How to register a dog as emotional support animal, is simple and easy, and it can even be done online in a matter of minutes. But did you know you don’t even have to register your pet in order for them to be considered an emotional support animal? There is no official governing body that oversees registration, or the rules and regulations. You don’t need a registration number or a license to own an emotional support animal and you don’t even have to prove that your pet is anything more than a companion. While there are some organizations that offer registration, this is done strictly on a voluntary basis. There are several online groups that do this and require you to pay a fee in order to register your pet. Most likely you’ll get a certificate after you pay the application fee, and you can also pay extra to purchase an ID badge and vest.
Service Dogs Vs. Emotional Support Dogs
It’s important to understand that online enrollment for your emotional support animal alone will not provide adequate proof of your pet’s emotional support status for legal purposes. Because registration is optional, it’s not something you have to worry about. Schools, landlords, airlines, and employers are not likely to grant you emotional support animal rights if all you have to show proof is a certificate you printed off.
The whole issue with registering an ESA can be confusing, because service animals, which are considered a totally different type of support animal, are often required to register. Don’t confuse the legal requirements of a service animal with the legal requirements of an ESA. These designations are completely different. A service dog will do specific work. They must be able to complete specific tasks reliably, so the process to legitimize their services is very specific and rigorous. Service animals must be registered.
A service dog will have more access and rights compared to an ESA, which means that there is more of an incentive to try and fake this type of status.
With an emotional support animal, all you need is a letter from your physician. The letter itself is considered a prescription, but just like a prescription for medication, the prescription cannot be written by just anyone. An airline or a potential landlord may not understand this. In cases such as these, you can bring up the Air Carrier Access Act or the Fair Housing Act in order to prove that a note from your physician is all you need.
As we have mentioned, the letter from your physician is the only type of documentation you need for your emotional support animal. This means that there are certain rules in place regarding what the letter must say. The letter must be written by a licensed healthcare provider, therapist, or a doctor, who has evaluated you and can claim that you meet all the criteria necessary to qualify for an ESA.
This letter should be kept with you at all times. You should keep several copies on hand in order to provide proof when you’re discussing pet fees with your landlord, enrolling in a new school, going out to eat, or preparing to fly. You won’t always have to show the letter, but you should still keep it on your person in the event that a manager at your local retail store requests it.
So, why is this doctor’s note so important? The note will contain all relevant information that proves the status of your emotional support dog. It will describe in basic terms that you have a specific medical condition that requires an emotional support animal to provide support. The letter will not contain much more information than that, because it’s a matter of compliance with medical privacy laws.
However, the letter must show that a licensed professional has knowledge of your condition. The letter must be written on the physician’s letterhead and should include contact information.
As you can see, you don’t have to use an online registry. Simply obtaining a note for your physician will be sufficient.
Emotional Support Dog Prescription
Now that you’ve decided not to register your pet, you can begin focusing on getting the proper documentation from your doctor. Keep in mind, if you register your dog without the letter from your physician, you will not be in compliance with the law, so you will not be able to benefit from emotional support animal protection.
Does the ESA Letter Require Renewal?
These letters will remain valid for one year from the date they were issued. For many people, one year is enough to resolve their problem. As an example, if you’ve been suffering from postpartum depression and have started to feel normal after several months because the hormone levels have returned to normal, you may not even need to renew the prescription letter.
Other people with more severe conditions such as PTSD, depression, social anxiety, or impulse control disorder, may be eligible for renewal.
What Conditions Can Qualify a Person for an ESA?
A person can easily qualify for an emotional support animal if they suffer from the following mental conditions:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
- Postpartum depression
- General anxiety disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Mood disorders
- Personality disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorders