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An emotional support dog is one that provides support and comfort to a disabled person. Emotional support dogs provide affection and companionship to someone suffering from various emotional or mental conditions. Technically, emotional support dogs are not the same as service dogs, because they are not required to perform specific tasks for a disability like service dogs are. According to the United States Dog Registry, an emotional support dog is used to provide emotional stability and unconditional love to a person with certain conditions. These conditions include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, fears and phobias, panic attacks and other emotional or psychological conditions.

The Law

Protected under federal law, emotional support dogs may be granted to an individual who meets the proper criteria. The Fair Housing Amendments Act protects these individuals by allowing their emotional support dog to live with them, even to places where pets aren’t allowed. In addition to this, the Air Carrier Access Act allows people with emotional support dogs to fly with them in the cabin of an airplane, without having to pay extra. There is no special requirement for a dog to be an emotional support dog. Any dog can become one.

Qualifying Mental Disabilities

Various kinds of mental and emotional conditions can make you qualify for an emotional support dog. Here are a few:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Panic Attacks
  • Mood Disorder
  • Fears or Phobias
  • Suicidal Thoughts or Tendencies
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 25% of the adult population in the United States has some form of mental disorder. This equals about 61.5 million Americans.

How to Gain Certification for an Emotional Support Dog

According to CertaPet, in order for you to have an official emotional support dog, “All you need is an official letter written by a licensed mental health professional, such as a Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or Psychologist.”

According to Service Dog Certification.org, the letter must be written on the doctor’s letterhead, include his or her license type, date of license, license number and the state where the license was issued. Other details the letter must have include:

  • State that you are a current patient of theirs
  • State that you are under treatment for your stated disability under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • State that you are limited in performing major activities because of your disability
  • State that an emotional service dog will be helpful in your treatment
  • The date on the letter must not be over a year old

Do you have a qualifying mental condition and are in need of an emotional support dog? Or, perhaps you already have a dog and you would like for it to be officially registered as an emotional support animal. One way is the visit the Official ESA Registration of America website. They offer online registration, IDs, vests, travel kits and more.

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