Home » A Comprehensive Guide: How to Certify an Emotional Support Dog in 2024?

How to Certify an Emotional Support Dog in 2024?

Updated on April 23, 2024 by Lisa Tevis
Robert Clendenin MD
Medically Reviewed by Robert Clendenin, MD
Do you need clarification about an ESA dog certification and why one should get it in 2024? Worry not! We will help you comprehend the emotional support dog certification method and assist you in starting a new journey into mental well-being. So, let’s dig into the intricacies related to Certifying the emotional support animal. First, let’s understand what an ESA certification is. Several organizations may sell an emotional support dog certificate, which is a document with a seal or stamp stating your dog is an emotional support animal. An ESA certificate is just an accessory and is not legally enough to state your pet as an emotional support animal. Thus, the ESA letter is the right procedure to certify the emotional support dog to get access to legal benefits. Apart from that, any other certification or registration holds no legal weight.
Certify An Emotional Support Dog

Understanding Emotional Support Dog!

Emotional support dogs are very different from service and therapy dogs. Let’s understand the difference between them.

What is an Emotional Support Dog, and How do they differ from Service and Therapy Dogs?

Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are companion animals who help their handlers cope with challenges related to mental and emotional health disorders. Unlike service and therapy dogs, emotional support dogs are not desired to perform specific tasks related to their handler’s necessity, nor do they need any training to become an ESA.
However, emotional support dogs are not allowed in public places, like malls, restaurants, etc. Nonetheless, The Fair Housing Act protects these little furry friends, which privileges them to accommodate on any rental property with their handler required with a legitimate ESA letter.

Service Dogs

Service dogs, also called assistance dogs, are trained to perform tasks to ease the owner’s disability, which can be physical, psychiatric, sensory, or developmental. Having a service dog gives the owner greater independence and increased confidence to leave home and foster social connections.
The rights of people with disabilities are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which allows the handler to bring their service dogs to most public places, including cafes, theatres, stores, hotels, government agencies, etc. Also, The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act permit service dogs to travel and accommodate their handlers hassle-free.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs, also called ‘comfort dogs,’ mainly focus on providing unconditional love to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, retirement homes, etc. Like service dogs, therapy dogs are trained to perform various tasks for their handlers. Therapy dogs are not provided legal protection under the ADA, i.e., they are not allowed to visit public places.

Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Dog

For people struggling with mental or emotional health conditions, having an emotional support dog can phenomenally aid in their well-being. The unconditional love and support of the emotional support dog would help the individual feel calm and relaxed. At the same time, they reduce anxiety issues, alleviate loneliness, enhance social engagement, relieve pain, lower stress, and boost pleasure. Moreover, mental health professionals cited that there are vast improvements in patients with the help of support dogs.
Nonetheless, individuals who have Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Anxiety disorders, and depression have seen a positive impact on their emotional and mental well-being with an emotional support dog. Studies demonstrate that having a pet, especially a dog, helps produce neurotransmitters in the body. Moreover, dogs help increase dopamine levels, a neurochemical in the brain associated with bonding, love, and pleasure.
Emotional Support Animals provide unwavering support, which can be highly beneficial for individuals with mental health conditions like depression or grief. Therefore, it is apparent that living with an ESA Dog may relieve symptoms associated with several mental, emotional, and psychiatric disabilities.

Recognizing Qualifying Conditions for ESA

To legally acquire an emotional support dog, an individual must qualify for a mental health disability diagnosed by an authorized mental health professional who can further recommend the emotional support dog by writing an ESA letter. An ESA Letter is the only official document that legitimizes the emotional support dog and permits them access to housing rights. Here are some of the mental health conditions that can qualify for an emotional support dog: mood disorders, Substance use disorders, Learning disabilities, Cognitive disorders, and Motor skill disorders. The Fair Housing Act also lists several mental health conditions that are treated as a disability, like Major depressive disorder (MDD), Bipolar disorder, PTSD, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Schizophrenia, etc. However, It is important to note that an individual must have an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist, to keep their emotional support dog by their side. Based on an individual’s emotional and mental health condition, these professionals evaluate your need for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). LMHP plays a crucial role in emotional support dog certification online. Here is the list of professionals that can issue an ESA letter: Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses (PMHN), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), and Licensed Professional Counselors. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a qualified professional to ensure the legality and validity of an ESA letter. An illegitimate ESA letter can cause problems for the handler and the emotional support dog.

Steps to Certify an Emotional Support Dog!

