Emotional Support Animal


All About Emotional Support Animals

There are many different types of animals that can assist a person in a wide variety of needs. One of these types is known as an ESA, also referred to as an emotional support animal. For anyone that is simply wondering what these types of animals are or is considering the usage of an emotional support animal, the following will provide you with all that you need to know about emotional support animals, including what types of animals are qualified to be an ESA and whether or not you need to register your emotional support animal.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

In essence, an emotional support animal is some form of a domestic animal that is geared towards supporting those that have a disability with basic therapeutic support, which includes everything from providing companionship and affection to simply helping to improve the general outlook of the person they are providing this support to. Through this emotional support, the animal can even help in mitigating some of the issues that a disabled person is going through, such as the very symptoms that affect that person.

The main instance in which emotional support animals differentiate in comparison to service animals is that ESA’s are typically not put through training, though it is possible. However, the animal is still required to be generally well behaved in order to qualify as an emotional support animal. As such, the animal must have zero distinctive traits that can be viewed as negative. This also means that the animal cannot pose any type of danger to someone that may visit or drop by.

It’s also important to understand that their are notable benefits that emotional support animals are supposed to provide for those they are supporting. This includes everything from lower stress levels and a lessening of loneliness within the owner of the animals to an increase in total social interactions and exercise. An emotional support animal may also help to improve a persons health, such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as bettering a persons mental health capacity. It is also possible, if the need arises, for a person to have multiple emotional support animals, as long as all the paperwork is at hand. You should keep in mind that those with a myriad of different types of mental/emotional disabilities may qualify for an emotional support animal. Some of these disabilities include autism, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, depression, insomnia,  and social phobia, among many others.

What Animals Qualify to be an ESA?

There are a wide variety of different animals that can qualify to be an ESA. First of all, an emotional support animal cannot be any type of animal that is exotic, as it must be domesticated. The most common of these animals include that of dogs or cats, with dogs being the number one most common animal chosen for a role as an emotional support animal. That being said, there are other animals that may qualify as emotional support animals in certain situations. Certain birds, such as parakeets and parrots qualify as an emotional support animal, while pigs, ferrets, rodents and rabbits can also qualify in most cases. Those that would wish to use a smaller horse as their emotional support animal may also do so. Aside from all of the animals mentioned previously, if there is another type of animal that you wish to have registered as an emotional support animal, then you can simply ask if that animal would qualify before beginning the registration.

How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

In order for a person to qualify for an emotional support animal, they will need to be considered as emotionally or mentally disabled. The person that will need to make this declaration must be a licensed medical professional, such as a  medical doctor, psychologist, or therapist , among others. Medical doctors  are  allowed to make this diagnosis, due to the fact that they are trained in mental disabilities and are authorized to prescribe prescription medications for mental health related conditions. In all cases, this will need to take the format of a medical prescription letter.

This prescription letter must be written in a certain format and won’t be allowed if it is not filled out correctly. First, the letter will need to state that the person receiving the usage of an emotional support animal is undergoing care from the medical professional that is filling out the letter. This person will need to be under the doctor’s care for any mental disability that can be located within the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders. The most up-to-date disability list is included in versions 4 and 5 of this manual and must be taken directly from that source. The disability will also need to majorly limit one life activity that is essential to a person’s livelihood. Lastly, the mental health doctor in question will need to include a prescription stating that they believe an emotional support animal is a necessary form of treatment for the persons mental health.

For this letter to be viewed as fully authentic, it must be dated, as well as include the date of the license and the state in which the license was issued. Furthermore, the letter will need to be written on the doctor’s own letterhead and must include their license type. Once all of this has been finished, the letter can be delivered and you will be well on your way to owning an ESA.

What are a Person’s Legal Protections and Rights Under Air Carrier Access Act and Fair Housing Act?

The Air Carrier Access Act and Fair Housing Act are two laws that were passed in order to provide those with an emotional support animal with a good deal of legal protection. The Air Carrier Access Act was made into law in 1986, while the Fair Housing Act was passed in the year of 1988. The Fair Housing Act is an update to the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and is meant to include disabled people under the coverage as well. Under this act, those that have an emotional support animal can still qualify for housing, primarily an apartment or condo, that has a “no pets” rule. This extends to all types of limits imposed on housing, such as housing that sets a “certain size” or “only specific types of breeds or species are allowed” types of limits.

As such, you will not be charged with a pet fee in order to keep the animal within the house. However, it’s important to note that the animal must not be unruly or annoy neighbors. This doesn’t mean that an emotional support animal needs to be trained similar to a service animal, but it does mean that the animal can’t attack those that visit the disabled person or make loud noises too often.

As for the Air Carrier Access Act, it has provided similar protections to that of the Fair Housing Act, bringing with it a set of changes that should greatly aid a disabled person with an emotional support animal. Through this act, those with an emotional or mental disability have the right to keep their ESA in the cabin of the aircraft with them, without having to place the animal with other pets in a separate section of the aircraft. As with the Fair Housing Act, this can be done without the need of having to pay a fee.

Outside of both of these situations, a disabled person with an ESA does not have any more rights than someone with an ordinary pet, meaning that places such as restaurants, theaters and parks don’t have to follow the same guidelines and allow your ESA to accompany you. That being said, there are instances in which this will be allowed, it’s simply not law for them to do so.

Do You Need to Register Your Emotional Support Animal?

It is not a requirement to have your emotional support animal registered.  While there are many sites on the web that will allow you to register your ESA in their database in exchange for a fee, doing so will not protect you legally in the event a dispute arises between you and your landlord or airline.  Having an emotional support animal prescription is the only form of protection that will legally protect you and overturn a no-pet policy.  Therefore, an individual must provide documentation from a licensed medical professional in order to exercise his or her rights as an emotional support animal owner.

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