How to Get an Emotional Support Dog – Full Guide

Owning a dog is one thing; getting the one that supports you emotionally is another. Naturally, dogs are famous for being good companions to their families.

But an emotional support dog can be more than that for you. Their specialty comes in handy for someone who is experiencing an emotional disorder or mentally stressed.

How can I get an Emotional Support Dog

Do you want to help anyone suffering from any of these conditions? In that case, the best help you can offer is getting them an emotional support dog. Having that, how can you get one for your loved ones?

What Should You Know About Emotional Support Dogs?

It is very unusual to come across a dog that doesn’t offer companionship. The moment a dog becomes part of your family, it develops affection for everyone in the household.

However, that doesn’t qualify a dog as an emotional support dog. The next question that comes to mind is, how then can we identify emotional support dogs?

These are dogs deemed fit by a licensed therapist or mental health experts to support emotionally disturbed humans.

Take note of the critical point here – no one but a professional can ascertain that a dog gets the pass mark to lift an emotional burden off a person. It is worth mentioning that dogs offer therapeutic companionship, but other animals are also trainable to do so.

That is where the term Emotional Support Animal (ESA) originated.

Emotional support dogs make it easy to deal with disabling mental illness, thereby helping the affected person concentrate on their life goals.

Any dog can qualify as an emotional support dog irrespective of age, breed, or history. People mistake therapeutic pets for service dogs, but they differ from several angles.

What Differentiates an Emotional Support Dog from a Service Dog?

It is crucial to spell out the difference for those thinking emotional support dogs are the same as service dogs. Understandably, the similarities are convincing enough to believe so.

Just like service dogs, emotional support dogs can see an ill individual through depression and anxious moments. However, some laws in place make the difference so glaring for everyone to understand.

The first thing you should know is that your newly adopted pet can be your emotional support dog. It could also be the old furry friend that has been in your household for years.

The dog doesn’t have to go through specialized training to be an emotional support dog. That is not the case for service dogs that require a series of training before they can qualify for such functionality.

Apart from the training, if the dog doesn’t meet the requirement, it probably won’t get the affirmation of a service dog.

As the name implies, emotional support dogs are famous for assisting individuals with mental and emotional disorders get over their problems.

Anyone with physical disabilities can get a service dog. It is because they received special training to assist with tasks you might not handle by yourself.

We recommend you opt for a service dog if your needs are outside the mental and emotional scope.

There are certain restrictions on where you can go with emotional support dogs. For example, your affectionate pet should not go to restaurants or malls.

On the other hand, there is freedom of movement for service dogs. You can see them anywhere, including the restricted areas for their counterparts.

However, it is permissible to fly a plane with an emotional support dog.

We try to establish that service dogs offer support to someone with physical disabilities from all that we discussed above.

For example, a blind or deaf individual can get adequate help from a well-trained dog. The cuddling nature of emotional dogs can only help to relieve stress and anxiety for their owners.

Several Acts Governing Emotional Support Dogs to Accompany Individuals

It is ideal to own either a service or emotional support animal. However, what comes first is to be conversant with the anti-discrimination laws governing their use.

These laws differ from one country to another. That of the United States isn’t the same for Canada, the UK, or Australia. So, get to know more about your country’s anti-discrimination laws about the use.

Although there are differences, the laws share similar features. You need to know about the Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carrier Access Act, and Fair Housing Act.

In this guide, we will shed more light on the one mentioned above. The idea behind these laws is to prevent society from discriminating against the disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Three parts make the Americans with Disability Act a whole. Each addresses discrimination from different perspectives. The provisions made by this Act govern the actions of individual firms providing services to the public.

A typical example is the restaurants, where people visit for refreshments. You will find these rules in Title III of the ADA30, and Title II covers state and local governments.

How to get an Emotional Support Dog

Fair Housing Act

This law prohibits house discrimination through the adoption by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It encompasses a far-reaching outlook on the assistance offered by animals in homes.

There was a clear statement that differentiated service dogs from emotional support dogs. This is available in Title II and III of the ADA44. It allows any animal to act as an accommodation under the law.

The Air Carrier Access Act

The Department of Transportation administered the Air Carrier Access Act to prevent discrimination associated with onboarding airplanes.

The phrase representing this law speaks about service dogs. However, it extends across other animals, including the emotional support dogs. While the law permits emotional support animals, some exceptions shape how to deal with them.

For example, dogs are allowed, but others such as ferrets, rodents, and reptiles are not.

Who needs an Emotional Support Dog?

We all need support and care at different times, which is what emotional support dogs offer. However, their affection hits differently, depending on our state of mind.

If you can relate to any of the mental health challenges listed below, then you need an emotional support dog;

  • Autism
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive Disorder
  • Phobia
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)
  • Stress

With any of these, you can get your existing pet certified as an emotional support dog. You need proof from your doctor showing that it is necessary to get an ESA letter.

Getting an ESA Letter

Suppose you have any of those conditions that require emotional support. In that case, you can consult a therapist for the necessary steps to get an ESA letter.

The component of the letter includes a certified therapist prescription, an official letterhead, and information about the mental health professional.

This info contains the license number, affixed signature, and other relevant details to confirm the therapist’s authenticity.

With this information, you can get an ESA letter to prove that your emotional support dog has the right to show up in certain places.

The letter presents you with the opportunity to travel by air with your pet. Accordingly, you can rent an apartment and live in it with your pet. It doesn’t matter if homeowners have rules against bringing pets to your newly rented apartment.

The ESA letter gets you covered. You can refer to Title II and III of the ADA44 in case of discrimination.

While the ESA letter exempts you from paying additional fees when you board travel by air, you must pay for damages if your pet destroys valuable objects.

The same applies to when you rent a new apartment.

The privileges gotten from the ESA letter do not cover visitation to restaurants and hotels. Irrespective of the certification, these businesses may not permit you to enter with your pet.

This might be because of their brand reputation and different perspective of customers regarding dogs.

Finally, be vigilant when obtaining an ESA letter to avoid falling victim to a fake certificate. It usually occurs if you are applying for an online letter, where you cannot validate the therapist.

We recommend that you obtain your ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. Also, there is a need to understand the renewal process and additional documentation required in the case of airlines.

How to Get an Emotional Support Dog – Conclusion

Your emotional support dog does not need special training to help you relieve mental and emotional disorders. Occasionally, you may engage your dog in the necessary training to control their behavior.

Your current pet could be your emotional support dog, or you can apply to get one from reputable breeders. You must tick every box of their eligibility criteria before you can stand a chance to get one for yourself.

It is important always to remember that emotional support dogs are different from service dogs. We believe that with this guide, you can get an ESA letter and follow the guidelines accordingly.