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Emotional Support Animal (ESA): Complete Expert’s Guide

Updated on August 11, 2023 by Lisa Tevis
Throughout the ages, animals have been serving humankind. Whether we talk about hustling millennials, young children, adults in their mid-years, or lonely senior citizens, animals have proven beneficial.

Over the years, acknowledging their significance, they were referred to as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). These animals offer more than just cuddling and playing. They provide a unique form of therapeutic companionship scientifically proven to positively impact mental health and overall well-being.

This guide is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of what emotional support animals are, how they can positively impact well-being, their legal rights, the difference between ESAs and regular pets, the process of obtaining an ESA, and other related information.

Emotional Support Animal

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

As per Wikipedia,

An emotional support animal is an animal that provides relief to individuals with “psychiatric disability through companionship.”

Therefore, ESAs are the animals that aid individuals suffering from emotional or psychiatric disabilities with their love and companionship. Researchers believe that these animals provide therapeutic benefits that further alleviate symptoms of emotional or psychiatric disabilities in humans.

Irrespective of breed, size, or weight, any animal can be an emotional support animal. An individual can choose any one from different types of animals. Some people prefer traditional pets like dogs and cats, while others also like to pet rabbits, turtles, peacocks, fish, etc. These animals don’t require any special training.

What Are the Benefits of Emotional Support Animals?

As already mentioned, Emotional Support Animals are very beneficial for individuals with emotional or psychiatric disabilities. Considering this, the alleviation of overall emotional or psychiatric disabilities is because of the comfort, love, companionship, and support they offer, which makes them a perfect emotional support animal.

Some of the benefits of emotional support animals are;

Promising Company:

When you are lonely or feel alone even after being surrounded by people, an ESA can be your promising friend who will always be there for you. You can easily overcome the feeling of loneliness with an ESA by your side.

Evoke Responsibility trait:

It is a known fact that keeping a pet in the house, taking care of it, preparing meals for it, bathing it, etc., makes you more responsible and accountable; the same is in the case of having an ESA.

Physical Health:

When you have an ESA in your house, taking it for walks or playing with it will naturally level up your physical activity. The rise in physical activity will indirectly improve your heart health, balance cholesterol levels, etc.

Give and Take Relationship:

The love and care you give to your Emotional Support animals, they will provide to you a lot more than that. Your ESA will love you the most and want nothing but your happiness back.

Curb Anxiety:

Whether it is social anxiety or anxiety that comes up with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) or any other type of anxiety, petting an ESA can alleviate anxious feelings and make you feel calm, relaxed, and loved.

Heal from depression:

When depression can make it impossible to leave your bed, being surrounded by your emotional support animal will give you courage in these challenging times and support you to heal quickly.

Overcome Trauma:

Many people have cured their years of trauma by petting an emotional support animal. Childhood Traumas due to sudden incidents or years of abuse are most challenging to overcome, but an ESA can help you with this too.

Other mental disorders:

Along with Anxiety, stress, trauma, and depression, an emotional support animal can also alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders like Phobias, Panic attacks, Eating disorders, etc.

What is the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal?

Emotional Support Animals and Service animals indeed have some similarities, but their roles are both different at the core.

Talking about Service animals, these are the animals specially trained to assist their disabled owner in performing daily activities. Here, the disabilities could be physical, intellectual, sensory, psychiatric, or mental. Now the assistance in daily activities could be;

  1. Help in crossing the street
  2. Guiding the owner in the crowd
  3. Reminding the owner to take medications
  4. Bringing items like newspapers, towels, water bottles, etc.
  5. Alerting the owner in case of danger
  6. and lots more.

Unlike Emotional Support Animals, all animals cannot qualify as service animals; only dogs and miniature horses are considered service animals.

Emotional Support Animal VS Service Animal
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are the service animals solely used to treat Psychiatric disabilities in disabled individuals. PSDs are different from emotional support animals in the fact that they are trained. You can self-train or get your dog trained by some professional to make it your PSD.

What are the laws around emotional support animals?

As per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), housing authorities are obliged to allow emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Fair Housing Act

According to the Fair housing act, rights and obligations:

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment), familial status, and disability.”

Here the disability could be physical or mental either. A disability that limits an individual from performing normal life activities. Therefore, the landlords cannot discriminate and deny the request for reasonable accommodation to a disabled individual under the fair housing act.

A reasonable accommodation request can also be an emotional support animal for a disabled individual. Therefore, the landlords cannot;

  • Deny assistance animals in the building,
  • Demand extra pet fees to keep the ESA in the building,
  • Demand the ESA parent to get their ESAs specially trained,
  • Question about the details of a person’s disability.

With that being said, federal laws do not provide any protection if the emotional support animal harms the landlord’s property or other tenants. The landlord can charge for the damage and even ask to remove ESA from the building by giving an extra 10-day notice in these cases.

Section 504 of the American Rehabilitation act

Section 504 of the American Rehabilitation Act states that disabled individuals cannot be discriminated against by the housing that receives federal financial assistance.

Therefore, schools or college dorms are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with a disability or denying their request for reasonable accommodation.

