How do I get my dog certified as an emotional support dog?

by on October 7, 2010

Question by MEMA: How do I get my dog certified as an emotional support dog?
My granddaughter’s psyciatrist wrote a prescription for a support dog. She has Bipolor disorder. In order to live alone she’ll need to be reminded to take her medication, to be awakened in an emergency, etc. I purchased a very smart maltipoo. How do I get her certified here in Salt Lake City?

Best answer:

Answer by Kirsten R
Emotional support animals need no certification. A psychiatrist’s note is sufficient for the purposes of housing and flying in commercial aircraft.

Remember that in order to qualify, the owner must be disabled by mental illness. Most people diagnosed with mental illness are not disabled by it, though some are. In the same vein, most people diagnosed with a vision impairment are not blind (they just need glasses). Your granddaughter’s psychiatrist can discuss this with her and help her determine in her specific case whether this applies to her.

If instead you are talking about public access, as opposed to “no pets” housing, then you will probably need the help of a professional trainer. Service dogs require 18-24 months of expert training. Very few pet owners are going to have the skills necessary to do this training on their own. Further, very few dogs have all of the qualities needed to become full service dogs. However, the two tasks you mentioned do not require public access, and would not require as extensive training as they are only needed at home.

Beware of scam organizations that offer certification for a fee. Again, it is not necessary and these certifications mean nothing. A recent court case brought this home when a woman claimed her monkey as a service animal and had one of these certificates and the judge threw her case out of court. Spend your money on training instead of scams. I say this because odds are about 99% that one of these scam organizations will have an ad appear on the same page as your question.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kelly 03.18.12 at 5:06 pm

do airlines have to accept emotional support animals

2 sussie 03.19.12 at 7:31 am

Yes they do providing that you have a letter from your Doctor stating that the ESA is needed.

3 Zoila Ricca 04.16.12 at 9:54 am

I want to get my two dogs as service dogs. I suffer from panic attacks please advise. Thank you Zoila Ricca

4 sussie 04.18.12 at 5:00 pm

You will need a letter from a Doctor stating that you need a service dog. They you will need identification for the dog saying it is a Service Dog.

5 Deanna Figueroa 04.29.12 at 4:58 pm

I was recently reunited with my dog, Pepper, who I had to leave behind in foster care 17 months ago when my poor health and a failed relationship left me homeless with no way to care for my little guy.

I missed him terribly and he was almost 2,000 miles away, so I never got to see him at all. It definitely slowed my recovery and affected my mental health.

I was finally awared SSI in March & am renting a room in a house where I am able to keep him, but it’s expensive and I am struggling.

Luckily, the day before Pepper came ‘home’ I was offered the possibility of subsidized housing through the clinic where I receive my mental health treatment. Under normal circumstances, pets are not allowed.

I spoke to the housing director and she said that Pepper will be accepted as long as he is prescribed by my psychiatrist as an emotional support dog.

I have little doubt that he will be willing to write such a prescription, he is one of those rare psychiatrists who is also a caring therapist, but I don’t know if he has ever written one of these letters, so it would be a great help to him if I can bring him in a form letter that he can put on the center’s letterhead and sign.

Time is really tight at the clinic. I’m afraid that if the letter isn’t written properly that I may lose the chance to get the apartment and keep Pepper.

I have searched all over the internet, but all I find are places selling bogus letters, I cannot find a sample of a real one.

I did find some examples of Psych service dogs, but that’s not what I’m entitled to, nor is my dog trained for that.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Being able to have Pepper with me to my own apartment that I could actually afford instead of paying a fortune to live with 8 people would make a world of difference in my recovery and mental stability.

6 sussie 05.04.12 at 11:26 am

There is no such thing as a Psych Dog anymore. As of March 15th of last year, there are either Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals. The letter that you would need has to be from your Doctor. It cannot be something that is purchased off the internet.

7 Chelle 06.13.12 at 10:05 am

In response to Deana: this link might be helpful. It’s a sample letter. I haven’t been able to find an example of a prescription for an ESA yet. My professionals asked if I knew where to find form letter versions, too.

Here’s the thing, though. While many types of discrimination are illegal, they still happen. Lots. Especially when the discriminatory party can afford lawyers and knows their victim can’t. So even with all the proper paperwork completely in order, a landlord CAN refuse your request. They just run the risk of penalties for doing so. My totally-not-a-lawyer advice is to try to find an advocate of some type. Also, read that whole website’s section on ESAs and write down any questions you think of so you can present them to an attorney when you find one.

And DON’T pay some site, like Sussie said. They basically provide you with fraudulent documents, which you being none the wiser then present somewhere and get in trouble. They get your money, you get the crappy consequences.

8 deanna and sweetiepie 08.02.12 at 11:12 am

I looks like Kirstin is talking re a psychiatric service dog..there is a huge is a great site
It is from the state of California, but has the best information re the difference i have found

9 Brea Hicks 03.06.14 at 9:02 am

Is an emotional support dog the same thing as a companion pet ? How do I get my dog to do that for me

10 sussie 03.06.14 at 11:05 am

Yes it is. All you need is a letter from your mental health doctor stating that you need an ESA and you will be fine having the dog with you in your rental.

