In recent years, there has been an increase of misinformation and confusion around what Emotional Support Dogs are and who can have one. 

Emotional Support Dogs play a vital role in the lives of their companions, so if you’ve ever considered making one a part of your life, it’s important to learn the facts.

In this short guide, we’ll teach you what you need to know about Emotional Support Dogs and their benefits.

What is an Emotional Support Dog? 

An Emotional Support Dog is a pet or animal prescribed by a licensed therapist to provide a health benefit for someone who suffers from an emotional or mental condition.

Emotional Support Dogs are not classified as “working” dogs and do not need to be specifically trained to perform a task. They provide support for their owner through affection, companionship, comfort, and positivity. 

But while any pet may soothe, assist, or calm his or her companion, an Emotional Support Dog is a dog that has been specifically prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. 

Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Dog? 

If you suffer from a mental or emotional condition, an Emotional Support Dog could prove very beneficial in your day to day life. Those with physical disabilities or certain mental conditions may be better served by a Service Dog. 

You can determine if you qualify for an Emotional Support Dog by making an appointment with a licensed health professional. Only they can prescribe one for you through a written letter. This letter is called an Emotional Support Animal letter, or ESA letter, and it’s a signed and dated document that states that your dog provides you with “therapeutic value.” 

In other words, the letter states that your dog’s company provides you with the support you need to lead a normal life, making it an Emotional Support Dog.

What Kind of Conditions Do Emotional Dogs Help With?

Emotional Support Dogs aid people with mental or emotional conditions such as anxiety, depression, phobias, and attention deficit disorder.

Emotional Support Dogs provide assistance to people with the following conditions:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Autism
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Learning Disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Attacks
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Sexual Disorder
  • Mood Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Stress conditions

Emotional Support Dogs are in tune with their owners’ moods and may nuzzle them when they sense an oncoming panic attack or obsessive episode. They are also constantly available for petting, which has a grounding and calming effect. 

What are the Benefits of Getting an Emotional Support Dog?

Your pet may already provide you with companionship and comfort. Taking the extra step of making your dog an Emotional Support Dog has added benefits.

Emotional Support Animals may not have access rights to all public areas, but two laws protect your right to live and travel with your Emotional Service Dog.

The Fair Housing Amendment Act ensures you and your Emotional Service Dog are allowed access to all types of housing, even those with no-pet policies or weight and breed restrictions. The Air Carrier Access Act allows Emotional Service Dogs that meet size requirements to fly in the cabin of commercial airplanes. These laws also prohibit anyone from charging you additional fees for housing or airline access for your Emotional Support Dog. As of January 2021, the DOT has instituted a new rule which allows airlines to consider emotional support animals as pets and to charge additional fees.

Interested in Getting an Emotional Support Dog?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than one in four adults in the U.S. have some form of mental disorder. That means over a quarter of Americans could benefit from an Emotional Support Dog. 

Even if you have a prescription for an Emotional Support Dog, landlords and airline staff may still try to block your access or ask you to present your ESA letter. To prevent this hassle, consider registering your Emotional Support Dog. With an ID tag and vest that clearly designates your dog as an Emotional Support Dog, you’ll be able to fly and travel with greater ease.