Register Emotional Support Dog
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
To understand what an emotional support dog is, let’s first remind ourselves what an emotional support animal is. An emotional support animal is an animal that provides the emotional support necessary to help a person with a mental or emotional disability that impairs their abilities to perform certain tasks to successfully perform those tasks. The emotional support animal does not help the individual perform any part of those tasks, merely provides the emotional support that allows the individual to perform the tasks for him or herself.
Almost any animal can be an emotional support animal, with few exceptions, but by far the most common emotional support animal is the dog. An emotional support dog is also sometimes known as a therapy dog.
Why Dogs Make Great Emotional Support Animals
Dogs are known to be unconditionally loving, if not to everyone they meet then at least to the person who takes care of them. Dogs are unwaveringly loyal and unceasingly affectionate. They also can be trained with relative easy to obey basic commands like “sit,” “lie down” and “come” and to walk on a leash. They can likewise be socialized to behave in groups and public settings, including in the presence of other animals. They can also be housebroken, so as to avoid messes indoors. Dogs are eminently malleable in nature and have both boundless energy and ability to relax, so they can accompany a person on an activity when they need to be active and can quietly, patiently rest when they need to be calm.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Dog
While both service dogs and emotional support dogs are considered types of assistance dogs, there are distinct and significant differences between them. The key distinction between them is that service dogs are authorized for people with physical disabilities and emotional support dogs are authorized for people with mental and emotional disabilities. If a person has both physical and mental or emotional disabilities, then that person should get a service dog rather than an emotional support dog, and here’s why:
Service dogs are trained to perform or help perform certain tasks a person with a physical disability is unable to perform on his or her own. Emotional support dogs are not.
An emotional support dog cannot guide a blind person across a busy street, alert a deaf person to important sounds, retrieve items for a person in a wheelchair, help a person with balance issues to keep his or her balance, alert others when a person with epilepsy is having a seizure or any other duty that requires a specific action. The duty and action an emotional support dog performs it performs by the simple virtue of its presence. The emotional support dog provides comfort, calmness, uplifted spirits and a motivation to get out of bed to care for something when one doesn’t feel like caring for oneself, among other passive or non-skilled behaviors.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog
There is one other type of assistance dog that is similar in ways to both service and emotional support dogs but also distinctly different on its own: psychiatric service dogs. These are dogs authorized for people who suffer a debilitating psychiatric illness. They are trained to notice when a person is starting to have a psychiatric episode and aid in alleviating its symptoms. This they accomplish with more than their mere presence, but through actual, distinct and explicit actions. Psychiatric dogs are therefore afforded more similar rights to service dogs rather than those given to emotional support dogs.
Rights Emotional Support Dogs Have vs. Service Dogs and Psychiatric Service Dogs
The Americans with Disabilities Act affords certain rights to assistance dogs, but because of the distinct differences between service dogs and emotional support dogs, the rights afforded to them are not the same. Due to the fact that service dogs have received special training to perform certain tasks for people with disabilities, they are given the right to accompany those individuals anywhere accessible to the public, even if a place normally prohibits dogs. By contrast, emotional support dogs are not permitted by law to enter any public or private setting that normally prohibits dogs. Rather, emotional support dogs are only permitted special privileges in two settings and situations: air travel and housing.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a person with an emotional support dog is permitted to have that dog accompany him or her on airplanes. Moreover, the airlines are legally required to make certain reasonable accommodations for them. These accommodations include, but are not limited to, exempting you from any pet fees and allowing your dog to join you in the passenger cabin rather than be checked into the cargo compartment.
Additional Requirements, Exceptions and Restrictions
There are certain additional requirements, exceptions and restrictions to the general rights afforded by ACAA to emotional support dogs.
Depending on the airline, additional requirements to allow your emotional support dog to accompany you on flights may include:
- The dog’s current health records and up-to-date vaccinations verifying he or she is safe to fly.
- A statement from you that your dog is reasonably trained and well-behaved to be in public settings and can handle the long confinement and other conditions of airplane travel. In this statement, you must also claim responsibility for any and all actions taken by the dog while on an airplane or in an airport.
What is not required to travel with your emotional support dog on an airplane is any sort of vest, harness or identification tag, although all of these can be extremely helpful in making your dog easily recognizable as an emotional support dog.
