Emotional support dogs provide support for individuals suffering from mental health conditions. They are not allowed in all public places like service animals are, but there are legal protections that require them to be allowed in no-pet housing and on flights. There is no agency that registers emotional support dogs. However, getting a letter from a mental health professional that you need an emotional support dog is the documentation you need when bringing one on a flight or into a new home.
EditGetting a Letter of Need
- Discuss emotional support animals with your mental health professional. If you are considering getting an emotional support dog, you should discuss your options with your mental health practitioner. They should be able to advise you about whether an emotional support animal can help with your condition.
- You will need the support of a mental health professional to get official documentation for the animal. If your doctor or therapist doesn’t think you need an emotional support dog, then consider not getting one or finding a different mental health professional.
- Ask for a letter of need. In order to have your support dog allowed in no-pet housing or on board a plane, you will need a letter from your mental health professional. This letter will state clearly that you need to have your dog with you for mental health reasons.
- The letters for housing and flying are slightly different. The letter for housing does not need to describe the actual mental disorder you need your pet for. The letter for flying does need to give a specific diagnosis and reason for needing the support dog.
- Consider using an online service. If you need an emotional service dog but you don’t want to meet with a mental health professional in person, there are online services that can help. There are a variety of websites that allow you to get a letter of need from a mental health professional through an online assessment.
- You will be asked to fill out an online survey that assesses your need for an emotional support dog.
- Your survey will be evaluated by a mental health professional. They will provide you with a letter of need if they determine you would benefit from an emotional support animal.
- The cost of getting this kind of service should be between $50 and $200.
EditRegistering an Emotional Support Dog with Your Landlord
- Tell a potential landlord about your support animal. If you have an emotional support dog and you are attempting to rent an apartment or house, you should tell potential landlords about it. You do not need to disclose the animal’s existence when you are applying for housing but you should discuss it when you have been offered the housing.
- You can either tell your landlord about your need in person or in a letter.
- Legally, the landlord has to make a reasonable accommodation for those with a disability. This includes accommodating a prescribed emotional service animal even if the house or apartment usually excludes pets.
- Show your landlord documentation of need. If your landlord asks for documentation of your disability and your need for a support animal, show them the letter you have gotten from your mental health professional. The landlord has the right to ask for certification that you have a disability, that an animal can help with the condition, and that your animal does indeed help with your condition.
- Your landlord does not have the right to ask about your specific mental health diagnosis. A letter from your mental health professional should simply state that you have a mental health issue that requires animal support.
- Educate your landlord about the rules concerning emotional support animals. There are a variety of rules around housing and emotional support animals. Your landlord may not be aware of all of these rules, so gently inform them.
- In order to educate your landlord about the rules surrounding emotional support animals you will need to know them yourself. Review federal, state, and local regulations relating to emotional support animals, disability, and housing.
- The Fair Housing Act is the central US federal law that protects against discrimination in housing. Specifically, it protects those that use assistance animals against discrimination.
EditBringing Your Emotional Support Dog on a Flight
- Get a letter from your doctor. The letter used for taking an emotional support dog on a flight needs to outline the specific mental disorder or disease you have and how the dog helps you cope with it. The letter must contain a recognized mental or emotional diagnosis in order to be considered valid.
- It is important that the letter from your doctor is dated within a year from the date of your flight.
- Give advanced warning to the airline. Before your flight, you should let the airline know you are flying with an emotional support animal. Give them at least 48 hours notice, so they have time to make any accommodations that may be required.
- When calling to let the airline know that you will have an emotional support dog with you on your flight, it is also a good time to review the emotional support dog rules with an airline official and ask them any questions that you have.
- Familiarize yourself with the rules for an emotional support dog on a flight. To begin with, you should not have to pay additional fees when bringing an emotional support animal on a flight. The dog should be allowed to be out of a carrier during the flight. It can either sit in your lap or sit on the floor of the airplane.
- You will likely have to get your dog vaccinated a certain amount of time before the flight and provide proof of these vaccinations to the airline. Find out what the timeline is for getting the require vaccinations and what documentation the airline will need before your dog can fly.
- Answer questions and present paperwork to airline officials. When you check in for your flight, let the airline official know you have an emotional support dog. Be prepared to show your letter of need and answer questions about your support animal. Airline officials are allowed to ask you why the animal provides you with mental support. Be prepared to supply an accurate answer.
- If the first airline official you interact with does not want to let you on your flight, ask to speak with a customer service representative that deals with disability-related issues.
- Keep your emotional support dog under control during your flight. While you are flying it is important to make sure your emotional support dog exhibits good behavior. Try to keep your animal as calm and quiet as possible during the flight. Any threatening or dangerous behavior can get your dog kicked off a flight.
- Emotional support dogs do not need to have any specific training. However, it is a good idea to keep overly aggressive, loud, or jittery dogs off of flights.
- Taking an obedience class with your dog can be a good way to ensure that he will be well-behaved for the flight. This can also be helpful for your dog’s other interactions with people.
- Since emotional support dogs do not complete specific tasks the way that service dogs do, they are not considered service dogs. Thus, the use of an emotional support dog in all public places is not protected by federal laws in the same way that using a service dog would be.