Emotional Support Animal Registration Guide

If you have an emotional or psychological condition, an emotional support animal can be a great therapeutic option for you. The presence of comforting animals has been proven to enhance dopamine levels. This means that keeping a furry friend at your side can decrease anxiety and stabilize your emotions. That is why having an emotional support animal can be a major asset for many people.

While they can be a great source of support, dealing with the logistics of having emotional support animals can be tricky at times. There is a lot of confusion about the difference between emotional support animals and service dogs, as well as which places emotional support animals get access to legally. Below, we cover the answers to all your most pressing questions about emotional support animals, including how to get your own.

Who Needs Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are animals that have been prescribed by a licensed mental healthcare worker to offer emotional support. While they are different from service animals, they are recognized by United States federal law. Although service animals are limited to particular types of animals and breeds, a wide range of animals can be considered emotional support animals. These emotional support animals are used to treat issues like depression, anxiety, phobias, and other emotional or psychological conditions.

Of course, the only way to determine if an emotional support animal is right for you is to talk to a licensed mental healthcare worker or doctor. If you have any of the below conditions, bringing up the idea of an emotional support animal to your therapist could be a great option. All you need to qualify for an emotional support animal is to receive a recommendation from your doctor or mental health professional. It is also important to note that any type of animal or breed of dog can qualify as an emotional support animal. If an animal comforts you, it could be a great option for providing you with the support that you need.

Register An Emotional Support Animal

What Conditions Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

Anyone with a diagnosed mental or emotional disorder will likely qualify for an emotional support animal. These disorders include, but are not limited to:

  • addiction recovery
  • anxiety
  • autism
  • bipolar disorder
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • mood disorders
  • neurocognitive disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • social anxiety
  • phobias

An ESA can help with the symptoms of these disorders by offering companionship, comfort, a sense of purpose, and a pleasant distraction to their handlers.

Emotional Support Animals Housing Rights

According to the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), it is illegal to discriminate against someone with a recognized impairment. This law is relevant to emotional support animals because it means that housing rights must be given to those with emotional support animals.

In other words, even if a property has a “no pets” policy, they must make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals. This applies to most public housing, college dorms, and any other long-term accommodation.

It is worth noting, however, that this law does not override existing health codes. For example, some states have public health laws that prohibit dogs, including emotional support animals, in swimming pools.

Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

Generally speaking, landlords must accept emotional support animals, but it is not always a clear-cut situation. You will want to show your landlord evidence that the emotional support animal is able to provide support to daily life; your ESA prescription is all the documentation you will need for this.

While “reasonable accommodation” must be made for someone with a disability or disorder, there are some exceptions in certain areas. For instance, in certain jurisdictions, a private club doesn’t need to accept emotional support animals. Likewise, in some places, a building with four or fewer rental units, and that is landlord-occupied, does not need to accept emotional support animals, nor does a single-family home that is rented without a real estate broker.

Can You Stay In an Airbnb With an Emotional Support Animal?

Airbnb used to allow ESAs in all of its properties, but unfortunately, that policy has changed. Now, except in specific states or jurisdictions, an Airbnb is allowed to charge you a pet fee for an ESA, or even to refuse to allow you to bring your ESA at all.

You can still always ask an individual host and see if they would accept your ESA in their specific property, but it is no longer a company-wide guarantee. However, they still accept service dogs at all their properties. If your ESA is a dog and you’d like to consider training them to be a service animal, you can begin the process by reaching out to us here for a consultation.

Types of Emotional Support Animals

The great thing about ESAs is that they do not need to be a specific breed or species of animal to provide support. As you probably already know, dogs and cats can be fantastic emotional support animals because of the unconditional love and comfort they give to their owners.

However, cats and dogs are not the only type of animals that can offer you love and support. An ESA can be any animal that does not violate your local zoning laws and that you can reasonably care for (for instance, you can’t keep a horse inside a studio apartment).

Some of the animals that can be an ESA include:

  • hedgehogs
  • parrots
  • ferrets
  • rabbits
  • fish
  • lizards
  • mice
  • guinea pigs
  • rabbits
  • spiders
  • horses
  • snakes
  • cows
  • mini-pigs
  • goats
  • sheep
  • chickens

The most important thing to remember is that a specific animal that is good for one person might not be good for someone else. If you are trying to select the animal you want for your life, be sure to consider your personality, the mental or emotional struggle you are having, and which animal will help you most. Learn more about the different types of emotional support animals here.

Can You Fly With an Emotional Support Animal?

The Air Carrier Access Act used to ensure that ESAs could fly in the cabin of the plane with you for free. However, the law has since been updated and ESAs are now treated as regular pets when it comes to airlines. This is a big difference between ESAs and psychiatric service dogs, who are always able to fly with you for free.