Certain airlines might also impose exceptions and restrictions (not anymore please read article Feds announce new rules for ESA ) on travel with emotional support dogs on its flights, such as:
- Certain breeds of dogs like pit bull breeds and snub-nosed breeds like pugs and Pekinese may be prohibited from all flights, regardless of emotional support dog status.
- Dogs of any breed might be required to be confined to an approved pet carrier during takeoffs, landings, while taxiing on the runway and during periods of turbulence.
- Emotional support dogs may be prohibited from certain international flights or flights lasting eight hours or longer uninterrupted.
Exceptions and restrictions an airline may not make regarding emotional support dogs include refusing to allow an emotional support dog to board with you because it’s too big. If you believe an airline has gone beyond the bounds of these permissible exceptions and restrictions and is violating your ESA rights, you can contact the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), people with an emotional support dog are allowed to take residence in housing with that dog even if that housing normally prohibits dogs from entering or taking residence. Property managers are also required to make certain reasonable accommodations for emotional support dogs. You cannot be charged a pet deposit for your emotional support dog, even if the residence normally charges pet-owners a deposit. Emotional support dogs may not be refused this right for reasons of their breed or size, even in facilities that explicitly limit dogs permitted to reside there to only certain sizes or breeds.
To complain about mistreatment in a housing situation relating to your emotional support dog, you can contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Because of the distinctions in rights between emotional support dogs and service dogs, the people you deal with while out in the world with your animal have certain rights as well, both those who have accountability for the space you have entered and the other people you encounter while in that space.
Firstly, whenever you are out in public (including if you are attempting to enter a privately-owned facility that is accessible to the public) the proprietor of that establishment or any employee has the legal right to ask you two questions about your emotional support dog. Such spaces include restaurants, stores, theaters, public transportation, taxicabs, beaches, parks, zoos, motels and libraries. The two questions owners and employees of that facility are allowed to ask you are:
- Do you require the animal due to a disability? – Note that they may not inquire as to the type or nature of your disability?
- What tasks or duties is the animal trained to perform?
If it becomes clear through your honest answers to these questions that your assistance dog is not a service dog but rather an emotional support dog, you could be asked to remove the dog from that setting. This, of course, does not apply to settings and situations in which your emotional support dog is protected under the ADA, ACAA or FHA. Note that an establishment not covered under these laws may still choose of its own volition to allow your emotional support dog to stay with you on the premises. It is simply not legally required to do so.
Secondly, every person you encounter while out with your emotional support animal has the right to be safe from harm or intrusive behavior caused by your animal. That means, if you cannot keep your emotional support animal calmly and peaceably under your control while in a publicly-accessible setting, you may be asked to leave, regardless of your legal authorization to have an emotional support dog present with you in that space under normal circumstances. Once a dog becomes a bother or danger to others in a space, the circumstances cease to be normal, and your rights to have an emotional support dog with you there become temporarily suspended.
Best Breeds of Emotional Support Dogs
While all dogs share certain characteristics of affection, loyalty, sociability and trainability, all breeds of dogs are different in certain ways that are equally distinct, including possessing those characteristics of of affection, loyalty, sociability and trainability in different measure (though it’s hard to find any dog not loyal to the person who feeds it.) And while not all dogs of a particular breed are exactly alike, there are certain tendencies innate to certain breeds.
The best breeds of dog for use as emotional support dogs are those who are most devoted to a single owner, do not tend toward timidity of others, possessiveness of its owner or aggressive behavior, can be trained to remain calm and still when necessary and is not prone to barking. Some might also recommend smaller to more medium-sized breeds for purely practical reasons (they fit more easily in tight spaces like airplane cabins and small apartments) but this need not disqualify larger dogs from consideration either.
Some of the breeds of dog that make the best emotional support dogs include:
Despite this breed’s reputation for a tendency toward timidity, anxiousness and fearfulness, chihuahuas can actually be quite courageous and inquisitive. It all depends on how they’re raised and trained. It’s important to socialize chihuahuas early with other people and animals if they’ll be going out frequently in public, but with this training, they can develop into immensely portable little bundles of companionship and love. They require very little exercise but demand lots of indoor play and cuddles.
One of the most popular breeds in general, golden retrievers make ideal emotional support dogs for the same reason they make such great family dogs. They have a gentle, kind and friendly disposition toward children, adults and other animals. They’re incredibly smart and endlessly loving.
