Our Blog

Emotional Support Animal National Guidelines

Emotional Support Animals are considered by US law to be an animal that provides an individual with a disability relief from their mental health related condition (psychological and emotional). Unlike service animals, these animals are untrained and provide emotional relief only. According to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act, all ESA’s must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional in the United States.

Emotional Support Animal’s are not recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are recognized under the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act.

Emotional support animals do not have to be registered since they are not trained to perform any tasks. An emotional support animal can be a lizard, pig, bird, dog, cat, etc… The U.S. government does not restrict the type of pets that can be afforded a reasonable accommodation in housing.

Service Animal Registry

Service animals are typically assigned to physically disabled Americans, such as seeing eye dogs or seizure alert dogs. They are allowed access to all public places and must be trained to perform a specific task directly related to the handler’s disability. Unlike emotional support animals, all service dogs must be registered as having undergone extensive training. Person’s faking the need for a service animal are subject to fines and felonies in some U.S. states.

Emotional Support Animals: What you need to know

Below are the top 5 need to know facts about emotional support animals for housing or air travel.

1) Emotional Support Animals, or ESA’s, must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, or social worker.

2) ESA’s do not need to be registered since they are not trained to perform a specific task.

3) An individual looking for ESA certification must have a qualified DSM IV or V condition. Examples include: anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, drug or alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, just to name a few.

4) ESA’s do not need identification tags or vests since they are not trained to perform tasks. Service dogs need identifying vests so the general public does not try to pet the service animal and interfere with it helping a blind man or woman see.

5) Emotional Support Animals cannot be taken in public places other than airports and hotels, as well as a person’s residence.

Who qualifies under the law for an ESA letter?

Individuals who have a qualifying DSM 4 or 5 mental health related condition can be prescribed an emotional support animal under the law. A letter for an emotional support animal will only be presented to housing or airline personnel. You will not need to show your ESA letter at any other time.

You have the right to see any mental health professional, including getting your evaluation on this website to see if you qualify.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is a federal United States law intended to protect a potential buyer or seller of a property from discrimination. Although the act itself is quite lengthy, the key portion is where it permits tenants who have a qualified mental health related condition to be afforded a reasonable accommodation under the law. In other words, individuals with a qualified mental health condition can overturn a landlord’s no pet policy with a prescription letter for an ESA by a medical professional.
A landlord can only deny a tenant the right to a reasonable accommodation if the pet has a history of violence, disturbing the peace, or destroying property. If that does not apply to the tenant, then the landlord has no choice but to overturn the no pet policy for the respective tenant who presents him or her with a verifiable ESA prescription letter.


Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act was designed to protect Americans with disabilities from potentially discriminating behaviour by airline personnel. It is just as lengthy as the fair housing act, but the key points highlight that any individual who has a ESA prescription letter from a licensed mental health professional will be allowed to bring their assistance animal into the cabin of the aircraft free of charge.

There are currently no weight or breed restrictions in the Air Carrier Access Act. However, individuals presenting ESA letters must make sure that their emotional support animal is properly potty trained and will not create a disturbance for other passengers on the aircraft.


Emotional Support Animal Certification

Now that you know the laws and guidelines for emotional support animals under U.S. law, it is time to see if you qualify for an ESA certification. You can obtain your ESA letter or be certified by a qualified mental health professional by taking the online medical exam. The assessment is confidential, quick, and the turnaround time is usually within 24-48 hours. If approved for an ESA, the mental health professional will draft you a prescription for an emotional support animal on their official letterhead, which will serve as your ESA certification thereafter. There’s no need to do anything else.