Emotional support animals, commonly known as ESAs, can be incredibly helpful to individuals with certain conditions or disabilities. The process of obtaining or registering an ESA is fairly simple, but it may leave many people wondering – how many ESAs can I have?
Our article will answer this question and help you understand more about the process of obtaining an ESA, in addition to discussing more about your rights as they pertain to living and traveling with your emotional support animals.
Emotional Support Animals and Their Duties
Emotional support animals are animals that provide their owner with emotional support and help relieve the symptoms of conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, learning disabilities, chronic stress, and ADHD. The presence of an emotional support animal can help to interrupt negative behavior and patterns, solidify healthier routines, and provide a comforting and calming presence when an individual is experiencing unpleasant or unwanted symptoms. Furthermore, studies have shown that emotional support animals can help lower blood pressure and heart rates, leading to calmness and less stress.
Individuals who require ESAs will need to ensure that their animals can live with them and travel with them to benefit from their ESA or have their symptoms relieved while they are doing their daily tasks. However, it is important to note that ESAs do not have the same protection that service animals do and that emotional support animals are not trained to perform specific tasks, such as guiding, fetching objects, or providing medical alerts. Emotional support animals only provide support; they do not perform tasks or services for their handler.
How Many ESAs Can You Legally Have?
There are no rules or laws that restrict the number of emotional support animals that you can legally have. However, you should keep in mind that many housing or apartment units, hotels and motels, or airlines are only required to provide ‘reasonable accommodations,’ which can be stressful depending on your situation.
As long as you exhibit the need for an ESA and your medical provider signs off on it or helps you officially register your ESA, you can have as many as is needed for your conditions. However, a plethora of animals can be hard to care for, and if, for instance, you are trying to move four large ESA dogs into a small studio apartment, this request may not be honored, or a landlord might need to work with you to find a better solution. So it’s important to think about your ability to care for the ESAs you have, as well as the benefits that they can provide for your condition.
Remember that your ESA letter from your medical provider will also need to reference each emotional support animal you have. You cannot present a landlord, airline, or hotel with a letter verifying your need for an ESA that only mentions one of the animals you have with you, as this will make it hard for you to travel or live with the ESAs that were left out of the letter.
Understanding the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act is the main set of provisions and regulations governing emotional support animals and your rights to live with your ESAs. The Fair Housing Act states that reasonable accommodations must be made for those with disabilities that need to live with their ESAs. This means that even if a housing unit has a ‘no pets’ rule, your ESA will not count; you will also be exempt from paying pet fees and pet rents.
As mentioned above, while there are no limits on the number of ESAs you can obtain, your request for accommodation for your ESAs must be reasonable. So you cannot move a large number of animals into a space that won’t house them all comfortably and hygienically. You also cannot request an accommodation that puts the health and safety of others in a living space, accommodation area like a hotel, or transport space like an airplane or bus, at risk.
The Process for Obtaining an ESA
If you believe that you would benefit from an emotional support animal, you can review the process below for obtaining an ESA. Depending on your condition’s treatment plan and your medical provider’s recommendation, you can also register a current pet as an ESA. More information on that can be found here.
Determine if You Qualify for an ESA
Emotional support animals are typically approved for individuals with conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating and mood disorders, PTSD, chronic stress, and substance abuse disorders. This provides comfort and stress relief and relieves some of the more severe symptoms of these conditions.
If you have one of these conditions or another disability that interferes with your daily activities or your ability to enjoy life, you may benefit from the comfort and support of an ESA. On the other hand, if you want an animal to help you complete tasks more easily, provide guidance, or assist you with medical alerts, you may benefit from obtaining a service dog instead.
Speak With a Medical Provider
After you’ve determined that an emotional support animal can help with your specific conditions, your next step is to speak with your medical provider. A doctor, therapist, or psychologist can help you evaluate your need and will give their approval on your adoption of an ESA or your registration of a current pet as an ESA.
Keep in mind that when moving into housing units that don’t allow pets, requesting special travel accommodations, or requesting not to pay certain pet fees, you will need to present a letter from a medical provider stating the need for your ESA(s) and referencing each ESA individually.
Adopt or Register an Animal
Once your plan to adopt an ESA has been approved, you can visit local shelters or rescue organizations to find an animal. Any animal can be an ESA, within reason, so you won’t need to just limit yourself to dogs or cats if another animal stands to comfort you more.
If you currently have a pet and want to register them as an emotional support animal, you can visit US Service Animals to start this process and get the protections that you and your ESAs deserve.
Does My ESA Need to Be a Specific Breed?
Many individuals may wonder as they look for an ESA if they need to adopt a specific breed of dog or cat, but an ESA can be any breed or animal. Just make sure that whichever ESA you adopt or register qualifies for a reasonable accommodation to make the process of living and traveling with your ESA easier.
Typically, breeds that are known for being aggressive and have a history of aggressive actions, animals with behavioral issues, or animals that put the health and safety of others at risk are difficult to be approved as emotional support animals.
Provide Necessary Documentation
As you navigate daily life with your ESA, you will need to make sure that you have the necessary documentation for your companion. A letter from your medical provider stating your need for the ESAs that you have and referencing each of your ESAs individually is enough to allow you to live in spaces that are typically pet-free, travel with your ESAs more easily, and avoid pet fees.
Make sure that you understand your rights as they pertain to your ESA and know that landlords or other individuals don’t have the legal right to ask you what your disability is or what service your ESA provides for you. All you are required to provide is a letter stating your need and citing the ESAs you wish to live or travel with.
Benefit From Your ESA
After you’ve gotten settled into your living space with your ESA, you can relax and benefit from the comfort, companionship, and steady routine that owning an emotional support animal provides. However, you should ensure that you are still working closely with your medical provider or therapist if another treatment is required for your specific condition.
You should also make sure that your ESA receives proper care, visits the vet when necessary, and is living in comfortable conditions. This is part of receiving a reasonable accommodation and being a responsible pet owner – your ESA might be there to provide you comfort and relief from your conditions, but they should be treated with respect and given the care they need to be happy and healthy. Plus, the happier and more comfortable your ESAs are, the more comfort and relief they can provide you, allowing you all to live together and pass each day as healthily as possible.
Knowing Your ESA Rights
Adopting or registering your pet as an emotional support animal can have many factors, but not understanding your ESA rights or how many ESAs you can have shouldn’t weigh into this process. There are no limits to the number of ESAs that you can have, but keep in mind that you will need to provide adequate care for all of your ESAs and show documentation of your need for them when moving into rented housing, dorms, or traveling with them.
Take the time to understand your ESA rights and make sure to speak with your medical provider about your needs, and you will be sure to benefit from your emotional support animal’s help with as little stress as possible.