Having the need for a companion and/or service animal makes a lot of people search for ways to register their pets or otherwise prove that they are “legitimate” assistance animals. The lack of unified regulations and education among the general public about the nature of assistance animals often leads to misunderstanding of the laws or their violation.
We want to clarify a question, that is important to many people in need of an Emotional Support Animal-Do you have to register your ESA, and if yes, how to do that?
What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
We will not make an exception from our general rule to explain the terms first, prior to moving forward to the more concrete topic.
Emotional Support Animals can be all kinds of domesticated species, including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds...etc. ESAs provide companionship and comfort to a person with a mental disability, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD...etc. These animals do not perform specific tasks for that person.
No. Unlike ESAs, service animals can be dogs only (or miniature horses as well, depending on what state you are based in), who have been individually trained to do specific work, directly related to a person with a physical or mental disability. As you can see there are essential differences between the two animals, that result in their access rights. Service animals are considered medical equipment and as such, they must be granted to areas open for you to the general public. Emotional Support Animals are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and they will not be allowed on premises with a no-pet policy.
It is the same answer-No. Although both types of assistance animals are considered companion animals and can be various domesticated species, there is an essential difference between them. While ESAs, support one person only, Therapy Animals provide comfort to many people in designated facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, schools...etc.
Are Emotional Support Animals Protected by Law?
They are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits any discrimination against people with disabilities and requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodation for people with Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals. In the context of “reasonable accommodation,” both types of animals are perceived as equal.
A person should have gone through a medical examination by a relevant mental health professional and have been prescribed an Emotional Support Animal. ESAs are considered a part of the treatment which alleviates the symptoms of a mental disability. In other words, a person must be diagnosed with a mental illness and the animal must be recommended / prescribed by their mental health provider.
An ESA letter is a medical document that verifies a person’s need for an Emotional Support Animal. There are a few components that must be present for the letter to be deemed “legitimate”.
We want to affirm that there is no official registry for Emotional Support Animals in the US and the UK. In order to prove the legitimacy of your ESA, you need to have an ESA letter that meets the requirements listed above and have trained your ESA to behave properly in public. This specifically applies to dogs. Some owners decide to register their animals and purchase certificates and ID cards. This identification gear might be helpful while outdoors, as it will notify passersby and employees that the animal is well-behaved. However, it will not provide him/her with any access rights. Whether an ESA will be accepted or not, depends on the pet policy of the premise and local laws.
You can not fly with an ESA free of charge. Due to the changes that airlines made at the end of 2020, ESAs are no longer allowed in the passenger cabin free of charge. These changes were provoked by the big number of “fake” Emotional Support Animals, who have not gone through obedience training and proper socialization.