Many ESAs start out as pets that belong to their owners, but in a few cases, ESAs are sought out for purchase based on a person’s needs and specific disabilities. Emotional support animals typically do not require the same amount of training that service animals require. ESAs are obligated to provide relief or assistance with their owner’s disability.
Like with service animals, there is no specific licensing, certification, or registration process. There are various websites that will sell a license or a certification to you, but it is important to know that you are not legally obligated to do this.
In order to qualify for housing and air travel accommodations provided to owners of emotional support animals, you will need a letter from a licensed medical health professional to verify that you need an ESA.
If you work closely with your primary care physician and they are helping you manage your disability, they can write a letter for you. Otherwise, you will need to contact a different health care professional such as a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a licensed social worker or a professional health counselor. If you don’t have a specific health professional, it is best to seek one out.
Some of these professionals are available for consultations online, but you will need to ensure that they are fully licensed individuals. Legitimate online health professionals are different from random online certification groups in that their credentials should be visible, e.g. where they are licensed to practice, where they were trained, and how many years of experience they have.
Make sure that you are obtaining a letter from a licensed health care professional. Otherwise, there may be some difficulty down the road when you are moving to a pet-restricted place or trying to travel via aircraft.
Your ESA letter will need to have the following criteria:
- Your health professional’s contact information, signature, and date signed
Your health professional’s license type, number, and expiration date
- Confirmation that your ESA is essential to your state of well-being
- A description of how your ESA helps you, though specific tasks are not necessary
The recommendation or prescription for your ESA
- Optional: identification information for you and your ESA (e.g. name, breed, etc.)
Emotional support animals provide great assistance to their owners and may help them in ways that modern medicine and therapy cannot. ESAs can fly with their owners and are immune to housing discrimination. In order to allow this, you need to obtain a letter from your primary care physician or from a licensed medical health professional who is helping you to manage your disability.
They can write this letter to verify your need for an ESA, and you do not need any specific licensing or registration for your emotional support animal.