There are many reasons to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA); the biggest one being that you need the extra support from a mental and emotional perspective. But before you consider going down this path with your dog, you should be aware of what it means to rent and have an ESA in your life.
If you’re still feeling positive about this idea, the next step is figuring out how to register your pet as an emotional support dog. Ultimately, you will need to qualify for an ESA, which means being diagnosed as having an emotional or mental illness by a licensed healthcare professional. But what qualifies you as having either of these?
Qualifications for an Emotional Support Animal
In some cases, you may not even realize that you qualify to have an Emotional Support Dog, so it’s good to talk with your healthcare professional if you feel like you could benefit from having this type of service dog. Some examples of a mental or emotional disorder are listed below.
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
- Severe anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Other cognitive disorders
If you do not identify with any of the above-listed ailments, you can take a look at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as your doctor will, to see if you qualify under a different category.
Requirements of Your Emotional Support Animal
There are no restrictions on the size of your dog or the breed, and if your healthcare professional feels it is necessary, you may even be eligible for more than one Emotional Support Dog. That said, there are expectations that your dog is under your control and is well-behaved and should be spayed or neutered to limit any aggressive tendencies that can sometimes arise during mating rituals.
What is an Emotional Dog Certificate?
This is simply a letter from your licensed healthcare professional that indicates you would benefit from an ESA. The letter should be current—it is only valid for one year—on the letterhead of your doctor with their medical license number, and contain all pertinent contact information.
Service Dog Registration
Although it is not legally required that you register your service dog, there are some benefits to doing so. If your dog is registered you won’t likely have the hassle of your dog being turned away by landlords or airline personnel.
If you choose to register your dog, this will also entitle you to receive a custom assistance animal handler identification card. This card will make it much easier to prove that you are required to have an Emotional Support Animal.
When looking to get an Emotional Support Dog you may want to consider the type of dog that will positively impact your disorder. For example, if you suffer from severe anxiety, you will want a dog that is calm and supportive.
Note that there is a difference between a service dog that is used for someone who is blind versus an ESA who is there for someone who is emotionally or mentally troubled. Therefore, although your ESA is allowed in a pet-free apartment or on an airplane, ESAs are not allowed where food is sold.
You may want to consider obtaining a support dog vest for your emotional support dog. This will help to identify your dog as a working dog, and for some, this is very important as they prefer that their dog not be touched by other people.
A vest also helps to eliminate questions you may receive if you bring your dog into a place where dogs are usually not allowed, such as a pet-free apartment building or in an airplane cabin. Not all animals like wearing vests, so it may take some time for your dog to get used to one.
If you don’t have access to a mental health professional there are ways to connect with one online. In this instance, you may also be able to get a letter from an online professional, typically they provide both a digital copy and a hard copy via the mail.
Having an Emotional Support Animal can go a long way into supporting your mental or emotional health. Once you have identified the need to have an ESA in your life make sure that you follow the proper procedures to ensure that you acquire all the required paperwork.
Danielle thrives on researching and writing on all aspects of life. Further to writing for Zumper blog and personal finance, she is an advocate of self-improvement and living a life that is both financially responsible and knowledgeable. When she is not on her computer, she can be found spending time with her husband and two sons.