Validate Your Emotional Support Animal With a Letter From Your Doctor

by Sue on October 4, 2012

Occasionally I get phone calls from people asking me how they can “certify” or “register” their Emotional Support Animal. I tell them that there is no such process, however there is a validation.

The most effective method to officially validate your emotional or mental disability and legally qualify for an emotional support animal is to have a letter from your physician or mental health professional that prescribes or endorses your use of a “support animal.” For best results be direct with your physician, swallow your pride, and accept the fact that you are emotionally disabled – with or without your physician’s blessing. If your physician balks you must convincingly plead your case with your physician, finally asking your physician for a letter on their letterhead to facilitate traveling with your dog (or other animal) or for a specific housing-related need. It’s important to credibly describe the severity of your symptoms to your physician, and, for example, you might express how surprised and relieved you have been to discover that having your dog with wherever you go you has made successful functioning in public and private possible. And that, without the animal, you’ve been a wreck. Here are some examples of the symptoms you may be experiencing:

Examples of the symptoms of an emotional disability include, but are not limited to

An inability or difficulty to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships.

Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

A tendency to develop physical symptoms or irrational fears associated with otherwise normal life problems or situations.

An inability or intense discomfort interacting with others in a public or private setting.

If your physician is unsure what to write, please contact me. I have sample letters that work in various situations.

Gunny, Rainy, Lucy, Squeaky and T.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sue 05.11.15 at 8:32 am

Contacted the Fair Housing Board in your area.

2 Amanda Bowers 05.26.15 at 1:27 pm

Could you please send me a sample letter for airline travel? My therapist says he never wrote one and isn’t sure about the contents. They have already given me a prescription for the ESA. Thank you!

3 Catherine Anderson 06.22.15 at 8:18 am

Could you please send me a sample letter for airline travel for my ESA dog, my doctor said she have never wrote a letter for this source. Would you please send me a sample letter that I could take to my doctor so that I could take my small dog with me on a flight back to my home, I do suffer with psychological disorder, Depression, Emotionally Overwhelmed, Separation Anxiety, Stress Problems
Online therapist want to charge a fee to receive a letter which is expense for this SS senior 73+ needs help. Are there other resources out there? I am traveling on 07/04/2015
Thank you very much,

4 Sue 06.25.15 at 11:34 am

Actually for those conditions you would not use an ESA. You would use a Service Dog./ The ADA states the following…

ADA will not impose any type of formal training requirements, registration or certification process. While some groups have urged the Department to modify this position, the Department has determined that such a modification would not serve the full array of individuals with disabilities who use service animals, since individuals with disabilities may be capable of training, and some have trained, their service animal to perform tasks or do work to accommodate their disability. A training, registration or certification requirement would increase the expense of acquiring a service animal and might limit access to service animals. Especially for individuals with limited financial resources.

Under federal laws, the fine for misrepresenting a dog as a service animal is $3,000, plus you can be subject to prison time. State laws vary, but many carry penalties as well

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.

5 Sue 06.25.15 at 11:35 am

Also keep in mind that the on line therapist letters are actually not legal. The airlines are really starting to crack down on people that use them.

6 Tim & Melanie Blackwell 06.25.15 at 2:42 pm

Can you please send us 2 sample letters please. My wife has her dog for her PTSD Bipolar and depression. I have mine for Panic Attacks and anger issues and stress.

They are registered with ESA but our apartments want a current doctor to sign a letter.

please help

7 Jennifer H 08.21.15 at 9:24 pm

I am about to attempt to request for a second time that my GP either provide me with a travel letter for my dog or recommend a psychiatrist who can do so. She has responded in the negative in the past.

I have been traveling for work, but only jobs I can drive to — I drove 10 – 12 hours 2x a week twice a month for 6 months so I could have my dog with me. And I hate to drive.

Actually I hate to leave my house, but it’s not so bad when he comes with me. I’m even ok working away from home in an office all day as long as I know he’s at the hotel waiting.

Every year I fly across country to visit my parents for a week and I have to leave him behind. It’s very stressful for me. My mother thinks I take too many pain meds b/c while I’m there I have constant headaches, more than I usually have when home. Plus, I already suffer from erratic sleep issues and not having him there makes it worse. On top of that, my schedule is different than theirs since I still have to telecommute in a different timezone, which adds to the stress. I think it would be easier on me if I had him with me so not everything in my life is disrupted — an unfamiliar house, in an unfamiliar city, with no control over anything. Especially this year when my mom thinks I should go for a whole month.

So, I want to be sure I say the right things to my GP to convince her that I need this letter, that I’m willing to do whatever I need to in order for my dog to be ready for the trip — including taking his AKC Good Citizen Cert by then.

Please advise me. Thanks.

8 Bill Martin 08.24.15 at 11:03 am

I will be moving and need an example of a letter for my doctor to submit to the board, I have been treated for the past three years for anxiety/stress, so that I may keep my cats. Thanks for your help.
Bill martin

9 LaVonne 05.06.16 at 1:03 pm

I would like to know if I could get a sample letter for the doctor. Also , since I don’t have a primary doctor here, do you have any suggestions on how to find a doctor who believes in emotional support dogs. Thanks

10 LaVonne 05.06.16 at 1:10 pm

I’ve been treated for anxiety and stress over the years, but am afraid to fly,
and get so much comfort from my dog, but when I have to leave her for a few weeks, I get so stessed out and depressed I can’t sleep. So does she, which makes it worse, because she also gets stressed, and looks for me all the time. When I did get back we both slept like babies

11 Shannon 07.09.16 at 12:29 pm

❗ I am needing an example of a dr letter for my dog. How do I obtain an example? I have extreme anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks. I take care of my husband whom is terminally Ill with Mesothelioma Lug Cancer and is declining very fast. I also take care of my mother in law who has Alzheimer’s and dementia. I have 2 teenage boys still in the home. I was physically assaulted by my ex-husband many times and I just get into deep depression ad anxiety over the many things on my plate. I have a sweet dog who gives me emotional support and last night I tried to go to a public event and I got severe panic attack and went straight home and my dog knows exactly when I need comfort. I am trying to get her to be a service dog and I am needing the correct steps to go about it and how to obtain a letter from my dr. Right now my family dr is trying to help me with prescriptions for my anxiety and depression and panic attacks but I need to know how to go about trying to get the proper documentation. Thanks so much in advance- a lot on my plate to deal with.

12 Amber 07.13.16 at 4:14 pm

I have suffered from depression for many years now and with my recent divorce and custody issue things have gotten so much darker. My doctor agrees about the suport dog but is not sure how to go about writing a letter. Please may i Get an example
Thank you

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