Emotional Support Animal FAQs
What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a person’s licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological disability.
What Animals Qualify To Be An ESA?
All types of domesticated animals can be Emotional Support Animals (cats, dog, and birds) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific task-training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person’s psychological/emotional disability, unlike a working service dog. The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.
How to Qualify?
For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor, however.
The letter should state that:
- You are currently his/her patient
- Are under his/her care for the treatment of mental disability found in the DSM IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5).
- Your disability substantially limits at least one major life activity
- He/she prescribes for you an emotional support animal as a necessary treatment for your mental health.
In addition, the letter must be dated, written on his/her letterhead, include his/her license type, number, date of license, and state in which the license was issued. View a Sample ESA letter. Remember that we at Emotional Pet Support can help prescribe such a letter and you can begin by taking our 10-minute exam.
What Are Your Legal Protections and Rights?
The Air Carrier Access Act 49 U.S.C. 41705, Dept. of Transportation 14 C.F.R. Part 382, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 are the laws that protect an emotionally disabled person and his/her ESA.
The legal protections an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has are to:
- Fly with its emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in the cabin of an aircraft without being charged a pet fee.
- Qualify for no-pet housing (that also includes limited size, breed, or species housing) without being charged a pet fee.
No other public or private entity (motels, restaurants, stores, trains, taxis, buses, theaters, parks, beaches, libraries, zoos, etc.) is required to allow your ESA to accompany you and in all other instances, your ESA has no more rights than a pet. That means they aren’t protected by law to accompany you into any public place that does not allow pets. That doesn’t mean these places won’t let you, it just means that they are not required to, by law.
How will my landlord or property manager be able to verify my letter?
Your landlord or property manager can verify your letter by calling the verification number that is included on the prescribing physician’s letterhead. This is the verification phone number of the doctor that issues your prescription, not Emotional Pet Support’s number. Your landlord will simply leave a message with the first and last name of the member he is trying to verify and someone will contact them to verify your letter.
What form of payment do you take?
We accept the following payment types: Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.
How should I prepare my dog for airline travel as an emotional support animal?
Your dog may not be familiar with the airport environment, the confines of sitting at your feet on an airplane, or facing the scrutiny of airline personnel and other passengers. Please be aware that airline staff (including gate agents, TSA, and flight attendants) can deny passage for your emotional support animal (and you) if the animal is deemed to be a health threat, bother, or nuisance to other paying passengers, even if you have had your ESA pre-approved to accompany you on the plane. We suggest that you follow the American Kennel Club (AKC) Good Citizen program and ensure that your dog is trained to do the following so that your travel is smooth:
- Accept a friendly stranger
- Sit politely for petting
- Walk on a lead
- Walk calmly through a crowd
- Sit, get down, and stay in place on command
- Come when called
- Behave politely around other dogs or cats
- React appropriately to distractions