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Woman on sofa with ESA

All About Emotional Support Animals

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What is an ESA?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is simply a pet that provide comfort and emotional support to a person with a diagnosed psychological disorder. Although these animals provide a therapeutic benefit to their owners, they are not required to go through any specific training. In almost all cases, a person's ESA is their pet.

Emotional support animals are most commonly used to help people with emotional mental disorders or, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Stress

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What are my legal rights with an emotional support animal (ESA)

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 is the law that protects an emotionally disabled person and his/her ESA.

So, if you have an emotional or psychological impairment (disability) and you have chosen your pet to be your emotional support animal and it has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional), the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 requires a landlord or property manager to make a reasonable accommodation to their policies and allow you to have an emotional support animal. There are no specified limitations with respect to species, breed, or weight policies. And they can't legally charge you a fee or deposit for your ESA.

That means if the landlord has a "cats only" policy, they must accept your emotional support animal, even if if it is a dog. If they have a policy that allows dogs weighing no more than 30 lbs. and your emotional support animal (ESA) weighs 100 lbs., they must make a change in the rules to accommodate you. If they accept all dogs, except pit bulls, and you have a pit bull, they must allow your pit bull to live with you.

Will my pet qualify to be an ESA?

Yes, it will! All domesticated animals qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific task-training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person's psychological/emotional disability, unlike a working service dog.

The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.

How can I qualify for an ESA?

For you to legally qualify for an emotional support animal, you must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter.

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The letter should state that:

What if I do not have a Therapist?

If you have no therapist or your therapist is unwilling to write such a letter, click here to get your emotional support animal letter.

Click to find out if you qualify!

Benefits of having an emotional support animal

Why would you choose to use an emotional support animal? Research has long supported the idea that animals can provide significant mental health benefits. One research review found that owning a pet has positive effects on mental health by fostering emotional connectivity and helping people manage in times of crisis.

A few benefits that emotional support animals provide: