What is an ESA?

May 2, 2019

An emotional support animal is a pet that provides therapeutic benefit to their owner who has a qualifying psychological disability. Emotional support animals help improve the mental health and well being of their owners, helping them to cope with the symptoms of their disability. Learn more about what is an ESA and whether or not you are a good candidate for one. 
What is an ESA?
Emotional support animals are pets that give love and provide support to someone with a qualifying and diagnosed mental condition like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They do not need any training, unlike a service dogs. They're calming presence helps reduce stress and anxiety in their owners. Service dogs, on the other hand, go through extensive training and learn to perform specific tasks for their disabled owners, who are typically physically disabled like a seeing-eye dog. 
How to Get an ESA
All you legally need to make a pet an emotional animal is a letter from a licensed mental health professional. There is no training or certificates required as a service dog. Technically any type of animal can qualify as an emotional support animal, but many mental health professionals only recognize the therapeutic benefit of dogs and cats and feel comfortable writing ESA letters for those types of animals. If you have a pet that helps improve your mental health and you have a diagnosed psychological disorder (or believe you have a disorder but do not have a formal diagnosed), you can take the Certapet 5-Minute Pre-Screening to see if you are eligible to make your pet an ESA. If you are currently in treatment for your disorder, you can talk with your doctor or psychologist about making your pet an emotional support animal.
Benefits of ESA
There are two primary laws that give emotional support animals additional rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The first is the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prevents landlords and housing associations from discriminating against a tenant for having an emotional support animal, even if the apartment or housing complex does not allow pets. There can be no pet fee or pet deposit, but you are responsible for any damages caused by your emotional support animal. The second law is the Air Carrier Access Act. Under this law, ESAs can fly with their owners on planes. The airlines cannot charge a pet fee. The ESA does not need to stay in a carrier and can sit in their owner's lap or in the space in front of their seat. 
Emotional support animals are an important mental health resource to those with certain psychological conditions. They do not need training; their presence alone helps their owners cope with the symptoms of their disorder. You can make your pet an emotional support animal if you have a qualifying condition and your pet helps improve your mental health. All you need is an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. ESAs have additional rights in housing and travel. 
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