From the category archives:

Emotional Support Animals

Many of you have been asking for a sample of an ESA letter

by Sue on August 10, 2016

Do keep in mind that this MUST be placed on a Doctor’s letterhead for it to be official.




To:_________________________________________         Date:_____________________





_________________________________is my patient, and has been under my care since _________________.

I am intimately familiar with ___________________’s history and with the functional limitations imposed by _________________’s disability. ___________________’s condition meets the definition of disability under the Air Carrier Access Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.



Due to mental illness, ____________________________has certain limitations regarding social interaction, coping with stress and/or anxiety, etc.. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance _____________________’s ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist________________________

in coping with the disability.



I am familiar with the voluminous professional literature concerning the therapeutic benefits of Emotional Support Animals for people with mental disabilities such as that experienced by____________________________. Upon request, I will share citations to relevant studies, and would be happy to answer other questions you may have concerning my recommendation that ___________________________have an emotional support animal. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.










Hot hot hot!

by Sue on August 4, 2016

Summer is upon us as usual. I love summer. When you have fibromyalgia like I do, you relish warm days and dread cold ones. But I’m not here to talk about my pain. I am here to talk about pain you may be giving your dog without even thinking about it.

I see people walking their dogs all the time…on asphalt. On a hot day, in the mid afternoon in full sun, place your hand on the asphalt and leave it there for a bit. Hot isn’t it? Imagine what it’s like for a dog. They have to feel that four times. Once on each foot. And dogs’ feet are very sensitive. They have to be to know where they are and what is under them. With the exception of sight hounds, dogs actually have poor vision to a degree. They rely mainly on smell, hearing and feel.

Concrete is OK. It does not soak up the heat like asphalt. And neither does a lot of brick surfaces. But asphalt. Unless it’s a cloudy day or a cool day, it’s going to be hard on your dog.

“But my dog acts fine” I have heard some people say. Well, the loyalty of a dog will make them do things that will hurt them sometimes. Walking on hot asphalt is one of them. But if you remember, as a child running around barefoot, walking across a hot pavement, saying to yourself “ouch ouch ouch”, that about what’s going through that dog’s mind when they are walking across the same type of surface .

Dogs cool themselves two ways. Panting and dispersing heat through their feet. That is why you see that  a lot of dogs on hot days will go and stand in water. They are cooling themselves off. Like we do when we place a cool rag around our neck or on our head. So when they are walking on something hot, you are taking away one of their cooling systems.

The next time you take your dog out on hot days either avoid asphalt, carry the dog over asphalt (if possible) or buy the dog a nifty set of dog shoes. You will be doing him or her a favor.




Sussie and PTSD Service Dog “Gunny” the Dachshund


Service Dog verses Emotional Support Animal

by Sue on June 23, 2016

Again today I received a phone call from the authorities who had an Emotional Support Animal owner in custody for breaking the law by taking an Emotional Support Animal into a store posted Service Animals Only.

I cannot express this enough.

Despite what online companies out there try to tell you, in order to relieve you of some of your money, Emotional Support Animals are NOT Service Animals and are NOT allowed into places posted Service Animals Only. Official looking Emotional Support Animal  tags that have the Department of Justice seal on them and/or state “Full Access Required” are WRONG and may eventually get you in trouble with the law for falsifying a Service Animal (such as the call I received today). Why do these companies sell these tags, patches, or “registrations” and not advise you of the rules? Simple. They have your money, they don’t care what happens to you.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states the following…

“Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Which means that if your dog is an Emotional Support Animal, it is NOT a Service Animal, does not have the same rights as a Service Animal and cannot enter ANY place posted Service Animals Only.

Service Animals are recognized by the Department of Justice/ADA. Emotional Support Animals are recognized by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. That means that Emotional Support Animals are allowed to stay in rented or leased dwellings with a no pets policy and they are allowed to fly on an airline. They are NOT allowed into grocery stores, hotels/motels (unless they allow pets), restaurants, hospitals, anyplace posted service animals only.

Thank you for reading this and understanding. I do not like getting phone calls from authorities because someone decided to break the law and falsify a service dog. Remember….falsifying a service dog IS a federal offence!



