Emotional support animals play very important roles in the lives of people who are suffering from mental health issues. The United States government recognizes the importance of emotional pets and has introduced laws and ESA registration rules that protect the rights of people and their support pets.
ESAs provide therapeutic support to people who have some psychological issue or are very elderly. The support pet provides affection, something to focus on, companionship, love and nonjudgmental company.
Many studies have shown that having an emotional pet has myriad health benefits, including reduced levels of stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, reduced feelings of loneliness and more opportunities for socialization, increased levels of activity and exercise, and better overall mental health.
Living with a pet is good for your health, and for many people with mental health problems, their pet is a best friend and lifesaver. However, there are tangible benefits to ESA registration as opposed to just having a regular pet.
When registering your pet as an ESA, there are a few technical points that are important to understand.
A person is entitled to have an emotional support animal if they have a mental health problem that a registered mental health professional deems would be helped by the presence of the animal. To put your pet up for ESA pet registration, you must acquire a letter on office letterhead from a licensed mental health professional. The letter must state that the ESA is necessary and that it improves the patient’s symptoms and quality of life.
People have officially registered emotional pets for many conditions, such as social phobia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and bipolar.
An ESA is not the same as a service animal. Certain rights that official service animals have, such as entry to restaurants, shops and taxis, are not allowed for ESAs. The main two benefits of registering your pet as an ESA are how the official designation affects your animal’s ability to fly with you and how it affects your rights as a tenant.
The Air Carrier Access Act allows ESAs to travel with their owners in the cabin on flights provided the owner has the relevant documentation and the animal is not dangerous or a nuisance to other passengers. If a pet has gone through ESA pet registration, it does not need to be caged during a flight and the owner can’t be charged to bring the animal onboard. However, ESA’s are subject to weight and breed limitations, so you may not be able to fly with your friendly and supportive great white shark.
The Fair Housing Act requires property owners to allow “reasonable accommodations” to tenants with an official ESA. Under the federal law, ESAs are seen as assistive aids. Landlords must make reasonable accommodations, and “no pets” rules must be waived by any landlord receiving federal financial assistance if the animal in question is an ESA. Pet deposits may not be charged for an ESA, but the tenant can be financially and civilly liable for damage done to the property by the animal while it lives on the property.
Before bringing an ESA onto the premises, a person must file a Request for Reasonable Accommodation with the landlord, and only once it’s approved can the emotional support animal come into the home. The request should include the relevant mental health professional’s written recommendation that the animal is necessary and also show that the person has the correct liability insurance for the animal being requested.
Once an official ESA letter from a mental health professional is provided, any type of animal can qualify as an ESA. The most common ESAs are dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and pot-bellied pigs. Emotional support animals do not need special training to qualify for the role; however, it is important that the animal has good social skills, is toilet trained, and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors, such as frequent barking or aggression. Otherwise, many landlords and airlines will challenge your right to waive their regular pet restrictions.
There is no national registry of emotional support pets where you need to get your pet certified. The websites that claim to certify or register a pet as an ESA are scams and do not offer official ESA registrations. No legal certification or ID is required by law for your ESA. What is required is the official ESA letter of a mental health professional, and the pet must be within weight and breed limitations.
So, once you qualify to have a pet registered as an ESA, registering a support pet is not very difficult. It is important to understand the technical stuff around the official ESA registration law and your rights in terms of housing, flying, public space access, and size and breed restrictions. But once you understand these areas, you are ready to go!