The housing authorities face the same obligation under Section 504 of the rehabilitation act that they cannot;

  • Deny assistance animals in the building,
  • Demand extra pet fees to keep the ESA in the building,
  • Demand the ESA parent to get their ESAs specially trained,
  • Question about the details of a person’s disability.

Similarly, housing authorities can waive the access of an emotional support animal to no-pet buildings if the ESA harms the housing property or other tenants.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits any kind of discrimination against disabled Individuals in the United States. The protections offered by the ADA are somewhat similar to the Fair Housing section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability(added later.) However, the difference lies in that the ADA solely protects Disabled Individuals.

Another difference lies in the range of the ADA, which is much wider than the FHA. The ADA protections extend to other areas of public life other than public accommodations, including transportation, employment, education, etc.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) manages that employers would not violate the ADA by discriminating against employees based on their disability. Similarly, the United States Department of Transportation makes sure that all the transit authorities in the U.S. make every necessary effort to make public transit vehicles and facilities convenient for disabled individuals as per the ADA.

You should also know that Any state or local government, company, business, and even non-profit organization that serves the citizens must allow Service animals with disabled individuals. For example, service animals are allowed in public places like malls, stores, restaurants, local government agencies, schools, universities, and colleges.

How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

To qualify for an emotional support animal, a person needs to determine that they have the conditions of mental or physical disability.
To know if the person has a disability, many licensed mental health professionals follow the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM. This manual is frequently used by practitioners worldwide to make accurate diagnoses.

Condition-1: You Should have a Qualifying Condition

To qualify for an emotional support animal, you should have at least one disability that is substantially limiting your ability to perform daily life activities;

Here is the list of some of the disabilities mentioned in DSM-V;

  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder
  • Substance-related disorders (alcohol, drugs
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • OCD – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Sexual disorder
  • Developmental coordination disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Phobias
  • PTSD – Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Learning Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Autism and many more.

If you have any one of the conditions, you can definitely qualify for an emotional support animal. However, only a licensed health professional has the right to decide whether your illness is appropriate to have an ESA or not.


The animal you choose as an assistance animal must provide you comfort and support to cure your mental or emotional illness.

It doesn’t need to be some unique animal. You can choose any pet from a local pet store, adopt a street dog/cat or even get one from your family or friend.

Select any type or breed of animal. Dog, cat, rat, squirrel, peacock, goldfish, or any other animal that you believe can help you with your mental disorders or emotional struggles.

You can make a normal pet your Emotional support animal if you get an ESA letter from a licensed health professional.

What Types of Pets Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

An ESA can be any domesticated animal. Dogs, cats, rats, birds, rabbits, and ferrets can be emotional support animals. Unlike working service animals, ESAs can be of any age and don’t require any special task training. This is because just by being there, they can lessen someone’s psychological and emotional disability related symptoms. The animal must be manageable in public and not a nuisance inside or around the house to be considered suitable.

The same reasonable accommodations that apply to domestic animals like dogs and cats might not be applied to exotic animals like rats, birds etc. For instance, since some animals (especially those not trained) can represent a risk to public health, airlines that accept ESAs usually only allow dogs or cats onboard. Because of these factors, mental health practitioners frequently advise someone to choose a domestic animal as their ESA.

How to Make Your Pet an Emotional Support Animal?

With the Fast ESA Letter, our team of professionals is always ready to help you to resolve your every doubt. We make sure with our services that you will not have to face any trouble whether this is your first time or not. You can receive a recommendation directly from licensed professionals in just 24 hours. All it takes is three clicks. Here’s how you can get started:

Step – 1 Fill up and Submit ESA Evaluation Form Online.
To begin with, fill out the online evaluation form with your medical details and describe your emotional support animal.

Step – 2 Get Evaluated by a Licensed Professional.
Afterwards, A Licensed Mental Health Professional will review the form. Based on your answers, they will approve your request and sign a recommendation letter for you.

Step – 3 Get Approved, and Obtain Your ESA Letter Instantly via Email.
Once your emotional support animal letter is ready, you will get your certification online almost instantly in your email inbox! You can download or print your ESA letter and present it to the landowner.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Emotional Support Dog?

Considering the fact that all dogs provide emotional support to their owners with their love and companionship. However, the dogs specifically prescribed by a mental health practitioner as part of the treatment plan to heal mental or emotional illness in patients are called Emotional Support Dogs.

What does an emotional support dog do?

Emotional Support Dogs are the dogs that alleviate symptoms of patients’ emotional or mental illness with their support and companionship. However, they are not trained, unlike Service animals, but have the natural ability to provide therapeutic benefits to heal emotional or mental disabilities in humans.

What is the best dog breed for emotional support?

You can choose almost any breed as an emotional support dog breed as your ESA. There is a wide range of breeds to choose from like;

  • Beagle
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Pug
  • Pomeranian
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Corgi and many more.

All these breeds have different traits. Click here to check different emotional dog breeds to compare and choose the one that fits best for you.

Do airlines have to allow emotional support animals?

