What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Dogs on a bed

As a pet owner, you might find yourself wondering if your animal qualifies as an emotional support animal. It can be hard to know what type of support your animal offers you and what certification best fits your needs. Because there are so many types of support animal certifications, it’s a good idea to explore each type before you register your animal as an emotional support animal, service dog, or therapy dog. When you know what services your animal provides for you, you can get the certification that best fits your needs.

The Differences Between an ESA and Service Dog

There are a few different jobs that animals can have to serve their owners. Some might say that service dogs are working animals because of the services they provide for their owners. With a service dog, people can lead more independent lives. Service dogs need a lot of training to do their best to serve their owners. While service dogs are considered working animals, emotional support animals are considered pets rather than working animals. Service dogs can go into public spaces under the Americans with Disabilities Act, while ESA pets can’t. Because they can enter public spaces, service dogs help their owners live independently.

While emotional support pets aren’t usually allowed in public spaces like service dogs, there are many benefits to registering your pet as an ESA. Just as the name indicates, an emotional support animal offers emotional support to its owner. An emotional support animal is crucial for some people as they cope with emotional traumas. An ESA can provide therapeutic benefits to its owner while a service dog helps people live independently. So what about the difference between therapy dogs and emotional support pets?

The Differences Between an ESA and Therapy Dog

Therapy dogs fulfill a role that is different from service dogs. Therapy dogs are not trained to help people with disabilities like service dogs are. But what about the differences between ESA pets and therapy dogs? While ESA pets and therapy dogs both offer emotional support to people, there is one distinct difference. A therapy dog travels with its owner to offer therapeutic benefits to people in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. An emotional support animal is a pet that is registered to give emotional support to its owner.

The purpose of a therapy dog is to improve the quality of life for the people it visits. The purpose of an ESA pet is to improve the quality of life for its owner by offering emotional support. It’s important to know the difference between each type of service animal so that you can properly register your pet. It’s a widely known fact that dogs can be service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals. But did you know that other animals can be ESA pets too?

A man petting a dog

Animals That Qualify as ESA Pets

When you think of an emotional support animal, you might automatically imagine a dog. Many times, you may see dogs that serve in an ESA or service animal role. While many emotional support pets and service animals are specific breeds of dogs, you can also certify other animals as ESA pets. If your pet provides you with emotional support, you can consider registering your pet as an emotional support animal. ESA-certified pets come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some commonly emotional support pets.


Dogs are common ESA pets because they’re easy to train and can be housebroken. Most dogs are happy to be companions and therefore love to be around their owners. There are so many dog breeds and rescue dogs that all have unique qualities. Dogs are a good choice for anyone that may want to certify their pet as an emotional support animal. While dogs may be one of the most popular pet choices for ESAs, they are certainly not the only choice.


While cats usually have a mind of their own, they can also offer emotional support to their owner. Just like dogs, each cat breed has its own set of personality traits. Just like dogs, cats can be friendly and loving toward their owner. An emotional support cat is a great option because of the many cat personalities out there. Lastly, ESA pets don’t need to wear special harnesses or vests, so you don’t have to worry about getting a harness on your cat if they’re registered as an emotional support animal.


If you’re a rabbit owner, you’ll be happy to hear that you can register your pet as an ESA. There are many different indoor rabbit breeds and each one is unique. Some rabbit breeds do better with adults, and others are fine around children. Some rabbits can be a good choice for an emotional support pet because of their small size and generally pleasant nature.


Cute ferret with pink scarf

Ferrets can make great emotional support pets because ferrets make good pets in general. Ferrets are naturally affectionate and love their owners, so they could easily serve as an ESA. While ferrets are generally affectionate creatures, they do better in homes without children because they may nip to get attention. But again, ferrets are affectionate and form strong bonds with their owners. This is an excellent quality to have in an emotional support animal.


Hedgehogs are small animals that offer many benefits as pets. Hedgehogs are known as gentle creatures, which makes them an excellent option for an emotional support animal. They may have protective spikes on their backs, but they’re not dangerous when handled with care.

Mini pigs

Mini pigs may not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of ESA, but they have a lot to offer as an emotional support animal. Mini pigs are emotionally sensitive and intelligent animals. Because of their emotional sensitivity, mini pigs are very perceptive animals. Mini pigs would be a great ESA pet because of their ability to provide comfort and companionship to their owners.

Whatever your pet may be, you can likely register them as an emotional support animal. Whether you have an emotional support dog, cat, pony, or pig, you can always consider registering them as an ESA.