11 lisa antunes 05.21.14 at 3:18 pm

My daughter is physicaly diabled and we went and bout her a small dog and since we have gotten him he has chnged her totally and we have just been informed we might have to get rid of him but hes a big support to him how can I get him certified

12 sussie 05.22.14 at 2:44 pm

You get a letter from your daughters mental health Doctor stating that the dog is necessary. That is all the certification you need.

13 Jodie 05.29.14 at 7:19 pm

Does the letter need to be from a psychiatric doctor, or can my family doctor write that prescription letter ?

14 Sue 05.30.14 at 9:33 am

For Emotional Support Animals, it must come from a Doctor who is licensed in the Mental Health field.

15 Trudy 06.01.14 at 4:01 am

My husband is 86 and has dementia can his general doctor that is treating him write the EMS letter? Also does the letter have to state his disability?

16 Sue 06.03.14 at 10:15 am

Ir you are referring to an ESA letter, no. That has to be done by someone licensed in the mental health field.

17 Krystal P 06.27.14 at 5:23 am

hi I was wondering what could I do to get my dog to be certified as a emotional support animal? and also do emotional support animals have the same rules as a service dog? such as allowed at hotels, restaurants etc. I suffer from anxiety and PTSD

18 Sue 07.01.14 at 9:43 am

Actually there is no such thing as a certified ESA or Service dog, as much as some websites would like you to think so they can take your money. No. ESA’s do not have the same rights as service dogs. But if you suffer from anxiety and PTSD, your dog is not an ESA, it is a service dog. The ADA states the following…

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually
trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
Examples of such work or tasks include guiding
people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling
a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is
having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to
take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack,
or performing other duties”

19 Pamela 08.19.14 at 4:27 pm

:| I have panic attacks, anxiety issues, depression among other health issues.. I was denied access to my grandson’s birthday party last Saturday.. I was so upset I have decided not to ever attend another party for this child.. One male was so nasty I was on the verge of having a panic attack right in the midst of being told to leave… How awful to not realize these animals give the support needed by the person who has them for this very reason… My psychiatrist agreed I need my Dog for support and is willing to write a script. I have registered Sami as my emotional support dog and sent for his tag.. What if I had asked a person with a cane to leave cane outside or a person with a prothestic leg to take it off and leave it outside.. What is wrong with these people???

20 Sue 08.20.14 at 4:09 pm

Do keep in mind that dogs that are used to control anxiety are classified as Service Dogs and NOT emotional support animals. AS for being refused at the party, I am afraid that is perfectly legal. Service Dogs are allowed into public places. A person can refuse entry of a service dog into their own home as it is a private residence.

21 Luci miller 11.22.14 at 7:08 pm

My psychiatrist is willing to write a letter for eme to have my dog declared an emotional support companion due to y anxiety and problems I have since having cancer ad multiple edical problems requiring significant doctor monitor. My dogs got me through chemo etc. when I receive his letter, is there some application I must fill out. I reside in pa and spend time in fla my one dog is considered too large for the place I will stay . So I need to get certification but can’t findd where I would get it

22 Sue 11.26.14 at 4:46 pm

If you are using your dog to control on anxiety then it is NOT an Emotional Support Animal. It is classified as a Service Dog under the ADA/DOJ as of March 15th 2011.

23 Billie Sue 12.01.14 at 9:32 pm

I have been on anti-depressants for years and never realized that my dog could be certified as a “emotional support” animal. It’s not like I feel the need to have him with me constantly, but when I’m feeling down or anxious he’s a huge benefit to me feeling better. We live in a very small , rural community with VERY limited mental health services available. Under these circumstances, my regular doctor is still not qualified to write a prescription/letter? Could she contact a mental health provider and get them to agree with her medical diagnosis and it be attached to her prescription? Also, is it the prescription/letter that acts as the actual document proving the dog is an emotional support animal on flights, rentals, etc.???? Thanks for such a wonderful website:)

24 Sue 12.02.14 at 4:45 pm

If you are formally diagnosed with depression, and the dog controls that. The dog is not classified as an ESA, it is classified as a Service Dog.

This goes into better detail…

Partial List of Qualified Disabilities:

Physical Problem:

Asthma (or other breathing problems)
Blindness (& partial blindness)
Deafness (& partial deafness)
Dizziness/Balance problems
General Hearing Difficulty
Mobility Problems
Neurological Problems
Physical Weakness
Speech Problems

Emotional/Mental Problem:

Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Any Psychiatric Condition (see exclusions below)
Bipolar Disorder
Emotionally Overwhelmed
Panic Attacks
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Separation Anxiety
Social Phobia
Stress Problems

ADA Definitions of Qualified Disability

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:

Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

Has a record of such an impairment; or

Is regarded as having such an impairment.

A physical impairment is defined by the ADA as:

Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.

A mental impairment is defined by the ADA as:
Any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

NOTE: The ADA does not list all conditions or diseases that make up physical, mental, and emotional impairments, because it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list given the variety of possible impairments.

Exclusions to the Qualified Disability Definition
Neither deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the individual. According to Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, current or future interpretation of psychological disabilities excludes common personality traits such as poor judgment or a quick temper.

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