Customer Service Supervisor for

We care about our customers and want them to know the rules and regs. We would rather lose a sale than sell something to someone that will not work for them.


It’s shedding season again!

by Sue on March 2, 2016

Despite the common belief, there is no way to completely stop your dog from shedding. Aside from the hairless breeds, all dogs shed to one degree or another, regardless of size, coat length or hair type. The best you can hope to do is control or reduce dog shedding by regular grooming.

Dogs need to get rid of unneeded or damaged hair. Most grow a heavier coat in the winter to help them safe from the elements and then shed that extra fur in the summer to stay cool. Shedding can also result from skin irritation or infections, parasites or a poor diet. There are many ways that you can reduce dog shedding or prevent it from becoming a problem



Regular combing and brushing is essential.  Use an appropriate brush for the dog’s coat type, followed by a finishing comb. Many breeds benefit from daily brushing. It makes the coat softer, cleaner and less prone to heavy shedding. It will also root out fleas and other parasites.



Try adding unscented salmon oil to your dog’s food on a daily basis. It is almost without taste, contains omega-3 fatty acids that help condition the skin and provide a healthy, shiny coat. It also helps control shedding in many breeds.


If a dog isn’t receiving the proper nutrition he needs, his skin and coat will suffer. What dogs are fed helps to influence the texture of their dog coat and skin health. Healthy skin has healthy follicles that support long-lived lustrous hair. Unhealthy skin has sickly hair follicles and poor skin oils. The hair is brittle and dull. It breaks off and falls out easily. It’s important that the dog’s food full of nutrients. For a dog coat to be healthy and not to shed, dogs require proteins that are absorbable.

Remember, it’s not possible to completely stop shedding but if you take these steps, you can definitely control and reduce dog shedding.



Emotional Support Animals and Condo Assn.

by Sue on June 10, 2015

The Fair Housing Act does more than protect homeowners or renters who use a support-services animal – it also protects residents who need an animal for emotional support. While the definition of an emotional support animal goes beyond “I love him,” the Fair Housing Act covers residents or potential residents who rely on an emotional support animal.

The issue raises questions from landlords and homeowner associations. An existing rule on pets, for example – such as an additional pet deposit – doesn’t apply to support animals under The Fair Housing Act.

“Condo associations are not exempt from adherence to the Fair Housing Act,” said Carlos Osegueda, HUD’s Region IV director for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Their policies and practices cannot discriminate against persons with disabilities, and HUD will continue to take action anytime we find that they do.”

For more information on emotional support animals protected by The Fair Housing Act, visit the American Bar Association website.

People who believe they are victims of housing discrimination can contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or 1 (800) 927-9275 (TTY).


A word about so called Emotional Support Service Dog Tags

by Sue on October 30, 2014

While checking our sales on eBay today I noticed some ads at the bottom that presented other products from other sellers. What disturbed me is that some of these sellers were selling ID’s that are wrong. I am speaking of the ones for sale that say “Emotional Support Service Dog. Full Access Required”.

This is very very very wrong!

There is no such thing as an Emotional Support Service Dog. There are Emotional Support Animals and there are Service Dogs.

In the ADA rulings it clearly states…
Effective March 15, 2011, “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

Key changes include the following:
1. Only dogs will be recognized as service animals.
2. Service animals are required to be leashed or harnessed except when performing work or tasks where such tethering would interfere with the dog’s ability to perform.
3. Service animals are exempt from breed bans as well as size and weight limitations.
4. Though not considered service animals, businesses are generally required to accommodate the use of miniature horses under specific conditions.

Until the effective date, existing service animals of all species will continue to be covered under the ADA regulations.

Existing policies that were clarified or formalized include the following:
1. Dogs whose sole function is “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship” are not considered service dogs under the ADA.
2. The use of service dogs for psychiatric and neurological disabilities is explicitly protected under the ADA.
3. “The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence” do not qualify that animal as a service animal and “an animal individually trained to provide aggressive protection, such as an attack dog, is not appropriately considered a service animal.”

