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Emotional support dogs: What you need to do to be eligible and where they are legal to be taken

  • A support dog for emotional needs provides companionship and comfort to its owner.
  • An ESA is available to those who have anxiety, PTSD or cancer.
  • ESAs can live with you, despite the “no pets” policies of landlords or buildings.

Pets can provide immense comfort and can even be helpful to people suffering from depression or epilepsy.

You can register your furry friend (ESA) if you have a qualifying condition. Dogs are frequently considered emotional support animals because they have been bred for centuries in order to communicate with humans.

This is what you need to know to qualify for an emotional support animal and what their legal rights are.

What does an emotional support dog look like?

Emotional support dogs don’t have to be pets at the University of Toledo.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog should be trained. Aubrey H. Fine is a licensed psychologist who teaches at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

Fine says that an emotional support dog can be very helpful because:

  • If you are experiencing a panic attack, petting a dog could help calm down.
  • If you suffer from severe depression, taking care of a dog could be a way to help you. Fine states that a dog can help someone with depression keep them from becoming isolated by encouraging them to walk outside.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be reduced by having a dog to guard your home.

What’s the difference between ESAs & service dogs?

Emotional support dogs need to be comforting, while service dogs can be trained to do tangible tasks for their owners.

A service dog, for example, might assist a visually impaired person to navigate the streets and seek help if they have a seizure. The training required to teach a dog to behave and work in public places usually takes between one and three years, according to Brad Morris MA Director of Government Relations at Psychiatric Services Dog Partners.

Morris states that service dogs are not emotional support animals and can be used anywhere the public is permitted under US federal laws.

Where can I get my ESA?

  • Businesses: Your ESA may need to be left at home if you are going to a restaurant, store, or other business. Federal law doesn’t require business owners to allow them in.
  • Housing: ESAs are not subject to “No pets” policies by landlords. Fine also states that landlords cannot charge additional fees to tenants who have emotional support dogs. This rule only applies to emotional support dogs that pose a threat to others or cause major disruption to the community.
  • Transportation: Emotional support dogs do not have special privileges in public transport or on airplanes. They can be banned by “no pets”, which will make them feel like regular pets.

What are the conditions that allow you to adopt an emotional support dog?

ESAs are only available if you have a disabled and that the animal assists with your symptoms.

The Fair Housing Act lists a number of mental health conditions that are considered a disability.

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Many conditions that affect the body’s health can also be considered a disability.

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV),

Morris states that as long as the animal is able to support the individual’s disability in a meaningful way, it doesn’t matter what the condition is.

How to register an emotional support animal

There is no central ESA registry. Hoy-Gerlach states that ESA owners don’t have to pay money to any online website to register, certify or purchase vests or identification cards for their ESAs, contrary to what some websites might claim.

An evaluation by an expert disability evaluator is not required. Hoy-Gerlach states that these evaluations can be costly and may not be worthwhile.

Your doctor, a mental health provider such as a therapist, can instead provide a letter confirming that you require an emotional support dog to help reduce your disability. You will need to state which disability you have, and how the dog can help you.

This letter will protect your dog under the Fair Housing Act. You can also send a copy of it to any landlord or housing provider.

What makes a dog a good support dog for emotional issues?

Fine says that dogs who are connected to their owners or eager to be with them make great emotional support dogs. Although any breed of dog can serve as an emotional support animal, affectionate breeds such as Labrador retrievers or French bulldogs might be good choices.

You should consider what characteristics would be most helpful to you when choosing a dog. Hoy-Gerlach states that a person looking for a “couch potato” dog will be searching for something very different than someone who wants a playful, active dog to motivate them to run or walk long distances.

Calmer breeds such as greyhounds, corgis and Pomeranians can be a comforting presence for their owners. However, energetic dachshunds or Yorkshire terriers might help you get moving.

Hoy-Gerlach states that veterinarians, dog trainers and staff at animal shelters/humane societies can all be extremely helpful in finding the right match for someone.

Insider’s takeaway

Emotional support dogs are able to play an important role in helping owners deal with disabilities.

ESAs do not have the same rights as service dogs but are protected by housing discrimination laws.

Talk to your doctor if you believe your dog acts as an emotional support animal for you or your loved one.

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