How To Make Your Dog An Emotional Support Dog

To make your dog an official emotional support animal, you will first require an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter should declare all your mental health conditions and how your pet aids to help alleviate symptoms.

Animals and dogs especially have a natural ability to heal, comfort, and express a unique connection. Many people around the world struggle with mental and emotional health issues. Yet, there is a huge relief we get from the mere presence of our pets. In this article, we are going to be discussing how to make your dog an (ESA) Emotional Support Dog, officially.

What Is An Emotional Support Dog

In short, an emotional support dog is any dog that provides relief to an individual with a “psychiatric disability through companionship”. This canine companion provides emotional support, comfort, and companionship to a person with one or more mental health disabilities.

It is important to differentiate first between the difference between “service” and “support” animals. And you should know that an “ESA dog” is not a “Service Dog” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So now that we’ve covered that ESA (emotional support animals) are not considered Service Animals, there are still U.S. laws that protect them. 

Did you know? Any domesticated animal may be considered for an ESA, from cats to dogs, horses to rabbits, pigs, birds, reptiles, rodents, and more. However, an emotional support animal does need to be manageable in public. They cannot create a scene or be a public nuisance.

What Is The Difference Between An Emotional Support Dog And A Service Dog

Emotional Support Dogs don’t perform tasks. Instead, they provide a calming presence that relieves the unwanted symptoms associated with their owner’s mental condition. For an individual to legally have an emotional support dog, they must first be seen by a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, etc… This has to be documented by a properly formatted prescription.

This official prescription signed by a licensed health professional is the difference between having a pet who makes you happy and an official emotional support animal that you require as therapy.

Now the difference is that a trained Service Dog under the law by the ADA is a dog that has been individually and specifically trained to perform tasks and/or do work for someone with a disability. These types of professionally trained service dogs are considered:

  • Guide Dogs: for people with severe visual impairments or are completely blind.
  • Hearing Dogs: for the hearing impaired and deaf community.
  • Seizure Response Dogs: assist individuals who suffer from seizure disorders.

How To Make Your Dog An Emotional Support Dog

You might wonder how to make your dog an emotional support dog. Attempting to find what you imagine the “perfect” emotional assistance pup can be a long process. And not every dog is up for the job. You will still be responsible for paying out-of-pocket for things like board, food, healthcare, and possible additional fees.

So here’s some emotional support advice, there is no perfect dog to become an emotional support dog. No certain breed is the best or specific age they have to be, they can be from loving homes or found stranded on the street. In fact, your best doggy pal at home right now can become an emotional support dog too.

Here is how to make your dog an emotional support dog.

The bottom line is this, to make your dog an official ESA, it is as easy as getting an official ESA letter from your licensed mental healthcare professionals.

To be able to qualify for an ESA letter, you must suffer and be diagnosed (by a licensed doctor) with a mental illness or form of psychological disorder for which this specific animal (dog) provides added comfort and emotional support. Some of these conditions are anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD, and depression.

Getting your buddy certified will have several benefits resulting in permissions and special accommodations granted under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Laws About Emotional Support Dogs

Whether dog, cat, or snake, all emotional support animals are referenced in two federal laws in the United States. The Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act, these laws lay out a person’s rights to have an emotional support animal with them when they travel, and at home where they live and work.

Emotional support dog with chew in his mouth

Housing Freedoms

Enacted in the 1960s, the Fair Housing Act was made to protect persons from being discriminated against when buying or renting a home. This specific law prohibits landlords and providers from discriminating for a sleuth of different reasons, one of these being disability.

This law also protects the right for the mentally disabled to not have to abide by a home provider’s “no pets” policy. Landlords must provide you and your official emotional support animal with reasonable accommodations and affordable housing.

Travel Accommodations

The Air Carrier Access Act stops airlines and other travel providers from discriminating against people with disabilities. Recently, laws were changed, and the owner of the emotional service dog may still have fees. However, the airline can not discriminate against you, you and your support pet would have full travel access. Check with your specific airlines for their guidelines, rules, and regulations on emotional support travel access.

Waived Pet Fees

These fees are based on a case-to-case basis. However, some pet fees will be waived in housing and travel when you have a certified emotional support animal. Check with each provider, for the specific guidelines their company follows.


Over 70 percent of pet owners say that their mental health improves due to interacting with their pets. Studies are proving that animal companionship is even effectively treating mental conditions like Agoraphobia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The impact of dogs on our lives is unmeasurable. Not just for our hearts and well-being. Not just for the smiles they bring. Mental professionals agree, they have noted vast improvements in patients with a mental or emotional disability.

Thanks to the mere presence of these dogs, it can provide serious beneficial care for people living with mental health issues.

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