For an emotional support dog you can train for any situation or circumstance, a labrador is hard to beat. As loyal as they are gentle, they’re playful and energetic, which can be particularly useful for a person often unmotivated to leave the house. They are also driven to please.
Collies seem driven by nature to make sure anyone they care about is okay. For a person who’s lonely or feels like no one is watching out for him or her, a collie can be an ideal emotional support dog. This quality of theirs makes collies particularly keen to subtle cues in the energy and behavior of those around them, also making them ideal for people who are not prone to wearing their emotions on their sleeves and tend to hide how they’re feeling from others.
Another dog like golden and labrador retrievers commonly used as service dogs, german shepherds also make good emotional support dogs for some of the same reasons they make great service dogs. German shepherds are happiest when performing a task, even if that task is simply watching over a person. Smart and always eager to please, a german shepherd will easily learn basic commands and obey them without fail. Commands aside, they pick up easily on how you want them to behave themselves in any particular situation or setting and comport themselves accordingly.w they’re feeling from others.
An eminently friendly dog, corgis are not just loving and devoted to their owners, they’re also friendly, affectionate and playful with other people and dogs, including children and puppies. They’re also very smart, making them capable of picking up training incredibly easily. Their high energy levels and needs for lots of playtime and exercise make them ideal emotional support dogs for those who need some extra motivation to get out of bed and out of the house.
For an emotional support dog that exudes gentleness, the Irish Wolfound is unmatched, despite its larger size. This makes them perfect emotional support dogs for people who’ve suffered from trauma or struggle with anxiety or panic-related disorders. They have a short lifespan, however, which may make them unsuitable for people struggling with loss or who suffer from a mental illness.
American Pit Bull Terrier
Despite that pit bulls are commonly listed as exceptions to many policies allowing pets and, in cases, emotional support animals, they are actually a tremendously obedient, loyal and loving breed and, with proper training, can be perfectly well-behaved in any environs.
Emotional Support Dog Requirements
In addition to the ESA letter you need to have an emotional support dog, you and that dog must meet other requirements to travel and live in “no-dog” housing together.
While emotional support dogs need not be trained to perform any particular service tasks, they must at least be trained enough to be calm, quiet and well-behaved in public settings, including in the confines of an airplane in flight, and in a residence and shared spaces like yards and lobbies in a shared building. The dog must not bite, growl or scratch, and it must not excessively whine or bark. It must also not behave aggressively toward children or other dogs or other animals.
All airline and housing authorities are within their rights to request proof that your emotional support dog is current with all of his or her vaccinations and is free of any illnesses or conditions that would disqualify him or her from flying or living in a particular building.
In some instances, you may be required to provide an approved pet carrier in which to place your emotional support dog during certain periods of the flight or under certain allowable circumstances, such as if the dog is behaving too anxiously or unruly in the cabin. Read more
How to Register an Emotional Support Dog
Getting your valid ESA letter is the first and only step you need to complete to be allowed on a plane or in “no-dog” housing with your emotional support dog. However, taking the additional step to register emotional support dog affords you a number of benefits that makes those tasks easier and more hassle-free. And when you complete your emotional support dog registration with Certifymypet, you get both a perfect ESA letter and the benefits of ESA registration. How to register an emotional support dog is as simple as 1, 2, 3. Just:
Schedule a video-coverence with the licensed physician who contacts you and have that consultation.
Receive your ESA letter and all the benefits of ESA registration.
Now let’s go into those benefits a little more closely:
Register your emotional support dog with Certifymypet.com and the first benefit you get is a private one-on-one consultation by video with a physician licensed to practice in the state where you live. Based on the answers you gave to a few basic questions you were asked when you registered, the physician will ask you a few questions to confirm your qualifications for an emotional support dog. Then, assuming you qualify, the physician will issue you the highest level of ESA letter: a real doctor’s prescription.
Sample of ESA Letter
You get a number of different official-looking certificates and identification cards with emotional support dog registration with Certifymypet. You get a digital certificate you can pull up on your phone to identify your dog by name as your official emotional support dog. You also get dog tags to attach to your dog’s harness directly to do the same.
Sample of ID Card for Emotional Support Animal
While a service dog vest and harness are not required for an emotional support dog, they can help to more easily and readily identify your emotional support dog to all others you encounter along your path. This alone can cut down tremendously on needless questions, hassles, delays and obstructions.