Do Pets Need to be Trained to be ESA Certified?

Cute dogs sleep on a bed

A service dog undergoes a lot of training to help people with specific disabilities, which isn’t the case for an ESA. Emotional support animals provide support just like service dogs. But with an emotional support pet, you can certify a pet you already have. You don’t need to find a dog specifically trained to be an emotional support animal. There are requirements for ESA pets, but none of them include extensive training for your pet. Even if you don’t need to train your dog specifically to be an emotional support pet, it’s a good idea to consider basic training for your pet.

If your pet isn’t housebroken or if you aren’t sure how to safely walk your cat on a leash, that can add stress to your life. If your pet isn’t well-mannered, you may want to consider basic training. When you train your pet, you give them the chance to serve you in the best way possible as an ESA. If your emotional support pet is a dog, you can consider basic dog training tips to help them serve you in the best way possible.

Reasons to Get an ESA Certification for Your Pet

Emotional support animals serve people who need emotional support, just as the name implies. Many conditions can qualify you as an ESA owner. Here are some of the main reasons that people register their pets as emotional support pets.


Anxiety can have negative effects on your body. Anxiety can affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and cause your body to produce stress-related hormones. Anxiety has negative effects on many aspects of life, but an emotional support animal can help. If you have an emotional support animal, they can offer you support that will help relieve your anxiety.


There are many types of depression including seasonal depression and long-term depression. Depression is a debilitating condition that can drain you emotionally and physically. When you have an ESA, they can help you overcome your struggle with depression. An emotional support pet can give you a sense of purpose. Depression can often make people feel alone. Emotional support pets offer companionship that can be helpful for anyone who struggles with depression.

Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD

Happy puppy

An ESA can help you if you have Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Emotional support animals can help you keep a consistent schedule with walks, feeding time, and playtime. Animals require consistency in their routines, and this can help you stay focused and on track. Emotional support pets can also offer a welcome distraction. When you take breaks with your ESA, like walks or playtime, you’ll be better prepared to focus when you need to.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

There are many symptoms that someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, experiences daily. Someone with PTSD can experience bad dreams, flashbacks, or notice that they sometimes feel jumpy. When you own an emotional support animal, especially if it’s a dog, they’ll be able to sense when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Emotional support animals are also known to help people with autism or veterans. These are just some of the conditions that an emotional support animal can help its owners with. These pets offer support to many kinds of people with varying conditions. If you feel that you would benefit from certifying your pet as an ESA, the process to register your animal is simple.

How to Get an ESA Certification

When you register your pet as an emotional support animal, you’ll get an official certification letter. This certification letter will show that your dog offers you necessary emotional support. Even if you’re not sure how to get an ESA, it’s a straightforward process that will pay off in the end. If your pet is a service dog, you’ll need to do a separate service dog registration for it. You’ll also need to register your animal if you would like it to serve as a therapy dog.

If you have a dog that serves you as an ESA, you will need to complete the emotional support dog registration to get your pet officially certified. Because people are more familiar with ESA pets now, the process to gain an emotional support animal certification is streamlined and easy. Just be sure to use a reputable program to register your animal. More people are registering their pets as emotional support animals, so fake letters are more common than ever. To avoid getting a fake ESA letter, make sure you register your animal with a reputable organization. Once you register your animal, you’ll find that there are many benefits to an emotional support animal.

Benefits of an ESA Certification

Woman hugs her cute kitty

When you register your pet as an ESA, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re prioritizing what’s best for you. After you register your pet as an emotional support animal, you’ll get an official letter. You can use your letter to let your landlord know that you have a registered emotional support animal. There shouldn’t be any tension between owners of a registered ESA and landlords. Your ESA letter will prove to your landlord that your pet gives you essential emotional support.

When you register your emotional support animal, you can show your letter to your landlord to avoid extra fees. With your ESA letter, your landlord can’t charge pet deposit fees. The fair housing act legally protects emotional support pets.

When you certify your pet as an ESA, some airlines will honor your letter and allow your emotional support pet to travel with you. Each airline is different, so you’ll need to check with the airline you want to fly with to ensure you can travel with your pet. Some college campuses allow emotional support pets on campus and in classes, depending on the campus.

When you register your animal as an emotional support pet, you’re doing what is best for you. An emotional support animal can offer you comfort, love, and companionship while decreasing anxiety and stress levels. When you register your pet as an ESA, you’re ensuring that you have the proper paperwork for your pet to serve you in the best possible way.

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