Emotional support dog certificate helps you access the housing rights protected under federal laws for the ESAs. So, let’s understand:

What is an Emotional Support Dog Certificate?

An ESA Dog certificate is a document with a seal/stamp that states the pet is an emotional support animal. However, it is essential to note that there is no formally recognized certification program for emotional support animals. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stated that the ESA certificates can be used as an accessory. Still, they cannot prove your pet is an emotional support animal. Therefore, the right way to make your dog an emotional support animal is to obtain an ESA letter, which will help you benefit from all the legal rights protected by the ESA under Federal Laws.

Let’s comprehend the step-by-step procedure for Emotional Support Dog Certification Online.

1. Consulting a Licensed Professional

To certify the ESA support dog, the first and foremost step is to consult with a licensed mental health professional in your state. During the consultation, you must be honest regarding your mental and emotional condition, as this would help the medical professional to understand the situation and decide if an emotional support dog is suited for your mental well-being.
The mental health professional will evaluate your mental and emotional condition thoroughly before providing the required documentation. It can sometimes be challenging to find an LMHP, which is why at Fast ESA Letter, we become your ultimate guide in getting an ESA letter. By creating an account at Fast ESA Letter, you get access to qualified medical health professionals at the ease of your home.

2. Diagnosis of the Disorder

The mental health professional will diagnose your condition and recommend an Emotional Support Dog if needed for your mental well-being. Therefore, you must openly communicate your feelings and experiences so the LMHP can correctly assess your need for an ESA.

3. Receiving the Letter

If the LMHP finds the need for an ESA Dog for your mental well-being, they will write an ESA letter.
The emotional support animal letter must contain the contact information, license number, and signature of the licensed mental health professional to validate its authenticity.

Basic Behavior Training for Emotional Support Dogs.

By law, emotional support dogs do not need any training. However, voluntary training can considerably improve their abilities to provide comfort and support. Therefore, a handler can consider enrolling their emotional support dog in obedience classes to reinforce good behavior and improve responsiveness. Moreover, a trained emotional support dog can help you with your mental or physical disability and may qualify as a psychiatric service dog as well.

How to Train an Emotional Support Dog?

While there aren’t any specific skills that an emotional support dog needs to know, training them on some basic commands can be helpful for the handler. General obedience and house training can help prevent behavioral issues in and outside the home. The following are some of the most important tasks or commands you should teach your emotional support dog.
  • Poop Training: The first and most important training for your emotional support dog for doing potty training. It can take quite a time, so you better be patient.
  • ‘Sit’ and ‘stand’: Basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stand’ are easy to learn for most dogs and can be beneficial.
  • ‘No’ or ‘Leave’ command: Saying ‘No’ or commanding the pet to leave things can be extremely helpful in public places with unfamiliar items.
  • Deep Pressure Therapy: DPT is a therapeutic technique helpful for individuals with anxiety or stress. Support dogs who know deep pressure therapy may also qualify as psychiatric service dogs (PSD) and can accompany the handler into public places.

Registration and Documentation of ESA

Several organizations may sell other emotional support dog certifications apart from ESA letters or may sell an ESA registration. However, that does not hold any legal weight. The support dog registration concerns adding your emotional support dog to a database. Which usually delivers an ID card as proof of pet registration as an ESA alongside a unique ID for your emotional support dog. However, it is essential to note that no official website for emotional support animal registration exists. Thus, ESA registration is voluntary and doesn’t give any additional legal privileges. However, getting an ESA letter is a must as it is the only legal document that gives you access to the federal rights protected for emotional support dogs. Also, the ESA letter is only considered legitimate if obtained by a licensed mental health professional on their letterhead and has their credentials on it.

Understanding Legal Protections for ESA

Emotional support dog handlers enjoy the rights protected by federal laws under the FHA (Fair Housing Act). The FHA provides the support dog access to the “No Pet” accommodations without pet rent or deposit. As per the Fair Housing Act, landlords must accommodate residents with Emotional Support animals. The FHA aims to eliminate discrimination among disabled individuals whose medical conditions require an ESA.
HUD guidelines state that the landlord must respond to an ESA application of a tenant within ten days. Moreover, the accommodation owners are not allowed to impose any restrictions on the breed, weight, and size of an ESA.
The federal law also protected the ESA rights for travel under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Under the ACAA, the ESAs were allowed to fly with their handler without discrimination. However, in 2021, the US Department of Transportation revised ACAA regulations and gave the power to the airlines, with only certain airlines now allowing emotional support dogs on planes.
Nevertheless, to enjoy the rights offered by these federal laws, an individual must have a legal and legitimate ESA letter obtained from a licensed mental health professional. If the emotional support dog is small enough, some airlines may permit the handler to bring it as a carry-on. However, with limitations. Yet, service animals, including psychiatric service dogs, are still covered under ACAA, which means all the flights can accommodate the service animals, and they are allowed to fly in the cabin with the handler.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals do not have the same legal rights as psychiatric service dogs. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals do not have legal access to accompany their owners in public places like cafes, malls, hotels, etc.