Regardless of your pet’s status as an ESA, you will almost certaintly need to pay a pet fee to bring your animal onboard the plane. Along with this, if your animal isn’t small enough, or if there have already been many pet reservations, your ESA may need to ride in cargo. Each airline has different fees and rules about the amount of pets allowed on the plane.

Airline Pet and ESA Policies

To find out about the specific pet policies, including the ESA policies, of any airline, check out our detailed guides below:

As policies can change frequently, it’s always a good idea to reach out to an airline before you purchase your ticket.

Registering Your Emotional Support Animal

It is also a smart idea to get an official certificate for your emotional support animal. Registering your emotional support dog isn’t legally required, but it makes your life easier. Registering with US Service Animals gives you a certificate you can use to help provide additional proof to a suspicious landlord or a nosy neighbor.

One handy thing about getting registered is that you will get a photo ID, as well as entry in the largest Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal database in the United States. Another notable perk is that US Service Animals offers 24/7 legal professionals and support staff who can help you anytime you may have issues with your emotional support animal.

Start Your Official Emotional Support Animal Registration

Watch Out for ESA Registration Scams

If you are thinking about registering any emotional support animals, it is essential to keep your eyes open to scams. It is crucial to realize that getting registered with an emotional support animal shouldn’t be too easy. If you can get instant approval without speaking over the phone or in person with a licensed mental healthcare worker, it is probably a scam. You also should be hesitant of any organization that claims that an ESA registration is legally required.

Also, keep in mind that you will need a letter from your mental healthcare worker every year for an emotional support animal, so there is no such thing as a lifetime certification.

Does an Emotional Support Animal Need to Wear a Vest or ID?

Legally speaking, it is not necessary to have a vest, leash, tag, or collar for your emotional support animal. All you just need to have a note from your licensed mental healthcare worker for your emotional support animal to be considered legally valid

However, to prevent confusion and disputes, it is often a good idea to have identifying information like a vest. By having this information visible, it clearly distinguishes your emotional support animal from a pet. This can often prevent you from even having to answer any questions.

Service Animals vs. Emotional Support Animals

Wondering about the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal? While people often confuse the terms, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has very clear definitions.

Unlike an emotional support animal, a service animal can only be a dog or, in some cases, a miniature horse. Plus, the service animal must be trained to perform at least one task to help mitigate the symptoms of a diagnosed disability. The types of tasks performed may include:

  • retrieving your medication
  • calling for help
  • performing Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT)
  • stopping self-harming behaviors
  • waking you during a night terror
  • grounding you during a panic attack or flashback
  • guiding you to an exit or safe space
  • “orbiting” to give you more personal space in a crowd
  • providing physical support during a dizzy spell or panic attack

Service animals are also granted more legal rights and protections than a standard companion animal or an ESA. While they have the same housing rights as an emotional support animal (being allowed in most pet-free housing, and exemption from breed or weight restrictions, pet fees, pet rent, and pet deposits), they also have public access rights.

This means that a service animal can accompany you almost anywhere in public, as long as it will not interfere with the safety or function of the location. For instance, since a service dog may render an operating room unsterile, they may not be granted access there. This also means that a service animal can fly with you for free in the cabin of an airplane.

Keep in mind that, if you qualify for an ESA, you also qualify for a service animal. Because of this, many people choose to have both emotional support animals as well as a service animal. For instance, you may choose to have a cat you can snuggle with at home as an ESA in addition to a service dog who can accompany you to work.

Emotional Support Animal Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we offer answers to some of the most common ESA questions below.

Does My ESA Need a Vest, Leash, Tag, or Collar That Identifies Them?

While a vest, leash, tag, collar, and other accessories are not a legal requirement for emotional support animals, they can often help clarify that your animal is an emotional support animal and reduce questions about your ESA.

My Landlord Says, “No Pets Allowed.” Can I Still Have an Emotional Support Animal?

Once your pet is considered an emotional support animal, they can stay with you at your residence even if they do not allow pets. As long as you have a legally valid ESA letter prescribed by your licensed mental healthcare worker, your ESA can live with you in almost any long-term accommodation.

Do I Need a Note from a Therapist or Doctor to Get an ESA?

Typically, if you would like to live in not-pets-allowed housing with your animal, landlords can legally request that you have a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating your need for your emotional support animal.

Can You Get an ESA for Anxiety?

Emotional support animals are a great option for many people who suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety, or similar disabilities. As long as you are diagnosed with one of these conditions (or any other mental or emotional disability), you will likely qualify for an ESA.

For answers to even more questions about ESAs, check out this more in-depth FAQ.

Get the Support You Deserve With an ESA

If you live with an emotional or mental disability, an ESA can be a wonderful addition to your treatment plan. With their simple presence, they can help provide a sense of purpose, relief from isolation, and even distraction from your symptoms.

If you think an ESA may help improve your quality of life, don’t hesitate. Reach out today to find out if you qualify and start the process of getting your own legally valid ESA.