First thing before you read any further, emotional support animal registration and emotional support animal certification is not real. You do not need to register dog as emotional support animal or certify them to be your ESA.
A lot of people get confused thinking you need to register your dog or cat as an assistance animal in order to be protected by federal laws. However, this is not the case at all.
If you register them in an ‘emotional support animal database’ or get a certificate, you will have no legal protection whatsoever.
So key takeaway: registering or certifying your pet as your emotional support animal will not protect your rights to live or fly with them as an ESA owner.
Again, there is no such thing as legitimate emotional support registration.
The only way for you to be a legitimate ESA owner is to have an emotional support animal letter signed by a qualified or licensed mental health professional. This document must have the following:
An official letterhead
The name of the licensed mental health professional (LMHP)
The name of the practice
Phone number of the practice
The type of medical license
Date the medical license was issued
The state of the therapist’s jurisdiction
The type of animal
That they are your therapist and are currently treating you for a disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
The date the letter was issued
It is them, the LMHP, to decide whether an emotional support animal is right for you.
If you are curious to know if you might qualify for an ESA, take a quick pre-screening here.
This is not to diagnose, but rather to see if you could benefit from one. If so, you will be put touch with a qualified or licensed mental health professional in your area.
Like emotional support animal registration, service dog registration is not real. Let us state that there is no official database or registry of service animals.
Service dog owners are not required to get or carry any kind of service dog certificate, and businesses are not allowed to ask for one.
Similarly, there is no centralized test or certification process for service animals, though the charities or organizations that train service dogs all have their own testing process to see if a dog is ready to become a service dog.
Training is required, registering is not.
Emotional support dog certification is misleading because you don’t need to certify your ESA. Sure, you could get a certificate for your emotional support cat or dog but an airline or landlord doesn’t have to accept it. You’re not protected by federal laws.
To live or fly with your emotional support dog, all you need is your emotional support animal letter.
Online ‘registers’ offering registration services, often bundled with fancy certificates, are simply trying to make some cash off of people’s lack of knowledge about ESAs.
There are many sites out there selling emotional support animal certificates, so what’s a good way to spot these fake websites?
The big one - does it ask for you to register your ESA or offer you a certificate if you pay? Steer clear!
Second - Does the site give you immediate approval for you to get an emotional support animal? It should be known that not everyone qualifies for an ESA. Many people could benefit from one, but you would need to be evaluated by a qualified or licensed mental health professional to approve your need for an emotional support dog or cat.
Third - Who is signing the document? An emotional support animal letter should only be approved and signed by your qualified or licensed mental health professional. That’s it. If it’s anyone else, your letter is not valid and will not uphold in a court of law.
Emotional support animals are protected by 2 federal laws in the U.S. - the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act. It is because of these two laws that you are able to live and fly with your ESA.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against passengers with disabilities. Airlines are required to accommodate passenger needs. If you need your animal to help relieve symptoms associated with your emotional and/or mental disability, traveling with your animal is as simple as obtaining an emotional support animal letter.
While an airline must accept your valid emotional support animal letter, you may also have to provide additional documentation in order to fly. These documents could be a veterinary health form, animal behavior form, shot record, etc.. It is entirely up to the airline’s ESA policy.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires property owners to make reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, including those who are accompanied by assistance animals. Reasonable accommodations include you being able to live free of charge with your ESA or for you to live in a no-pets-allowed space with your ESA.
Exceptions to this are based on if the emotional support animal is harmful to the property or others.
Registering your dog as an emotional support animal will not protect them under the Air Carrier Access Act, and there is a good chance you won’t be able to fly with them as ESAs.
There’s a possibility the airline may allow you to bring them on board as a pet, but there are many things you must do before such as pay a pet fee (usually over $100 each way). There are also a very limited number of seats for pets so many times the owner cannot take them on the plane.
ESA certification and ESA registration are not required for you to be a legal emotional support animal owner. If you sign up your ESA into a ‘registry’ or purchase an ESA certificate, you are not a valid emotional support animal owner and could face charges for misrepresenting a pet as an ESA.
Sure, there are many sites with an ‘emotional support dog registry’ just waiting for you to pay and register your dog, but it is a fraud. There is no such thing as a legal emotional support dog registry.
By now, it is understood that emotional support dog registration and certification is false. If you want to live or fly with your emotional support animal, you have to get an ESA letter. And the only way you can get one is through a qualified or licensed mental health professional. They are the ones that can approve you as a ESA owner and only them.
Therapetic, powered by CertaPet, offers you a chance to get connected to a LMHP in your area, if you qualify.
An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:
Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within a short span of time.