No, most of them do not allow emotional support animals on their flights. After the withdrawal of protections by ACAA for Emotional Support Animals, the Department of Transportation no longer obligates airlines to allow ESA travel. Therefore, most airlines consider ESA as ordinary pets. However, the same is not in the case of PSD and service animals, as they are still allowed to fly without paying any extra charges.

How many emotional support animals can you have in an apartment?

As such, there is no rule regarding the number of emotional support animal allowed in apartments. You can have as many ESAs (emotional support animals) as you want, as long as;

  • You have an ESA letter for your ESAs
  • You have enough space and finances to pet your desired number of emotional support animals.
  • Your request for reasonable accommodation is reasonable.

Therefore, the landlord cannot deny you to have more than one emotional support animal. However, as mentioned earlier, your request should be reasonable. For example, Keeping seven dogs in a one-room rental apartment would be totally impractical, and for sure, the landlord will have to deny your request in that case.

Can a puppy be an emotional support animal?

Yes, of course, puppies can be emotional support animals. If you have an ESA Letter signed by your state-licensed healthcare professional, you can get a puppy or even an adult dog as your emotional support animal.

Do emotional support animals require any special training?

No, unlike Service animals, the ESAs don’t require any sort of training. However, you can teach them basic commands and etiquette that every pet should know.

Are cats allowed to be emotional support animals?

Yes, cats are allowed to be emotional support animals. Even they make the perfect choice to be an emotional support animal. Due to their loving, caring nature, cats can treat several psychiatric disabilities like anxiety, depression, PTSD, years of trauma, etc.

How can I get my cat to be an emotional support animal?

You need an ESA Letter to make your cat an emotional support animal. If your mental or emotional health is qualified to have an Emotional support animal, a licensed mental health professional can write and sign an ESA letter for you.
Apply on Fast ESA letter to get the ESA letter signed by your state’s licensed health professionals.

How to register a dog as an emotional support animal for free?

Firstly you don’t require emotional support animal registration. Many sites claim to register pets as emotional support animals on their sites. Neither the United States federal government nor any state government claims any ESA registry and doesn’t even protect ESAs registered on some private site databases.

In order to savor benefits under ESA laws, you need to get an ESA letter signed by your state-licensed mental health professional. Fast ESA Letter can help you with this. Our process to get an ESA letter goes as follows;

  • Apply on our site by filling up an evaluation by mentioning your pet and medical health details.
  • Based on the details of your evaluation form, get evaluated by our licensed health professional.
  • If approved, we will send your ESA recommendation letter by email.

You can download this ESA letter and show it to your landlord to stay with your ESA without paying extra charges.

What type of animal are best for emotional support animal?

Traditionally dogs and cats are the top choices for emotional support, but you can choose almost any animal as your emotional support animal. For example, Monkey, Duck, Pig, Goldfish, Miniature horses, cricket, etc., are one of the chiefly chosen ESAs.

What is the best Dog for a child with anxiety?

Golden Retrievers and Labrador are among the best dogs for children suffering from anxiety. They adjust well to a family atmosphere and have the ability to sense when humans get anxious or feel other difficult emotions. These dogs will try to comfort and calm your child in situations like that.

How do emotional support animals help with PTSD?

Scientists have proved that having an emotional support animal by your side releases feel-good hormones and makes you forget your worries. Due to this reason, health professionals recommend ESAs for PTSD patients. Emotional Support animals easily develop a bond with patients and make them feel comfortable. These traits further help the patients cope with their post-traumatic stress disorder.

Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?

Many Customers get the same query. There are a lot of registration sites available on the internet. Some of them might claim to be national service animal registry, “US service dog registry,” legitimate emotional support dog registry,” etc.
However, all of these sites are fake and claim that their registration sites are legal, but the government doesn’t cover any of these.

Is the ESA letter all I need to identify as an emotional support animal owner?

Yes, you only need an ESA Letter to identify an ESA owner.


  1. Shirlmina

    Can my landlord place a weight and/or breed restriction on my ESA?

    • Megan Ozdemir

      As per the housing laws, your landlord is not allowed to deny reasonable accommodation based on your ESA’s weight or breed. Many animals, such as small birds, dog, cats, turtles, hamsters, and more, are recognized as domestic animals as per the government guidelines. They can be designated as emotional support animals that will help you to ease your health issues. But keep in mind that you can not assign a non-domesticated animal, including reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and more. Also, in some cases, a landlord can deny your ESA. Such as if your pet has violent behavior or there is a possibility that your pet can hurt anyone, a landlord can refuse your ESA letter. Also, if your pet is the reason behind any damage to the landlord’s property, you will be liable to pay all the property repairs.

    • Blake Quinn

      If you have an ESA letter that certifies your pet as an emotional support animal. Not, in that case, a landlord has the right to deny an emotional support animal based on its breed, size, or weight. However, if the ESA turns out to be a threat to the landlord’s property or the other tenants, the landlord can raise an issue!

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Looking To Apply For An Emotional Support Animal Letter?

1. Fill up and Submit ESA Evaluation Form Online.

2. Get Evaluated by a Licensed Professional.

3. Get Approved, and Receive Your ESA Letter Instantly via E-mail.

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