MooshMe - ESA Pet on Beach

It’s important to understand that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. The latter has been individually trained to work with, or even perform tasks, for someone with a disability. They exist to help that person lead a more normal life. Emotional support animals are not trained in any way. They just help by being there, to support you emotionally – as the name implies. Also, a service animal is always a dog, whereas ESAs can be any type of animal.

So, if you already have a pet, it’s possible that it can become your emotional support animal. Nothing needs to change in terms of how you look after it, but if you want to get more out of your pet and also benefit from certain laws that favor ESAs, then it’s important to understand the differences between a pets and emotional support animals. Similarly, if you think you may qualify for an ESA and you’re considering getting one, then the following may be of help.

An Emotional Support Animal Specifically Helps with Your Psychological or Emotional Disorder

Qualifying conditions that allow emotional support animal registration include, but are not limited to – anxiety, panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism. If you already own a pet and you would like it to become your ESA, then you simply apply for an ESA letter.

A relaxed online conversation with a licensed mental health expert will determine whether or not you’re suitable for ESA registration. If you’re approved, you’ll receive your letter by mail in a few days. If you don’t already have a pet but you think you would benefit from an ESA of some sort, then just follow the same procedure as outlined above. Once you have your letter, you then just need to decide what emotional support animals would best suit your needs.

The most popular ESAs are dogs, cats and rabbits, but if you do a bit of research, you might be surprised by some of the animals that have been given ESA registration!

ESAs Will Spend More Time with You

MooshMe - ESA Gerbil in Hands

One big difference between regular pets and emotional support animals is that your ESA will spend much more time with you, both inside and outside of your home.

If it’s a dog, it will no doubt welcome you home and be pleased to see you; if it’s a cat, it may not bother with you much until it wants something! But if your pet is your ESA, then you will have quite a different relationship with it, and you will spend more time with your animal.

Your emotional support pet may accompany you to work or on your travels,  or it may sleep on your bed with you. You will for sure find great comfort and security in simply being with your beloved furry friend.  In short – emotional support animals are much more of a companion and an essential part of your life than normal pets. 

Regular Pets Are Often Not Allowed by Landlords of Rental Properties

Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, your companion pet certification will ensure that landlords do not discriminate against you on the basis of your pet. If your landlord normally allows pets but charges extra for them, then your ESA registration will ensure that he or she can’t do this in your case. Additionally, the Housing Amendments Act states that landlords must make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for tenants so that they can live agreeably with their ESAs. Sounds like a good deal – know your rights!

You’ll Have More Access to Public Areas with an ESA

This may be denied if you have a regular pet with you. Most stores and hotels and the like don’t welcome pets at all. However, they may look more kindly on you and be more compassionate if your companion is a registered ESA. Again, this will depend on the type of animal you have and how well-behaved it is in public places. Always carry your ESA letter with you – you never know when you might need it.

You Can Take Your Emotional Support Animal on Vacation

MooshMe - ESA Cat Closeup

Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, your ESA can fly with you in the cabin of the airplane for free.

Well, if you have an ESA letter, you can! The Air Carrier Access Act says that your emotional support animal can fly with you in the cabin of the airplane. Obviously, certain animals may not be allowed to do this – you need to check with the airline and you also need to register your ESA ahead of time. Expect to be asked some questions, and be sure to have all the correct documentation with you when you board. You may need to prove that your pet will behave and won’t be a threat or a nuisance to other travelers. More good news – it’s free! No charge for emotional support animals in the cabin.

Hopefully, this has given you an idea of the differences between a pet and an emotional support animal. Remember that an ESA is there to provide you with comfort, security and relief. In some cases, it can also help with your confidence, and it will undoubtedly be your constant companion and friend, helping you cope with whatever it is you find difficult in life.