Emotional support dog

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

An emotional support dog is a furry pal that provides therapeutic benefit(s) to their owner through support and companionship to help alleviate symptoms associated with a mental or emotional disability.

Emotional support dogs are the most common type of ESA since dogs help with reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental and/or emotional disabilities.

Emotional Support Dog Requirements

When it comes to requirements, there aren’t many. If your dog provides you with love and care then they could be your ESA.

With that being said, the animal must be beneficial for your health and not put you or anyone else in harm's way.

Overall, most dogs are recognized as appropriate emotional support animals with the exception of a few outside breeds.

In terms of an ESA owner, the key requirement you need is an emotional support animal letter stating the dog is beneficial to your mental/emotional health. This letter can only be written by a licensed mental health professional.

Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

Woman with her emotional support dog relaxed looking at the lake

Emotional support animals are for individuals who suffer from a mental and/or emotional disability. Qualified disabilities include (but are not limited to):

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

  • General Anxiety Disorder

  • Depression

  • Panic Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

How to Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter

The process to obtain an ESA letter is simple.

Behind every letter is a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP), such as a Psychiatrist, Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or Psychologist evaluating, working with, and testifying to their patient’s need of an emotional support animal.

An ESA dog letter or Emotional Support Animal prescription will typically include the name of the patient plus details about the animal (name of the animal, breed type, etc).

Free and fast, take a 5 minute pre-screening to determine your potential eligibility for an ESA dog, ESA cat, or other animal.

Completely confidential, our brief questionnaire only takes a few minutes to finish. From there, you’ll be one step closer to getting your own furry support system.

The Truth Behind Emotional Support Dog Registration

An ESA registration has no legal value whatsoever. Sites that ask you for money but only give confirmation that your emotional support animal is now registered do not uphold in any court of law in both the U.S. and Canada.

The same goes for emotional support animal certification. You do not need to certify or get an emotional support dog certificate to become an ESA owner.

If you register or certify your dog and NOT get evaluated by an LMHP and receive an ESA letter, you may be fined. Also, depending on your state, misrepresenting a pet as an emotional support animal could be classified as a misdemeanor.

A lot of sites out there can be tricky with their small print and fancy words. We’ve all been subjected to it at some point in our lives. But the main take away is that emotional support animal registration is not a “real” thing and will not provide you with the assistance you need for your ESA.

Emotional Support Dog Vest: Necessity or Voluntary?

English spaniel in emotional support dog vest

There are not any emotional support animal laws that say an emotional support dog vest is required, but it does help others recognize them as an ESA.

As a great indicator for flight attendants and landlords, the emotional support dog vest lets them know you’re an ESA owner and makes for less explanation. Keep in mind you still have to provide verified identification (hint: your ESA letter) in both cases if you do not want to be charged with any fees or denied your rights to housing or flying with an emotional support animal.

Legal Protections for Emotional Support Dogs

It is important that anyone considering obtaining an ESA letter be aware of the legal protections that apply to owners and what they should expect from Emotional Support Animal Letter provider under the law.

ESA Canada Laws

Traveling by plane with your emotional support animal is no longer something impossible. The Canadian Transportation Agency makes it possible for ESAs to travel with their owners: both on domestic and international flights.

Different housing canada laws apply to each province. But they all have one thing in common: they all shelter people with mental disabilities from discrimination. This can also be interpreted to apply to housing, and there are already hundreds of people living with their ESAs.

Woman giving emotional support dog training lesson

Housing Protections in each province:

  • Alberta - Service Animals Act is the law you need to know if you live in Alberta. Although it doesn’t say anything in particular about ESAs, the arguments and base for legal defense are the same as for service animals.

  • British Columbia - Guide Dog and Service Dog Act. This piece of legislation doesn’t specifically apply to emotional support dogs. However, the arguments made can be used to justify the presence of your ESA.

  • Manitoba - Human Rights Code and to the Service Animals Protection Act for help. They protect all people with mental disabilities from being discriminated against when it comes to housing.

  • New Brunswick - Human Rights Act. Section 5

  • Newfoundland & Labrador - Human Rights Act. Section 5

  • Nova Scotia - Human Rights Act. Section 5

  • Nunavut - Human Rights Act. Section 5

  • Ontario - Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Code

  • Prince Edward Island - Human Rights Act. Section 5

  • Quebec - Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

  • Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan Human Rights Code

  • Yukon - Human Rights Act. Section 5

ESA U.S. Laws

Woman with emotional support dogs relaxed on the grass

There are two main federal laws applicable to ESAs and their owners, these include the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act ensures that an individual requiring an Emotional Support Dog will be allowed to live with their animal. Furthermore, it prevents landlords and rental companies from being able to charge pet fees or deposits.

The Air Carrier Access Act ensures that people are able to fly with their Emotional Support Dog without having to pay additional fees. The airlines do require that they are informed in advance and that a recent (less than one-year-old) medical letter is provided as well.

Important: Service Dogs Have Different Laws

While an emotional support animal helps ease the pain of a mental or emotional disability through companionship and affection, a service animal (including psychiatric service dogs) is any animal that is individually specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled person.

ESA are NOT service dogs.

Because of this, service dogs are protected by different laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S. or Service Dog Act in parts of Canada.

The 5 Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds

Any dog can be an emotional support animal. This means that pure breed dogs through to mixed breeds, designers breeds and mutts can be ESAs. All that matters is that you find the perfect furry friend you share a connection with!

However, the following pups are always viewed as some of the best emotional support dogs:

  • Poodles

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Corgis

  • German Shepherds

  • Yorkshire Terriers

FAQs on ESA Dogs

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about emotional support dogs.

Can I find an emotional support dog for sale?

While the idea of buying an emotional support dog all ready to go is appealing, it is not actually possible. An ESA letter is awarded to a patient with a mental disability, not to an animal.

In case the patient does not have a pet yet, the therapist, psychiatrist, or another doctor will advise him/her to get a pet that can provide much needed mental support, and the newly acquired pet will be designated as an ESA.

Is emotional support dog training required?

While they do not have to be specifically trained, an ESA needs to be reasonably well behaved by normal standards, such as being fully house-broken and does not have bad habits that would disturb neighbors, such as frequent or lengthy episodes of barking.

Should I certify my dog in an emotional support dog registry?

No. You do not need to certify your animal or register them in a database. All you need is a letter from your licensed mental health professional.

Who can write an ESA support dog letter?

A licensed mental health professional is the only one who can write your ESA letter. When you get an ESA letter issued by them you will see their license number and contact information on the document. These are very useful if your landlord or airline want to check whether the letter is legit or not.

Where can I get an emotional support animal letter?

If you are significantly limited by a disability and believe that an emotional support animal will help with your mental well-being, feel free to approach your doctor and request a letter. From there, they will determine if you benefit from an ESA.

If you are not seeing a doctor or a licensed mental health professional, Therapetic, powered by CertaPet, is always here for you.