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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.

How to Qualify for An Emotional Support Dog?

To qualify for a service assistance dog, you must have a legitimate disability, disorder or medical conditions. Further, this disability, disorder or condition must impair your ability to function normally in life in such a way that a trained dog can help you overcome that impairment enough to function more normally in life. Very common disabilities where a service animal can help :

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Asthma
  • Autism

Rights Emotional Support Dogs Have

01. Travel Rights of Emotional Support Dog

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:

02. Housing Rights of Emotional Support Dog

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).

03. Rights of Others Regarding an Emotional Support Dog

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.

Legitimate Emotional Support Dog Registration
Requires a Legitimate ESA Letter

The only item you need, in most cases, to travel on an airplane or obtain housing with an emotional support animal (ESA) is a valid ESA letter. Emotional support dog registration is one way to obtain this letter that can be easier and more effective than seeking and using a letter without ESA registration.

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.

Training and Behavior

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.

Health and Vaccination Records

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.

Airline-approved Dog Carrier (For Travel)

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.

Learn more about airline-specific pet carrier requirements

Registering Your Pet with Certify My Pet, You Get

ESA letter from a licensed mental
health professional

24/7 Support for any questions

plane

Help with paperwork for air travel
and housing

ID Cards, etc

Registration in our database, after which the cost of
renewing your ESA letter will be $100 instead of $150

Documents You Get Registering Your Dog

Letter Sample

ESA Letter

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.

Service Dog ID Front
Service Dog ID Back

Certificates and IDs

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.

Emotional Support Dog FAQ

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.

What Breed of Dog is Best for Emotional Support?

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: Chihuahua, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Yorkshire Terrier, Collie, German Shepherd, Corgi, Irish Wolfhound, American Pit Bull Terrier.

Steps to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter

Register your pet in 3 Easy Steps 100% ONLINE

02.Step

Online Doctor’s Consultation
for 20 min in real time

03.Step

Receive Your Documentation
(PDF + USPS mail), 2 business days

Are you living in apartments
with no pet policy?

Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs are exempt from such policies and any housing fees.

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