How Does a Pet Get To Be An Emotional Support Animal?

Many pet owners thought they had already figured out the answer to this question, but the whole emotional support animal trend is going through a change. Previously, pet owners got a doctor’s letter explaining how they needed their pet for emotional support. That worked for a while in some states, but it doesn’t necessarily work anymore. Federal agencies recently updated their guidelines. Unfortunately, ESA privileges are among the casualties. 

It’s true, and many pet owners benefit from their pet’s emotional support. You might feel that way too. If your pet calms you or minimizes your stress, he is filling a support animal role. As a result, businesses, restaurants, multi-family dwellings, and transportation companies gradually began accepting this ESA idea without putting up much of a fight. 

Recent federal transportation regulation modifications have shifted toward making the support animal trend more manageable. 

What is an emotional support animal? 

The currently relevant question is probably, what is a service animal? 

Previously, pet owners were having their doctors verify that their monkey, rabbit, or miniature horse was essential to their emotional well-being. As a result, it was often less controversial for businesses to give pet owners a pass. However, now the guidelines are a bit more stringent. 

Federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, are eliminating the ESA term except to explain that it doesn’t apply. Instead, they are syncing their rules to comply with the “service animal” guidelines established by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Currently, the ADA and other federal agencies take these positions. 

  • ADA addresses service and assistance animals only. 
  • Service and assistance animals assist disabled and psychiatrically disabled people. They are trained to retrieve items, remind their owners to take medication, help them during PTSD issues, and perform other tasks.
  • Based on ADA guidelines, “…providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person’s disability…”
  • Only a dog can be a service or assistance animal. There are a few exceptions, such as a miniature horse that’s trained to pull a wheelchair or provide other assistance. 
  • A “pet” is not a service animal or an assistance animal.
  • The DOT supplies Service Animal Air Transportation Forms for airlines to fly with service, assistance, or psychiatric assistance animals. 
  • Some cities, like San Francisco, passed laws acknowledging ESAs. In addition, some Connecticut courts allow comfort pets to accompany minor witnesses. Otherwise, the state’s laws align with federal guidelines. 

Be Careful of Questionable ESA Registration Sites

When you Google emotional support animal registration, several sites pop up. They use ORG domain designations, and they market themselves as Support Animal Registries. These sites say they help pet owners register their pets as legitimate ESAs. The websites offer similar services for a fee:

  • Online psychiatric evaluations for pet owners 
  • An ESA letter acknowledging that your animal is an emotional support animal
  • A listing in their ESA registration databank
  • Registration certificate or ID
  • Most of these sites suggest that other registry sites are fraudulent. As the ADA website explains, there is no registration process for service or assistance animals. They also explain that service animals don’t wear IDs or vests to show they are registered. 

Contact Hebron Veterinary Hospital

For more information about service dogs, assistance dogs, and emotional support dogs, give us a call at (860) 228-4324 or visit our contact page.