Common Misconceptions and Queries about ESA

Many queries and misconceptions surround the topic of emotional support dog certification concerning their training, breed, cost of getting one, and much more. So, let’s answer these queries and debunk all the common misconceptions about emotional support dog certification.

Does an Emotional Support Dog have to be Trained to be Certified?

There isn’t any official certification process for an emotional support dog. However, if you wish to take your dog with you, especially in public places, it’s wise to ensure they are well-behaved and trained with general commands like leave, no, sit, etc.

Can I Train my Emotional Support Dog?

Yes! Many emotional support dog owners train their dogs themselves. As long as you are willing to put in the time and effort to train your dog to good manners, hiring a professional dog trainer is unnecessary.

Can a Puppy be Trained to be an Emotional Support Dog?

Yes! It’s often easier to train puppies than older dogs as they would learn quickly. However, it is important to note that emotional support animals do not require specific training, yet ensuring they are well-behaved is essential.

How Much Do Emotional Support Dogs Cost?

The cost of Emotional Support Dogs depends on a couple of factors like the dog’s breed, size, and weight. If you own a dog and are planning to make them an emotional support dog, you can apply for an emotional support dog letter online. The cost of an emotional support dog letter lies between $150 to $200 only. However, at Fast ESA letter you can get the ESA letter for only $149, signed by qualified and licensed mental health professionals. You can benefit from the ESA Federal laws and rights by applying for an emotional support animal letter.

Where do I Get an already-trained Emotional Support Dog?

Since emotional support dogs do not require specific training, you don’t have to look for “certified” or trained emotional support dogs. Nevertheless, you can consider getting a well-behaved emotional support dog from a reputable breeder or a shelter.

Can Any Dog Be an Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, any dog breed can be an ESA. However, choosing the right dog for your unique needs is essential. One should choose a dog that makes them comfortable and suits their lifestyle and residence.

Can I Train my Emotional Support Dog Online?

Yes, you can train your emotional support dog online, as many dog training websites and video lessons are available online. You can easily use them to start training your support dog. It is essential to understand that support dogs do not require rigorous training; they need training to be well-behaved in public, which can be easily taught by the handler.

Is an Emotional Support Dog a Service Dog?

The direct answer to this question is NO! Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Emotional Support Animals are not considered Service Dogs. The primary difference between ESA and Service Dogs is that ESA are for the therapeutic benefits of the handler and are not trained to perform particular tasks. However, the service animals are trained to perform specific tasks or duties to help a disabled person. Service dogs are specifically trained animals and can enter any public location with their owners, even where pets are not allowed. They can accompany their owners in restaurants, theatres, shopping malls, etc., which an emotional support dog cannot do.

Can Emotional Support Dogs Go Anywhere?

If you are taking assistance from an Emotional Support Dog, you’re federally protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA provides equal rights to persons with mental or emotional health disabilities to live on any rental property they choose. Under this Act, housing providers or landlords cannot discriminate against ESA owners and cannot charge any extra amount for an ESA. You can also live on a property prohibiting pets because your emotional support dog is considered a part of your mental health treatment and not a normal pet. Since ESA are not protected by the ADA, they are not allowed to enter public places like restaurants, theatres, government buildings, shopping complexes, etc. Emotional support dogs can also enter college dorms with their owners. The federal Fair Housing Act allows ESA to live on college premises. This rule requires universities and campuses to make accommodations for students who are diagnosed with mental disabilities and want to live with their emotional support dogs.

Can Emotional Support Dogs Fly?

Before January 2021, ESA were also allowed to accompany their owners on flights. However, as per the new rules passed by DOT, emotional support animals are not allowed to travel with their owners. Nevertheless, if your emotional support dog is trained to assist you in your daily life by performing tasks, you can apply for a PSD letter. After you get your PSD letter, you can fly with your psychiatric service dog in-cabin.

