How To Get An Emotional Support Animal As Part Of Your Healing Process: 5 Essential Things to Consider

how to get an emotional support animal

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Do you experience anxiety, panic, depression or feelings of loneliness that negatively affect your mental health? Do you struggle with finding a support system that can regularly help you manage your mental illness symptoms? If so, knowing how to get an emotional support animal (ESA) could help ease your symptoms.

An emotional support animal (ESA) can make a major impact in your daily life when dealing with depression, anxiety or panic disorders, or even non-mental health conditions like chronic pain or disease. ESAs can help lessen your symptoms by easing your mind.

Whether you currently have a pet or are looking for a new one, getting an ESA approved for an emotional support animal letter is a relatively simple process – here’s what you need to know.

Is an ESA Right for You?

The first step in deciding if an emotional support animal is right for you is understanding what an ESA can and can’t help you with. Your doctor or therapist can help you determine if an ESA can ease symptoms of your individual mental health conditions and concerns, and discuss what kind of animal might work best for your lifestyle.

This information is usually identified by an Emotional Service Animal Assessment, performed by your doctor or therapist.

Having an ESA by your side is one way to greatly improve your daily symptoms and reduce the stress you experience over time.

What an ESA Is and Isn't

When considering if an emotional support animal can help your own mental health needs, two types of animals are common: Service animals and emotional support animals.

Service Animals

Service animals receive training to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as alerting and responding to cues for people with diabetes.

An example would be a service dog alerting a person that their blood sugar is low and that they should eat something to prevent a severe drop in blood sugar. This type of training is costly and, therefore, harder for people to get. In addition, only certain types of animals or breeds can be considered for service animal training.

Although both emotional support and service animals both have protections according to federal law, establishments are not required by law to allow emotional support animals within their establishment.

However, service animals have the right to enter any establishment because their owner needs them for a specific, trained reason that can be life threatening.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal is different from a service animal because these animals require no special training. These support animals help you by creating a loving relationship that helps release oxytocin. Responsible for social connections and often called the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, this hormone releases with trust and loving actions, like hugs.

Almost any animal can be considered as emotional support; however, most choose common domesticated animals like dogs, cats, or birds.

Training Your Emotional Support Animal

Training your emotional support animal is an essential part of ESA ownership. Teaching your ESA basic commands such as sit, stay, lay down, or come can be great starting points for establishing good behavior.

Additionally, controlling any bursts of barking in public settings can be essential, as those sounds can create unwanted attention and uneasiness.

Especially when it comes to larger animals such as dogs, owners should address any anger or aggression shown to people immediately since it speaks directly to public safety.

For example, an aggressive or loud dog may revoke your rights to an ESA with regard to housing or the ability to take your animal with you on a plane. You can help keep yourself and your pet safe and protected with consistent training.

What laws protect me and my ESA?

Knowing you are legally protected and supported can be a great relief for those with an ESA. In the United States, two major laws work to do just that: Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The Air Carrier Access Act allows people with disabilities to travel on airlines with an ESA. For full details on this act, click here

The Fair Housing Act grants ESA owners the right to have their ESA in housing that normally may have restrictions against pets.

If you want to read more about the Fair Housing Act, access the entire document on their website.

If you want to read more about ESA specific guidelines, access information here

These laws make it easier for us to live our lives with less stress and make living life fully that much more accessible.

What is an ESA Letter and How Do I Get One?

Emotional support animals are not always offered the same protections as service animals, so it is crucial to ensure you have a valid Emotional Support Animal Letter to uphold the ESA rights you do receive.

This document is prescribed by your physician and certifies that you need emotional support from an animal companion to improve your emotional well-being. These letters are often required to access pet-friendly housing or travel accommodations with your emotional support animal, so having one in place is vital to uphold your rights according to the law.

Simply saying an animal is an ESA is not enough to be protected. For instance, a landlord can request to see your ESA letter to verify their need to comply with your request if they do not usually allow pets in their building. If you fail to produce the emotional support animal letter, they can deny you accommodations for your ESA. 

It is essential to check with businesses and service providers to understand their rules regarding support animals.

Beware of Online Support Animal Registries

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with information when trying to register your emotional support animal. A simple google search will show many options to put your ESA on a registry and get an ESA registry card so you can enjoy the benefits and protections offered when your animal is registered as an ESA animal.

Sometimes these sites show you a sample registry with what would be your pet’s picture, or even a registration card, to look legitimate. Still, know that these registries are invalid and do not protect you or your emotional support animal.

Those sites also usually ask for money to complete registration of your ESA, which is unnecessary. Your pet does not need to be on any registry. Therefore, the only document you need to uphold your rights is the Emotional Support Animal Letter from your doctor.

Visit our Emotional Support Animal Evaluation page to get more information to learn more!

Get started with Your Emotional Support Animal Journey!

Having an emotional support animal can be a great way to manage feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and stress. If you think having an ESA could benefit you, talk to your therapist to see if this option is right for you.

If you’re looking for a therapist who can help you on your mental or emotional health healing journey, we are here to help! In addition to highly specialized therapy sessions by one of our licensed providers, we provide personalized information about how to get an emotional support animal.

Dealing with mental health issues can be difficult to manage, but with the support of a loving ESA there can be times of great joy all along the healing journey. Give us a call or make an appointment to start the process of ESA registration today.

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Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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