What You Should Know About Emotional Support Dogs

Heather Burdo

woman hugging white dog

Many people think of their dog as part of the family. To some people, a dog is much more than that – a dog can enhance the quality of life for people who need emotional support. While there are phenomenal benefits of having this type of dog, laws and registration are critical when it comes to having an emotional support animal.

Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Dog

You may have heard the term ‘service dog’ more than ‘emotional support dog.’ While emotional support dogs (a subset of assistance animals) bring extraordinary benefits to people suffering from depression, anxiety, and phobias, it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t considered service dogs. They also don’t have the same rights. For example, a service dog who is being used as a guide dog for someone who is blind can legally be allowed anywhere in public. The true definition of a service dog is a dog that is trained individually to perform tasks or do other work for people with a disability. Animals being used to provide emotional support don’t qualify to meet the requirements of a service dog, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The major difference is that a service dog is trained to do a specific task like alarm and guide someone who is visually impaired. An emotional support dog is known to cuddle their owner on cue, but that’s a normal instinct many dogs already have.

Emotional Support Animal Laws and Registration

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) are in place for modification of policies that don’t allow pets. To qualify for an emotional support animal in situations where pets would otherwise not be allowed, a credible third party (usually a doctor) must write a letter prescribing this type of support. The FHA requires the property manager/landlord to make an accommodation to their policy to allow the tenant to have an emotional support animal. Because of the ACAA, individuals can bring their emotional support dog on a flight with the proper paperwork.

Registration is not required for an emotional support dog. All you need is a letter written by a licensed therapist. This letter is a recommendation letter that is written by a licensed therapist. A letter by a family doctor won’t be enough. Ensure that the therapist you work with is experienced with animal therapy so they are familiar with all the requirements.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal

Any dog can be an emotional support animal. However, to legally have this title and be able to be considered for “no pet” policies, a therapist will need to write a letter for you. To obtain this letter, you will need to see a therapist so they can deem how necessary it is for you to have this support animal. If you don’t already have a therapist, it’s important to find a local one who is experienced with therapy pets so you can receive a diagnosis for your letter.

Although an emotional support animal isn’t a service dog, they can still increase the well being of individuals. Some people struggle with anxiety and depression significantly and having the support animal as a pet can make a major difference with their condition.

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Copyright 2005-2018

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.