Psychiatric Service Dog Letter
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter?
A Psychiatric Service Dog letter (PSD letter) provides peace of mind and backup documentation for your condition. PSD owners must be able to represent that they have a trained psychiatric service dog for their disability. For air travel with your PSD, PSD owners are required to make self-certifications on a federal form regarding their qualification for a psychiatric service dog.
If you qualify, you will be issued a signed letter stating the licensed professional’s opinion on whether you have an eligible disability. The letter is signed by the provider and contains their license and contact information.
Note that a dog is not fully qualified to be a PSD until it is fully trained to perform a task relating to the handler’s disability. The specialized training is the responsibility of the handler (or a professional trainer the handler has assigned that responsibility to). A fully trained psychiatric service dog has the following rights:
- Accommodation without charge or deposits in no-pets buildings.
- The ability to board the cabin of planes without fees.
- Public access rights to places like stores, restaurants, and public venues.
How to get a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter Letter
- Connect with a licensed healthcare professional
Talk to a licensed healthcare professional about your mental health and discuss whether you have a qualifying disability under the ADA. You can consult with someone online here or in person.
- Train your dog
Explore whether a trained service dog can perform a task or job that assists with your mental health disability.
- Request a PSD letter
If your healthcare professional believes you have a qualifying condition, ask them to provide you with a signed PSD letter documenting their assessment
Do I qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter?
In order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog (PSD), you must meet the criteria for having a mental or emotional health disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). A licensed healthcare professional can help determine whether you are eligible and provide a signed PSD letter if you qualify. Conditions that may qualify for a PSD letter include:
- Chronic Depression
- Severe Anxiety
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Learning Disorders (Including ADHD)
- Bi-Polar Disorder
- Mood Disorders
What tasks are psychiatric service dogs trained to do?
There are countless tasks that PSDs are trained to perform – far too many to list here. The following is just a small sampling of the important jobs PSDs are called upon to do:
- Reminding their owners to take medication and retrieving their medication.
- Providing pressure with paws or licking to calm during moments of panic or crisis.
- Interrupting moments of dissociation or emotional overload.
- Blocking self-destructive and/or repetitive behaviors.
- Buffering the owner against triggering stimuli like large crowds.
- Calling appropriate contacts and services in case of emergencies.
How do I train a psychiatric service dog? Do I need a trainer?
In order for a dog to be fully qualified as a psychiatric service animal under the ADA and ACAA, your PSD must be fully trained to perform a task or job relating to the handler’s disability. That training can be done by the owner or handler without the assistance of a professional trainer. There are professional trainers and organizations available that can train a dog if the owner is unable to train the dog themselves. Per ADA and ACAA guidelines, it is perfectly acceptable to self-train a PSD.
How can someone verify that I have a legitimate psychiatric service dog?
To verify that you have a psychiatric service dog, third-parties are allowed to ask you two questions: 1. Is the service dog required because of a disability and 2. What work or job has the service animal been trained to perform? They are not allowed to ask you to demonstrate the dog’s task or request specific details regarding your disability. You do not need to present a registration, certificate or any other documentation. The exception is air travel, where you will need to complete and submit the DOT Air Travel Form prior to your flight.
What documents do I need to fly with a psychiatric service dog?
The only document you need to fly with a psychiatric service dog is the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form. You must submit this form to your airline prior to boarding a flight with your PSD. The DOT Form requires you to self-certify that you have a trained service dog that assists with a disability. You do not need to submit a PSD letter to the airline – the PSD letter is intended to assist you in your ability to make the representations regarding your mental health disability in the federal DOT Form. There are penalties for making false representations on the DOT Form so it’s important that you are making true statements
Airlines must accommodate passengers with psychiatric service dogs free of charge. PSDs are also exempt from the same weight and size restrictions that are applicable to normal pets that are not assistance animals.
If you would like, you may register your Psychiatric Service Dog but note that this is not a requirement.
Can my emotional support animal be a psychiatric service dog?
An emotional support animal can be trained to become a psychiatric service dog, but it’s important to remember that they are not the same thing. ESAs and PSDs help with the same types of mental and emotional health illnesses, but a PSD must be trained to perform a task relating to the handler’s disability. If the PSD is not tasked trained or the owner has no need for tasks performed by a dog that relate to their disability, then the animal cannot qualify as a psychiatric service dog.