Take note of the section about Emotional Support Animals.

Emotional Support Animals are only recognized by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. They do NOT have full access to any other places

There are a couple things that upset me about other sellers selling these “Emotional Support Service Dog. Full Access Required” tags.

#1 They are selling items that are misleading and allow people to break the law by taking their ESA into places posted Service Animals only. And because these tags look so official, the public will accept the ID and allow the ESA in.

#2 Because the law states that an ESA does NOT have to have any training, these ESA’s could have a great impact on how the public views Service Dogs in the event that an ESA bites someone or causes any other number of problems.

I have personally approached some of these sellers to try and advise them of the rules. Only one actually stopped selling the “Emotional Support Service Dog” tags. The rest simply did not care and were only interested in the money they were making off the tags.

To me, that is nothing but taking advantage of the misinformed and scamming the public.

Sussie and Service Dog “Gunny”


In Spite of Recent Criticism, Therapist Argues Emotional Support Animals are Invaluable Help for People with Psychiatric Disabilities

by Sue on April 22, 2014

By Michael Halyard, MS, MFT

Emotional support animals provide tremendous benefits to psychiatric patients, but recent news stories have painted them in a bad light.
Recent articles in the New York Times, The Press-Enterprise, The Salt Lake Tribune, and a variety of other sources on the Internet, have brought skepticism to the growing use of emotional support animals (ESA’s).

ESA’s are animals that provide therapeutic benefit to their owners through devotion, affection and companionship. As more psychiatric patients learn about their rights, more are exercising their rights and obtaining such animals.

However the rights are limited to commercial air travel and housing. Contrary to what some people believe, there are no legal protections for disabled people to bring their ESA’s inside commercial establishments, like Lowe’s Home Improvement, where a child was recently bitten by an alleged ESA in Southern California.

“People are confusing service animals with emotional support animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks that benefit the disabled person, and are therefore protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional support animals are trained only as much as an ordinary pet, and are not covered by the ADA,” says San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard.

Halyard is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and can be found on the websites and

People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service dogs into commercial establishments, government buildings, and public places—but that does not apply to emotional support animals.

The two federal laws that regulate emotional support animals are the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA). The ACAA and regulate emotional support animals on commercial aircraft and the FHAA regulate emotional support animals in housing

“The protections for ESA’s are limited to commercial airline travel and a person’s residence. If a disabled individual wants to bring his ESA into a commercial establishment, he has no legal right to under Federal law, and it is up to the discretion of the establishment whether to allow the ESA in with the individual,” adds Halyard.

There have been a number of recent stories in the media that doubt the validity of people bringing ESA’s on commercial airlines and tenants exercising their right to have their ESA in their homes.

“The skepticism around ESA’s is unfortunate, because the vast majority of people who have prescriptions for ESA’s have bona fide psychiatric disabilities, and gain tremendous benefit from being able to have these animals,” argues Halyard.

“I guarantee that a commercial airline passenger would rather be next to a relaxed psychiatric patient with an ESA than next to a psychiatric patient without one having a panic attack. People with extreme anxiety around flying–who would normally need a strong tranquilizer–are able to fly fine with their emotional support animal,” argues Halyard.

The bottom line is that people are getting tremendous relief from their psychiatric symptoms by having ESA’s serve as their companions–whether it’s at home or on a commercial airline.

Emotional support animals should not be confused with psychiatric service dogs. The latter referring to dogs that require special training to perform specific tasks that help a person mitigate the effects of a mental illness–like turning on the lights for a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Emotional support animals provide emotional security, unconditional love, and act as a secure base for their owners,” explains Halyard.
“Many people struggle due to trauma that triggered a psychological inability to function in day to day activities. Other people have biological-based psychiatric disorders that affect their ability to function. For all of the above, the company of a beloved pet serving as an emotional support animal can considerably diminish or eliminate their symptoms,” adds Halyard.

Halyard says whether it disorders like Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or Schizophrenia, people who have psychiatric disabilities can benefit tremendously from having an emotional support animal present in their lives.

“For some people, their emotional support animal is the one thing keeping them stable in spite of suffering from severe mental illness,” argues Halyard.

Landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodations to allow disabled tenants to have an emotional support animal even when there’s a “no pet” policy if they have the proper documentation. Landlords must waive security deposits for pets, but the owner can be charged for any damage caused by the emotional support animal.
Airlines are accustomed to people bringing their emotional support animals and have policies in place. Most airlines don’t charge an extra fee for emotional support animals, but they do require the proper documentation and notice 48 hours prior to the flight.

In order to have your pet become an emotional support animal, you need to get a letter from your physician or licensed mental health professional recommending the emotional support animal to help with your disability, and the pet has to be able to live peacefully with people without being a danger or nuisance. For airline travel, most people bring their animal in a pet travel crate.

“It’s important to train your animal so that it doesn’t bother other people, as there are still establishments that will allow let them to accompany you–but it is now up to the establishment,” says Halyard.
“People get such tremendous benefit from their emotional support animals! Emotional support animals reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even can return a person to a higher level of functioning. A person who has a major mental illness may be able to live a fairly normal life,” explains Halyard.

“If you already have psychiatric condition that substantially limits at least one of your major life activities, you may qualify to designate your pet as an emotional support animal,” adds Halyard.

Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a San Francisco psychotherapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his San Francisco private practice. He can be found on the websites and



All and all not a bad article. However there are a few bits of misinformation.

The disabilities that he listed…”Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorders or Schizophrenia” are actually recognized disabilities that you may use a Service Dog for.

The statement…“If you already have psychiatric condition that substantially limits at least one of your major life activities, you may qualify to designate your pet as an emotional support animal” is true. However if you are using your dog to control that, it is also considered a service dog. Keep in mind that the ADA states the following in their list of what service dogs can do… “helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors”

ANY ESA or Service Dog MUST be well behaved in public! The fact that the child was bit has nothing to do with the fact that the dog was an ESA. The dog was not properly controlled or should just not be out in public period. Unless of course the child provoked the dog then the parents are to blame for not controlling the child.


Laws differ regarding emotional support animals

by Sue on March 6, 2014


Friday, January 17, 2014

A steady increase in the number of people who rely on emotional support animals adds to the confusion about service dogs and their place in public.

Emotional support animals are not granted the same public access guaranteed to service dogs, but many people don’t know the difference between the two designations, said dog trainer Pam Murphy.

“It’s kind of a gray area,” she said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog (or miniature horse) individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Emotional support animals, while they may help their owner stay calm and feel comfortable, are not trained to perform tasks.

“Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as a service animals,” the act states.

That said, there are some federal protections for the owners of emotional support animals. The Fair Housing Act, for instance, states that a person with a disability cannot be denied access to housing because he or she relies on an emotional support animal. The Air Carrier Access Act allows the animal to ride in the cabin of an airplane with its owner.

But both airlines and landlords are allowed to require a signed letter from a licensed mental health professional that states that the person has a mental health disability that requires a support animal.

Meanwhile, an incident at a local shelter in 2012 illustrates just how confusing — and to some degree, contradictory — the regulations can be when it comes to emotional support animals.

When Christy McNerney and her 9-pound spaniel-bichon frise mix, Scruffles, showed up at the Craig’s Place shelter, staff were unsure whether the dog should be allowed. She insisted the dog should be treated like a service dog and the police were called, at her request. A police officer read a letter from McNerney’s psychotherapist that said she needed an emotional support animal and the officer told shelter staff they must let the dog stay.

Kevin Noonan, executive director of Craig’s Doors, the organization that runs the shelter, said he contacted Disability Services at UMass and was again told that the dog must be allowed. “Our worry was that someone here would be afraid of dogs,” he said.

In the end, McNerney and Scruffles stayed at the shelter for a few months and Noonan said Scruffles was a very well-behaved guest. They have not had anyone ask to bring in an emotional support animal since, he said.

The Fair Housing Act states “a housing facility, program or service must permit the assistance animal as an accomodation,” and issued a memorandum in 2013 specifying that shelters and other housing that receives public funds are required to comply.