How Can I Make My Dog An Emotional Support Dog?

To make your dog an emotional support dog, you must require an ESA letter signed by the LMHP. There is no need to register your dog as an emotional support animal. Only a valid ESA letter written by a mental health professional is enough to state the role of an emotional support animal in your well-being.

How To Get Emotional Support Dog Letter Online

The only way to certify your dog as an emotional support dog is by obtaining an ESA letter. An ESA letter is a legitimate document that qualifies you to get an emotional support animal. To know whether you are eligible for an emotional support animal, consider getting evaluated by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). If you do not have any prior therapist or are having trouble finding one, you can connect with Fast ESA Letter. We offer a simple online process to get your dog an Emotional Support Animal Letter.
3 step process to get an esa letter

Which Are the Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds?

The dog breeds mentioned below are the perfect choice for someone looking for an emotional support dog since they are adorable, loving, and committed to your happiness and well-being.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever
There is no doubt that Labrador is one of the most well-known dog breeds. These dogs are adorable and are excellent emotional support dogs. They have a cheerful and easygoing temperament. They are helpful for persons who require a companion outside their homes because labs are typically comfortable while traveling with their owners.

Corgi

Corgi Dog Breed
Corgis are a fantastic choice for an emotional support dog since they are cheerful, playful, and quickly settle down. Anybody can find enjoyment and satisfaction in watching a Corgi play. These dogs have a comforting smile that helps you relax your mind during high stress.

Great Dane

Great Danes Dog Breed
The Great Dane stands tall and leaves a lasting impact. Someone who prefers a canine bodyguard can choose a Great Dane as an emotional support dog. You will always have their loyalty, protection, and love because they are a guard dog breed. Great Danes are gentle giants, so many dog owners adore them. Because they are so big, they have an endless supply of love and compassion that can help you with deep-pressure treatment.

American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier
These loving, friendly dogs are ideally suited to act as emotional support animals. With the proper training, American Staffordshire Terriers can easily get along with most people. These dogs are an excellent fit for those with mental health concerns because of their calm and friendly nature.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed
Cavaliers were originally known as companion animals, and their genetic background makes them naturally compassionate and fun-loving. They are excellent apartment dogs because of their size. These dogs are adorable, well-behaved, and easy to groom. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a fantastic choice for someone looking for an emotional support dog, as these dogs can console you in tense situations.

What Rights Do Emotional Support Dogs Have?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals do not have the same legal rights as psychiatric service dogs. ESAs do not have legal rights to accompany their owners in public spaces since these dogs are not specially trained to assist disabled persons with chores. However, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects emotional support animals and their owners. Individuals are permitted to keep their emotional support dog in their homes under this federal housing law, even if there is a no-pet policy in the building. Furthermore, this law guarantees that people with mental disabilities won’t face housing discrimination because they require an emotional support dog. As a result, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities without charging any extra fee or a pet deposit.

Are any other Certificates Required for the Emotional Support Dog Besides the ESA Letter?

Apart from the ESA letter, the only legal and legitimate document to certify an emotional support dog, no other registration and certification is required. Many organizations may sell certifications, tags, and ID Cards. However, it is essential to note that these do not hold any legal weight. Thus, any organization or website selling them as legal identification for your emotional support dog may be a scam.

Moreover, organizations that promise instant turnaround on ESA dog certification are a big no. It indicates that they aren’t legitimate, and their services may be a scam. Getting an authentic ESA letter requires a consultation with a licensed mental health professional, which is time-consuming and can’t done instantly. Therefore, if a website claims an instant turnaround for an ESA certification without consultation, it may be a scam.

Several companies offer multiple illegitimate ways to certify emotional support dogs. So, you must look for the best and legitimate organization for the emotional support animal letter, as an illegitimate letter can get you and your support dog in big trouble.

Conclusion

For a healthy and hassle-free journey to mental well-being, it is important to certify the emotional support dog by obtaining a legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. Therefore, one must follow legitimate and ethical certification processes.
Posted in: Blog

About the Author

Lisa Tevis
Lisa Tevis
Lisa is a talented professional writer at Fast ESA Letter, fueled by a deep passion for animals. With a natural affinity for their well-being, Lisa combines her writing skills with her love for animals to create engaging and informative content. As a proud pet parent, Lisa shares her life with two beloved dogs, who have enriched her understanding of the human-animal bond. Through her work, Lisa aims to raise awareness about emotional support animals (ESAs) and their positive impact on mental health.

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