Getting an Emotional Support Animal Certification

Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is essentially a companion animal that offers someone with a psychiatric or mental disability a therapeutic benefit that can help alleviate some of their symptoms. ESAs are usually dogs and cats, but could potentially include other kinds of animals as well. In order for an individual to be prescribed an ESA, they must have a distinct and confirmed disability. According to U.S. law, an ESA is any pet that provides its owner with some level of therapeutic help through affection and companionship. Overall, emotional support animals aren’t literally required to go through any special training to become an ESA. In fact, they require the same amount of training as any other standard pet needs to peacefully co-exist with people without being dangerous or a nuisance to anyone.

What is an ESA and the Requirements to Get One?

An ESA (emotional support animal) is not considered a family pet. An ESA is an animal that fulfills the role of being an emotionally supportive companion to a person with a somewhat debilitating psychiatric or mental dysfunction. Under the FHA (Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988), the animal is considered a reasonable accommodation to certain communities that implement a ‘no pets’ rule. In much the same way that a wheelchair enables someone with a physical disability the same opportunity to enjoy and use a residence, an ESA gives someone struggling with a psychiatric or mental disability the same chance to live on their own as well. Many times, an ESA is considered a practical accommodation for the person dealing with these kinds of disabilities. In fact, failure to offer reasonable accommodations for these individuals by modifying certain policies and/or rules is a clear FHA violation unless the said accommodation potentially causes a basic alteration to the location or imposes an excessive financial burden for the property manager.

Certification to Obtain an Emotional Support Animal

In order to qualify to obtain an emotional support animal, an individual must have an official note, or certification, from a doctor or some other type of healthcare practitioner stating that the individual has been diagnosed with a disability and that the ESA (which is the actual reasonable accommodation) provides a therapeutic benefit on behalf of the person struggling with the disability in addition to meeting the federal’s definition of a disability. The ESA must mitigate or alleviate some of the disability’s symptoms. The animal itself isn’t required to go through any specific training classes.

Documentation Required to Get an Emotional Support Animal

If an individual needs an ESA in order to help them with their ongoing disability, they must first ask their landlord permission. It’s best if the request is in writing and clearly explains how the emotional support animal will help the person in need alleviate the symptoms of their mental disability. While the owner or tenant doesn’t actually need to reveal their disability, they do need to show proof (certification) from a doctor or healthcare practitioner (psychologist or therapist).

Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Standard Service Dog

A service dog is professionally trained to do certain tasks that help alleviate their owner’s disability. Usually, the training lasts anywhere from 18 -24 months in most cases. Due to the service dog’s advanced training skills, they’re actually viewed as medical equipment and are allowed to accompany their owner virtually anywhere, even in places where standard pets are not allowed access.

An ESA belongs to the psychologically or mentally impaired person. Their doctor believes that the animal’s presence is necessary for their emotional state of well-being and will therefore write a prescription claiming that the pet should reside with the person, regardless of a “no pets” rule administered by the landlord. The animal requires little to not training at all. The owner of an ESA has the same rights and privileges as any other typical pet owner in terms of taking them where they’re not permitted other than to maintain one in a residence where pets are generally not allowed.

Can People have Multiple Emotional Support Animals?

Although there aren’t any actual cases that address the issue of owning multiple ESAs, the fundamental requirements are still the same. The mentally disabled person would still require approval and certification from their doctor or healthcare practitioner stating why they’re requesting a ‘reasonable accommodation’ whether it’s for multiple emotional support animals or just one.

Emotional Support Animal Prescription

Emotional Support Animal Letter