Another difference between service and emotional support animals is that while the former is limited to dogs or miniature horses, emotional support animals can be any species, from ducks to pot-bellied pigs.

That’s what troubles Ellen Kennedy, a JFK Middle School teacher who has a service dog. People may feel that they need their snake to be with them for emotional support, she said, but you can’t train a snake to behave appropriately in all situations.

“I’m sure the animal does provide support, but I’m not sure that can be justified if they’re not trained properly,” she said. “I do think ultimately we’ll see legislation limiting it to dogs and miniature horses.”


Service Dog Tags will never give out certificates to “register” or “certify” an animal.

by Sue on January 15, 2014

Do certificates prove tenants’ pets are emotional support animals?

Tenants are using official-looking certificates from a website to argue that by law, a property manager must let them keep their animals. Are they right?

November 10, 2013|By Martin Eichne:
Question: I am a partner in a small property management company. I know that disability and reasonable accommodation issues need to be handled carefully, so I try to keep up with the latest rules. However, I have recently received “certificates” from tenants for their pets from a website, certifying their pet as an emotional support animal. My owners are very worried about being sued and are afraid to say no when they see these very official-looking certificates. Are we bound to allow these pets just because we receive these Internet certificates?

Answer: The short answer to your question is no. A certificate from a website, in all likelihood, has nothing to do with whether a tenant is entitled to have an emotional support animal.

As a housing provider, your decisions regarding whether to accept a tenant’s emotional support animal are guided by the state and federal fair housing laws. Some people confuse these laws with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Service animals are treated differently in some ways under the ADA, which applies to public places, such as restaurants.

However, none of these laws requires a service animal to be “certified.”

Under the ADA, a service animal must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Under the fair housing laws, an emotional support animal or other type of medical support animal does not have to be individually trained. All that matters is that the tenant has a disability within the meaning of the fair housing laws and that the animal ameliorates the effects of the disability in some way.

The required paperwork for a tenant seeking to qualify a support animal is a letter from a medical professional familiar with the tenant’s condition that attests to the tenant’s disability, and to the role the animal plays in treating the tenant’s disability.

The question remains whether a service animal “certificate” from a website establishes a tenant’s right to have an emotional support animal. The answer to this question is almost certainly no.

Regardless of the seemingly official nature of the website certificate, you do not know what standards were used in issuing the certificate, if any, or what kind of information the applicant submitted to secure the certificate. First and foremost, a certificate from a website is unlikely to be from a medical professional personally familiar with the tenant’s disability. A website cannot honestly state whether or how this specific animal facilitates his or her disabled owner’s ability to use and enjoy housing — which, after all, is the standard the tenant must meet under the fair housing laws.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to



But from a company that supports the laws. Buy from!

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Kendra Velzen Sues Grand Valley State University To Keep Guinea Pig In Her Dorm

by Sue on February 28, 2013

A student at Grand Valley State University in Michigan believes the school violated federal housing policy by not letting her keep Blanca, a pet guinea pig, in her dorm.

Kendra Velzen, a 28-year-old GVSU student who reportedly battles a heart condition and severe depression, wanted to keep a pet guinea pig in her dorm as an “emotional support animal.” However, campus housing rules say students can only keep non-predatory fish and service dogs in their dorm rooms.

Under the Fair Housing Act, the school should’ve made an exception for Velzen’s Blanca, her attorney Stephen Dane claims.

Velzen has now filed a lawsuit against the school and a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Department. The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan is assisting Velzen.

GVSU officials told the Grand Rapids Press that they never told Velzen she could not keep Blanca; instead they offered a compromise. She could own the guinea pig but she could not take it to common areas, class or to food-service areas. Velzen’s attorney said those restrictions were not acceptable.

“The university has never said, ‘OK, you may have your guinea pig, no conditions,’ Dane told the Press. “They haven’t given her any unconditional permission to have her guinea pig. She’s in limbo.”

Negotiations have stalled between Velzen and GVSU. Blanca has since died.

The AP reports the university has not yet received the lawsuit.

A student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney made a similar argument in 2011 to keep a small dog as an “emotional support animal” in their university apartment.