The modern world is often a very stressful place, and everyday life can become overwhelming, especially if you suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders. It’s no wonder that more people than ever before are looking into emotional support dog (ESD) certification.
To help them to cope with challenging feelings, lots of people turn to their pet to bring them some comfort and support. However, an emotional support animal isn’t just a regular pet. Anyone suffering from mental illness disabilities could find that having a devoted, loving dog in their life helps them to navigate through the many challenges that they face in life due to their condition. If you’re in this position, your pet could qualify to be an emotional support animal (ESA).
If you’re wondering how to register an emotional support dog, we’ll give you a complete guide to emotional support dog registry here.
Which Disabilities Qualify For ESAs?
Lots of people with many different conditions including phobias, mild or severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks or PTSD can get relief from their symptoms if they have an ESA companion. Often, emotional support dogs can even help people who have failed to find relief using prescription medications.
A licensed healthcare professional or therapist can determine whether your condition qualifies for an emotional support animal and whether having an emotional support dog could help to improve your symptoms.
Are Emotional Support Dogs the Same As Service Dogs?
Under the terms of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), an emotional support dog isn’t the same thing as a service dog and so won’t have the same privileges and rights. Service dogs are trained to support their disabled owner with specific needs whereas ESDs have no formal training at all.
Service Dogs are also allowed in places where ESDs may not be allowed to go. However, ESDs (and other types of ESAs) do have the right to live with their owners in apartments or residences which wouldn’t ordinarily be pet-friendly due to the Fair Housing Act.
How Can I Get an ESA?
If you think you could benefit from an emotional support dog, you’ll be pleased to hear that any kind of dog could help you find relief. Emotional support dogs can give their owner the support and confidence they need to enjoy a productive, normal life. All breeds of dog make fantastic ESAs and there are lots of dogs in rescues and shelters that can serve this purpose.
You may qualify for your ESA letter before or after you adopt or buy a dog and, unlike service dogs, there’s no need for an emotional support dog to be trained specially to perform specific tasks. Instead, their sole purpose is to offer support and comfort through companionship.
Although all breeds could be great ESDs, it’s important to choose the right dog for you. For example, if you’re living in a small apartment, it makes sense to choose a smaller dog. Remember that you’ll also need to consider how your dog could affect you. If, for example, you suffer from severe anxiety, a hyperactive dog will be a bad choice. You should, instead, choose a calm pet. Since you’ll also need to have good control over your pet if they’re to be accepted in your accommodation or on flights, you should make sure you select a dog that is well-behaved and easy to manage.
What Does the ESA Letter Include?
For your dog to be recognized as an ESA, you have to qualify to be awarded an ESA letter which has been written by a doctor or licensed mental health professional.
A qualifying ESA letter will be:
- Written on paper with your doctor or LMHP’s letterhead
- Recommend that an ESA will help to alleviate your symptoms
- Containing your LMHP or doctor’s license number
- Signed by your LMHP or doctor
- Be dated
Note that an ESA letter will only remain valid for a year. When that period of time has expired, it will require renewal.
The letter should also contain other information including:
- Your full name
- Your disability as described in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) of Mental Disorders
- That you cannot perform a minimum of one vital everyday life activity due to your disability
- That an ESA has been recommended to help you by an LMHP
- The Federal Regulations which offer you protection
Although your primary physician or family doctor can write your ESA letter for you, for many people getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional is a better option. You should ideally choose an LMHP who specialises in animal therapies so that they have a full understanding of the benefits and legalities surrounding ESAs – after all, you don’t want to have any worries about if your ESA letter is going to be accepted or not.
If you currently work with your own therapist, it’s a good idea to ask them to give you your ESA letter. However, not all therapists believe in the benefits of animal therapy. Some also lack an awareness of the rights of emotional support animals. If yours doesn’t support your request for an ESA letter, there’s no need to worry as there are therapists that you can connect with online who can help you get the letter that you need to get your dog qualified as an ESD.
Is an ESA Registration and an ESA Letter Something Different?
An ESA registration and an ESA letter are not the same thing. An ESA letter is legally required; however, there is no official, nationwide ESA registration, and it’s not a legal requirement. Therefore, you shouldn’t trust any website or company that states ESA registration is a requirement.
However, there are still benefits of registering your emotional support dog with a legitmate site, like U.S. Service Animals.
What Are the Benefits Of Emotional Support Dog Registration?
There are several benefits to registering your emotional support dog that make it worthwhile – even though it’s not a legally required (the way an ESA letter is).
- If you register with U.S. Service Animals, you’ll have access to our legal team. This can be incredibly helpful if your landlord refuses to acknowledge your rights, or if you have any questions about emotional support dogs’ protections.
- Registering with a legitimate site can help provide extra proof to a suspicious landlord that you’re working with a valid organization and not a scam company that produces false letters.
- Even though it’s not a legal requirement, having more documentation can be enough to prevent some hesitant landlords from continuing to question your right to live with your emotional support dog.
For these reasons, many people choose to register their emotional support dog.
How to Register an Emotional Support Dog
With USSA, there are just a few simple steps to register your emotional support dog:
- First, you need to recognize that you could benefit from having an ESA.
- Next, you need to connect with your doctor or licensed therapist and demonstrate why you could benefit from an ESA.
- Once your doctor or therapist acknowledges that you could benefit from an emotional support dog, they will give you the necessary qualification letter and you’re good to go.
- Once you have a legally valid emotionally support dog, you can visit this link to register your ESD with U.S. Service Animals.
That’s all there is to it!
Is Emotional Support Dog Legally Required?
As we mentioned above, you’re not legally required to register your emotional support dog; as long as you have a valid ESA letter, you’re legally protected. However, many handlers choose to have their emotional support dog registered with a legitimate site for extra support.
What Rights Do ESAs Have?
An emotional support dog has the right to live with their owner in their own home thanks to the Fair Housing Act. ESD owners can live with their pet even when the building in which they live isn’t pet-friendly.
As of January 2020, the United States Department of Housing released new guidelines about accommodating emotional support dogs. The guidance from the HUD affirms that all landlords have to provide reasonable accommodations to anyone who has a valid ESA letter from a healthcare professional or doctor.
In this guidance, the HUD warns specifically against any websites selling registrations, licenses or certifications for ESA qualification, however it does confirm that LMHPs are permitted to provide their ESA-related services online or remotely.
Does an ESA Have to Wear Identifying Clothing?
There is no federal law that requires emotional support dogs to wear a specific type of harness or clothing. Nevertheless, emotional support vests are available to buy for emotional support dogs and many people with ESAs find these very helpful.
Wearing an emotional support vest helps to make your dog stand out as an ESA and helps to reduce the need for unnecessary explanations and hassle when out and about with your dog in public.
For anyone with a mental health condition, having to constantly explain why your pet is with you can be very distressing and stressful. An ESA vest offers a visual explanation to save you frustration and time. When your dog wears a vest and you have your ESA letter with you at all times, you can easily achieve a more welcoming and understanding atmosphere wherever you go.
Register Your Emotional Support Dog Today
If you’re keen to register an emotional support dog, reach out to us today. You can find out everything you need to know about the process of obtaining the ESA letter that you need for your pet and you can also learn more about the rights and benefits that you will have when your pet is recognized as an ESA.