How to Register an Emotional Support Animal

For many people living with emotional and mental disabilities, an emotional support animal (ESA) is a life-changing companion that provides comfort, affection, and an increased quality of life. Many ESA owners find that their ESA makes it possible to successfully navigate many of life’s challenges, opening new doors and enabling them to make the most of everyday life. If you believe that an emotional support animal might be helpful to you, an excellent first step is to learn a few basics about the ESA process, such as ESA registration. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about registering an emotional support animal, including exactly which documents you need – and which you don’t – to protect your ESA rights.

How to Register an Emotional Support Dog

One of the most frequently asked questions about ESAs is, “How do I register my emotional support animal?” You may be surprised to learn that the number one tip for ESA registration can be summed up in a single word – don’t! There is no official process for ESA registration, and you are not required to place your emotional support dog (or other animals) on any sort of registry. The only documentation necessary for emotional support animals is an ESA letter, which is provided by a licensed medical professional.

Is There an ESA Registry?

No. There is no official emotional support animal registry, and you are not required to complete specific training or certification for your ESA. While you may see many companies advertising ESA registration and promising to guarantee your ESA a spot on the registry, they are simply taking advantage of ESA owners who are unfamiliar with the ESA regulations. Instead, all you’ll need to guarantee your rights as an ESA owner is a doctor-provided ESA letter.

What is an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is essentially your “prescription” for an ESA, serving as the clear, doctor-approved documentation required to preserve your ESA rights. An ESA letter can only be issued by a licensed mental health professional, and cannot be transferred from one patient to another. 

What Should an ESA Letter Contain?

Here is a sample ESA Letter. In order to be considered valid, an ESA should contain the following information:
  • Your name
  • The name, license number, and location of the licensed medical professional issuing the ESA letter
  • The official letterhead of the practice or office of the prescribing doctor
  • An official statement that you have a diagnosed disability as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders (the letter does not need to include information about your specific condition)
  • The doctor’s statement that an ESA enables you to better perform the tasks of everyday life
  • A reference to the federal regulations protecting ESA rights is also usually helpful, though not required
  • In some situations, the letter may need to include specific information about the animal selected as your ESA (e.g. breed, size, etc.)
An ESA is valid for one year, after which it will need to be renewed.

Why Do I Need an ESA Letter?

If you qualify for an ESA, you have certain rights that protect you from unfair discrimination, specifically in regards to housing and travel. An ESA letter is the official documentation that guarantees you these rights and serves as your “proof” that you require an ESA. For example, an ESA letter is required for air travel with your ESA, typically allowing you to bring your ESA in the main cabin (at no additional charge) to provide the support you need. The airline will request a copy of your ESA letter in order to verify its validity, and it is recommended that you also bring an extra copy to keep on hand during travel. Your ESA letter is also extremely useful when searching for housing because it protects you from discrimination. If you have an ESA letter, a landlord or housing manager must make reasonable accommodation – regardless of a “no pets” policy. Securing your ESA letter will ensure that you have everything you need to protect your ESA rights and fight back against any unfair treatment.

Can My Dog Become an ESA?

Yes. One of the biggest benefits to the ESA process is that your dog, cat, or another type of pet can often qualify as your emotional support animal. Because there is no specific training or certification required for an ESA, nearly any animal that provides you with comfort and support can fulfill the role. Your ESA letter will fulfill all documentation requirements for travel and housing. An ESA letter serves as your “prescription” and is specifically connected to you as the patient, not necessarily a specific animal (though many ESAs include details about a particular ESA if necessary). When you’re choosing your ESA, keep in mind that there are certain limitations to ESA rights. For example, certain types of ESAs (such as spiders, rodents, and reptiles) are not permitted to travel via airplane. Also, extremely large emotional support animals like horses and llamas can be more easily refused housing accommodation, so it’s important to be aware.

How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

Support Pets makes it easy to qualify for an ESA using our online system, saving you the time and hassle of other ESA options. Our licensed medical practitioners can provide you with a professional ESA letter, guaranteeing your ESA rights and protecting you from unlawful discrimination. In as little as 24-48 hours, Support Pets can deliver your ESA documentation, with a 99 percent acceptance rate for qualifying ESA applicants. Simple take our online qualification quiz to find out if you’re a good ESA candidate, select your preferred ESA letter (housing, travel, or both), and place your order request. You’ll complete a simple doctor’s questionnaire, then one of our licensed medical professionals will review your information and provide a valid ESA letter. For more information about ESA requirements, regulations, and qualifying conditions browse the Support Pets FAQs Page today.

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