airplane.

Although not required by law, your emotional support dog should also be spayed or neutered as this eliminates mating-related aggressive behaviors and also has the added benefits of not having litters of puppies.

4. Emotional Support Dog Registration Requirements

The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require you to register your emotional support dog. People may prefer to register their dog since it helps with dealing with airline employees or landlords. In addition to registering your emotional support dog, you may also be interested in ordering a custom assistance animal handler identification card or certificate. Some building owners and employers train or require their employees to ask for this information even though you are not required to share it with them.

5. Where to get an Emotional Support Dog Certificate

An ESA letter is commonly referred to as an Emotional Support Dog Certificate. You must have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional recommending your need for an emotional support animal. An Emotional Support Animal Letter must include:

  1. The ESA letter typically cannot be dated later than one-year of submission
  2. The ESA letter should be on your therapist’s official letterhead
  3. The ESA letter should include the therapist’s license number, date, and direct contact information

If you have a certificate without a legitimate ESA letter, landlords and airlines may not honor and respect your rights as an emotional support animal handler.

6. Emotional Support Dog Vest Options

emotional support animal ID

Emotional support animals can fly in cabin with their owners and live in “no-pets” apartments and condos.

An emotional support dog does not need to wear a special vest. However, some handlers prefer to have one. The ESD vest is a great way to identify your canine as a “working” dog and will help eliminate the confusion and questions you may encounter from the public. This is not to be confused with a service dog vest. You may also choose to allow your Emotional Support Animal to work as a Therapy Dog to help others in stressful environments such as an airport. A certified therapy dog is not the same as an emotional support animal and has different requirements.

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

No, by law your Emotional Support Dog will not be allowed into restaurants, markets or any place where food is sold or served. Even if the employees want to allow access, they are legally required to turn you away due to health regulations. Only Service Dogs have public access rights to places such as restaurants and markets. Service dogs have specific rights and regulations, read more about Service Dog rules here.

8. Where can my Emotional Support Dog go?

Under Federal Law and emotional support dog requirements, you will be allowed to bring your ESD into the cabin of an airplane at no extra cost to you. In addition, ESD’s are also allowed into “no pets” policy apartments/housing.

9. 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 may even have more than one emotional support animal if your therapist recommends it.

Emotional Support Dogs Work

Now that we’ve answered these common questions about emotional support dogs, you may be eligible for your own ESD. 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 get the process started. If you do not have access to a therapist or may be intimidated by seeking support, read more about how to get an ESA letter online. Emotional Support Dogs work!

Emotional support animal registry



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