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Emotional Support

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

| Christine Baer |

During this difficult time of COVID quarantines and protocols we thought a specific guide to certifying your dog could be helpful.  I have a very good friend who is going through extreme health adversity that has created anxiety, depression and COVID restrictions have created loneliness for her. 

Emotional Support

To the rescue!  Her beloved pup!  With a Doctor’s letter, she is now able to take her pup most everywhere!

We are sharing some excellent information…all you need to know…to obtain your certification and feel the comfort and emotional support that your pet can give you.

A growing number of Americans are living with one or more mental, emotional, or psychological disabilities, and for many, seeking proper and effective treatment is an ongoing journey. Many people find that an emotional support pet (or ESA) can provide measurable comfort and aid, helping them regain a sense of independence and improve their overall quality of life.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?  An Emotional Support Animal (ESA), may also be referred to as an assistance animal or support animal. An ESA is a designated companion animal that fulfills an emotional need for a personal dealing with a diagnosed mental, emotional, or psychological disability. Many people find that caring for their emotional support animal also provides the benefit of structure in their daily routine, further improving their well being.

The most common types of emotional support animals are dogs and cats, but there are no specific requirements outlined by ESA laws. However, it’s important to understand that in some situations, your emotional support animal may be excluded from legal protections if it is too large, a specific type of animal, or physically aggressive.

How is an Emotional Support Animal Different from a Service Animal?… A service animal undergoes specific training and certification and performs a specific set of duties and tasks for their owner. For example, a seeing eye dog provides physical guidance and other duties to a vision-impaired owner. Keep in mind, the cost of training can be very costly. Costs can be as high as $15,000 for training over a two-year period.

What Qualifies You for an Emotional Support Animal? 

Here are just a few examples of the many professionally diagnosed conditions that may enable you to obtain an emotional support animal:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Mood disorders
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Panic disorders
  • Fears/phobias

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter will serve as the required documentation for protecting your rights under ESA laws. You may also hear it referred to as an emotional support animal prescription or comfort animal letter.

  • An approved ESA Letter can only be provided by a licensed mental health professional or doctor
  • An ESA Letter must be printed on the health provider’s official letterhead
  • The letter should state that you have a diagnosed mental condition, as well as explain that your emotional support animal is important to your well-being as related to your condition
  • The letter must be signed and dated by your mental health care professional or doctor, and include their license number and the date it was issued

Can My Pet Become an Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike certified service dogs, emotional support pets don’t require professional certification and training. This means that your future emotional support animal might just be a pet you already consider a furry family member.

Do I Need to Complete Emotional Support Animal Certification?

No. There is no specific comfort animal certification program or requirements for emotional support animals. You may see online advertisements for websites that claim to offer certification or entry into a government database. However, at this time, there is no such this as a national or state government database for emotional support animals, nor is there companion animal certification of any kind.

Do I Need a Vest for My Emotional Support Animal?

No, but they are helpful. It’s much easier and recognizable to have your pet wear a vest rather than continuously having to pull out your documentation.

Understanding the Laws for Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are covered by the HUD laws. If you’re planning to have an emotional support animal, educating yourself on basic companion animal regulations is a good way to prepare. See the primary laws that address or include ESA rights at HUD’s website.

Excerpts from Support Pets

Photos from Deposit Photos

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