lady with dog ESA

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

In Emotional Support Animal by Emotional Pet Support Team

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An ESA (Emotional Support Animal) is a US legal term for an animal that provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. Emotional support animals do not have to go through intense training in order to help alleviate their owner’s disability, unlike psychiatric service dogs. Emotional Support Animals only need as much training as a domestic and ordinary pet needs in order to help provide their owner(s) with the love and affection that their owner(s) need without being a potential threat to them. Any pet can qualify as an ESA, that’s why some say: emotional support dog, emotional support cat, and so forth. You simply have to make sure that your ESA does not harm anyone around them because it doesn’t have as many privileges as a service animal.

white kitty emotional pet support

Emotional Pet Support is here to help people keep their Emotional Support Animals in housing units and/or airplanes through a comprehensive online examination. Subsequent to a quick approval from one of our licensed psychologists, one can have a legitimate prescription letter to peruse and validate that their animal is an ESA that needs to accompany that person.

Is An Emotional Support Animal Right For Me?

You may or may not need one, that’s why we suggest you take a moment to read the differences in the most specific way possible here:

ESA (Emotional Support Animal): This type is NOT regarded as a “working service dog”, but as an emotional support animal. Choose this type if the presence of your dog is what enables you to function normally on a day to day basis. An emotional support animal (ESA) does NOT need to be trained to perform a significant life task for you. See additional information below.

Guide: This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if you experience vision problems and your dog is trained to guide you in public settings.

Hearing Alert: This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if your dog is trained to alert you to sounds that you are unable to hear or identify, such as alarm clocks, doorbells, telephones, automobile sounds, and other important sounds you have trouble identifying.

Medical Assist: This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if your dog is trained to assist you when experiencing a physical situation in which you can’t perform a major life task for yourself (retrieve items, open doors, turn on lights, etc.).

Mobility: This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if your dog is trained or able to provide stability and support for substantial balance or walking problems because of a physical disability.

PSA (Psychiatric Service Animal): This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if your psychiatric or emotional disability substantially limits your ability to perform a major life task and your dog is trained to perform or help perform the task for you. A letter from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist that clearly indicates this is required.

Seizure Alert: This type is regarded as a “working service dog”. Choose this type if your dog is trained or able to either predict a seizure or to get assistance from another person at the onset of a seizure.

It is possible to take your emotional support animal to work, and there are companies dedicated to helping you do that!

Emotional Support Animal

ESA Letter Rules

Documentation and other considerations

A counselor who chooses to provide such documentation must do so in letter format on the counselor’s letterhead. The documentation should state that:

1) The named individual is under the counselor’s care

2) The individual has an emotional or psychiatric disability

3) The counselor recommends the individual have an emotional support animal to assist with the disability

The letter is provided directly to the individual who wants to have an emotional support animal live in the home. The individual can then choose with whom to share the letter.

In the documentation, the counselor does not label, define or describe the particular disability of the client. Rather, the counselor must state in general terms that the client has an emotional or psychiatric disability and that an emotional support animal can alleviate one or more of the symptoms or effects of the disability. Individuals need only provide proper documentation to a landlord to have a pet live with them as an emotional support animal in the housing unit typically designated as excluding pets. The judicial system has interpreted this right to fair housing to additionally extend to individuals who wish to have emotional support animals live with them in their college or university housing facilities, such as residence halls, dormitories or university-owned apartments.

The responsibility of providing documentation that would allow individuals to have an emotional support animal live with them should not be taken lightly. Based on the accompanying symptoms of a client’s emotional or psychiatric disability, a professional must determine whether living and engaging with an emotional support animal in the home might provide the client with some relief from the disability. To make this determination, it may be useful to have some understanding of how an animal may alleviate symptoms or effects of an emotional disability. Fortunately, there is research that provides guidance in this area.

