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Service Dog Registration Of America

What if I Want to Register My Dog as an Emotional Support Animal?

2019-12-31

For those who suffer with anxiety, depression, or any other mental or physical disorders, everyday life can feel challenging or even debilitating. The basic activities that many do without a second thought are much more difficult for people with a mental illness. 

Many people living with these disorders have emotional support animals to help them through these hard times. These animals can help provide a calming support for their owners in times of distress. 

Many people have found the help of these furry counselors get them through the dark struggles of their conditions more effectively than medication. Moreover, there is a common misconception that registering one’s animal is all one needs to do in order to have an ESA. This is not the case. By simply registering your ESA on our site we will provide you with important legal updates and info impacting ESA owners. A letter from a licensed mental health professional is what makes an ESA valid.

While the title of service animal is restricted to dogs and miniature horses, the role of an emotional support animal can be taken by an animal of any species. In this article, however, we will focus on getting your dog officially set up as an emotional support animal. 

What is the Process? 

Doctor's Visit 

First, you must find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal in the first place. Emotional support animals can assist people suffering from:

- Severe depression
- Panic attacks
- Anxiety
- Phobias 
Consult with your therapist and discuss whether an emotional support dog would be beneficial for your illness. They will be able to talk about your case specifically and guide you personally. 

However, there are more requirements that you need to receive a letter for an ESA. 

Approval From a Mental Health Professional 

Next, you have to get a certified ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This can be done either in person or through a service online. Online ESA assessments cannot be done over the phone and require a HIPAA compliant video platform. 

An ongoing relationship with a therapist needs to be set up with a therapist in order to renew ESA travel letters. Certain airlines may also have specific forms that need to be filled out by a therapist, so check beforehand. ESA housing letters do not need to be renewed annually. 

Officially Register Your Animal

As aforementioned, simply registering your dog does not fulfill the requirement for an ESA. Also, companies that guarantee an ESA letter without a proper mental health assessment should be looked at as suspect.

Sites such as esaregistration.org explain that the benefit of registering ones dog is to keep up with news and laws impacting emotional support animals. While not required by law that you register your dog, you might find that it saves you a lot of hassle to receive information on legal changes on the state and national level. Further, these sites typically sell products to registered users such as vests and cards that can help ESA owners when traveling.

Choose Your Animal 

The last thing that you have to worry about is choosing the dog that will be your emotional companion. 

If you already have a dog, your choice is easy, but it's likely a good idea to do a little more thorough training with your dog if you will be taking her out in public/on airplanes. 

If you do not yet have a dog, you will need to begin your search. Look for a dog that brings you the kind of joy and peace that you are looking for.

While many people are inclined to look for dogs with local breeders, there are many dogs in shelters that are just as well behaved and in need of love and a good home. Before you shop around for puppies that are a lot of work, look into adopting an older dog from the shelter. It’s critical to be mindful that while all types of animals can be considered an ESA the public might be suspect of exotic animals or bugs. In fact airlines have already passed rules against animals that aren’t typical house pets.

Do ESAs Count as Service Dogs? 

In short, no, emotional support animals do not count as service animals. Service dogs are individually trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. For example, many of the common service dog tasks are guiding those who are blind, alerting the deaf, and protecting a person having a seizure. These animals are workers, not pets. 

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, require no training and vary in the services they provide depending on their owners' needs. Many of these animals are simply comforting to their owners by simply being present. Most importantly, these dogs are often considered family, and treated as regular pets would be treated. 

These dogs provide therapeutic value to their owner, so they are not the same as the service dogs that are trained to work these jobs, and as such, they do not have the same abilities by law.

Your emotional support animal will not be able to accompany you in certain places that you would be able to bring a service dog such as your workplace, stores, hotels, or any other businesses, as they maintain the right to not allow ESAs. 

What Do I Need to Have so I Can Register My Emotional Support Animal? 

To be considered an emotional support animal a letter from a mental health professional declaring the owner’s need for an ESA and some simple information about your animal (i.e. dog's name and breed) is required. 

There are certain ancillary products that are not required but can help ESA owners when traveling such as: 

- An ESA ID badge to help track your dog when traveling
- An ESA travel vest
- ESA leash that can be used in public
- Listing within the database to be kept up to date with legal changes impacting ESA’s.

Conclusion 

Emotional support dogs can make all the difference to those who are struggling with mental illnesses. Getting your support dog registered is important so that you can ensure you will stay current on all legal changes. Receiving a letter from a mental health professional allows you to fly with your ESA or live in pet free rental housing. ESA owners are not required to pay pet fees when traveling or living with their ESA.  

With the proper forms and registration, you will find that you won't encounter nearly as many difficulties getting the rights that you legally reserve with your ESA. 

Use this guide to help you through the process of obtaining and registering your emotional support dog and receiving a letter from a mental health professional should you qualify.