How to know your pet makes a good ESA

Before you can get an emotional support animal, you have to have a pet that helps improve your mental health and well being.  An emotional support animal can technically be any animal that provides therapeutic benefit, but many therapists only feel comfortable writing letters for common animals like dogs and cats.  Learn more about how to know if your pet makes a good ESA.

ESA vs. Service Animal

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not need to have any formal training. An ESA does not have to perform tasks for their owners; their presence alone is enough to lower stress and anxiety levels. Emotional support animals can live in housing that does not allow pets without a pet deposit or a pet fee. They can also fly with their owners in the air cabin without a carrier, sitting in their lap or in the space in front of their seat. The airlines cannot charge a pet fee.

What Type of Pets Make the Best Emotional Support Animals

Any pet can become an emotional support animal, but therapists and other licensed mental health professionals only recognize the therapeutic benefit of dogs and cats, and not more exotic animals. If you’re looking to make your pet an emotional support animal for travel, many airlines are changing their policies and only allow dogs and cats as emotional support animals.

What to Look for in an ESA

While an emotional support animal does not need any formal training, they must be well behaved in public. Airlines can deny boarding for an ESA if the pet is being disruptive. Landlords must give reasonable accommodation to those with an emotional support animal, but if the ESA starts negatively affecting other residents or damaging the property, it can be a reason for eviction.

Calm Behavior

Emotional support animals need to be calm in unfamiliar surroundings, especially during times of travel. Airports are chaotic, and there are lots of strangers and sometimes even other animals. Emotional support animals should be quiet, friendly, and non-aggressive when at the airport and on the plane itself. High-stress pets may need training before being able to navigate the airport.

People and Pet-Friendly

Emotional support animals should be non-aggressive and well-behaved, friendly towards other people and pets. Many airlines changed their policies and became more restrictive due to misbehaving emotional support animals, especially aggressive ones.  An ESA should not be a danger or disruptive to other passengers.

Does your pet help you cope with the symptoms of your diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental condition? You can talk with a licensed mental health professional about making your pet an emotional support animal if they’re friendly and calm. If you haven’t been formally diagnosed with an eligible psychological condition but believe you have one and your pet currently helps you, take the Certapet 5-Minute Pre-Screening to see if your qualify and connect with a licensed mental health professional that practices in your area.  Many LMHP will only write ESA travel and housing letters for dogs and cats.

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One Comment

  • Ivana Split

    Very informative article. As far as I remember, the size of the animal was also a factor with the whole airline thing. Big dogs are less likely to be allowed on flight, unless they are service dogs. It is great that airlines are more open to allowing emotional support cats and dogs, but as you point out they probably still expect them to be well behaved.

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