Laws Pertaining to ESAs

Again, Emotional Support Animals do not have the same entitlements as service dogs or therapy dogs. Pretending to pass off an ESA for something it is not is against the law. Pretending to pass off a therapy or service dog can result in major consequences, however! Not only that, but there are ways to tell if a dog is not a service dog or therapy dog. We feel that it is crucial to know that differences between all these kinds of animals because they are classified differently for a reason. ESAs are protected by HUD, ADA, and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Housing Rules

A big challenge for pet owners can be finding housing that accommodates pets. Title II of the ADA includes a provision that allows for the reasonable accommodation of assistive animals in housing. If you own an ESA, you can’t be denied housing for your animal in the same way that wheelchair users can’t be denied wheelchair access to housing.

Here’s what landlords CAN’T do regarding ESA’s under federal law.

  • Deny housing
  • Exclude breeds
  • Restrict size
  • Charge fees
  • Require deposits
  • Discriminate in any way against the individual

Owners must be able to provide documentation in order to get around these issues, which is the key to working with an ESA.

Air Craft Rules

Before getting to the airport, ESA owners should familiarize themselves with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Owners MUST travel with a letter from their mental health professional in order to get the accommodations they need when traveling with their ESA.

The ACAA guarantees that individuals with disabilities can travel without being discriminated against. For people with ESAs, that means they can’t be denied their support animal through any of the following:

  • Refusal of service
  • Limiting of transportation
  • Charging of fees

Airlines can require prior notification of ESAs, which is an important part of the process that you must be aware of in order to avoid potential problems. An ESA is considered a non-standard service, which requires planning ahead so that airlines to make arrangements.

For international travel, always check with the country that you’re traveling to so that you can be sure that you’re in compliance with the laws of the land that are appropriate for the country that you’re going to. Don’t get caught unprepared when you’re traveling with your ESA! There are separate laws for every country that you might be traveling to.

ADA Emotional Support Animal

Evaluating Temperament Of Your ESA

Animal temperament evaluations assess the animal’s social attitude and behavior toward both people and a neutral test dog. It is considered important to check the temperament of an ESA or pet to make sure that it won’t pose an issue to others around it. In addition, the evaluation assesses the animal’s ability to walk politely on a leash, interact with a small crowd of people and respond to a variety of basic obedience commands by its handler. Failing a temperament evaluation would not interfere with the right of an individual to have the pet live in the home in the role of emotional support animal. Federal law protects this right. Qualified animal temperament evaluators can be found through national organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the national Pet Partners program.

Did you know that AKC provides information about the CGC evaluation, which is best suited for the simple purpose of determining if a pet is well-behaved enough to be around the general public. However, it is designed solely to evaluate the temperament of dogs, not other species. The CGC evaluation is relatively inexpensive, takes about 30 minutes to complete and requires the handler to take the dog through a series of basic obedience commands. Local CGC evaluators can be found at many large pet stores that offer dog training for handlers or at community obedience training clubs. The Pet Partners organization offers evaluations for a number of different domestic animal species, but the investment in cost and effort is higher. This is because the intended purpose is to register Pet Partners teams that can provide services to the public as handler and therapy animal (note that a therapy animal is not the same as an emotional support animal). The Pet Partners registration requires a rigorous handler-team evaluation — for temperament, skills, and aptitude — and requires the handler to complete a training that is available online or through an eight-hour, in-person workshop. The training includes learning about risk management and infection control procedures that are valuable to follow when a pet is engaging with the public.

Bottom-Line

While service animals perform tasks to aid people with physical disabilities, emotional support animals aid people with diagnosed psychological disabilities (such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder). If you or someone you know has such a condition, having a pet designated as an emotional support animal gives you special air travel and housing privileges.

Whether you’re feeling depressed, having panic attacks, experiencing anxiety attacks, coping with PTSD or any other mental illness, you’ll be glad to have an ESA by your side. They are a man’s best friend for a reason and they are known as the best treatment for coping with these mental illnesses. There have been many stories about people feeling relieved that their ESA was there for them when no one else was. Lives have been saved and people were given purpose because of these furry little guys. If you need a companion animal by your side at a “no-pet” policy housing unit or for a stressful flight, you’ve come to the right place – Emotional Pet Support.