Many people disabled by a mental health, emotional or psychological condition find it difficult to function in life activities without the presence of an animal of their choice. To them, the emotional support animal is essential to that person's ability to function normally in society on a daily basis.
Disabled people who depend on emotional support animals are afforded certain protections under U.S. law. This includes exemptions from rules in certain housing and travel situations.
Yet the owner may be required in these situations to provide proof that the animal's purpose is to provide therapeutic support and is not just a house pet.
Emotional support animal registration is not a legal requirement. However, obtaining an ESA Registration can make life easier for the owner who travels in public with an animal that is essential to their emotional well-being.
What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal is different than a service animal. A service animal undergoes extensive training to perform specific tasks, like a guide dog helping a blind person or a miniature horse assisting someone confined to a wheelchair.
An ESA does not require such training, and while service animals typically are dogs, an ESA can be any animal that gives a person the ability to function normally and minimizes the negative effects of that person's mental or psychological disability.
Rights of ESAs and Owners
People with emotional, mental or psychological disabilities that rely on emotional support animals could count upon legal protections when it comes to finding a place to live or traveling by air. The Fair Housing Act requires Landlords or building managers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals that own ESAs who want to rent an apartment, even if the residential complex has a no-pets policy. The Air Carrier Access Act permits disabled individuals to fly with their ESAs, provided the owner notifies the airline in advance. Many airlines require owners to have an ESA letter signed by a therapist before allowing the animal to travel. Emotional support animals and their owners, however, are not afforded the same protections when it comes to public access environments like stores and restaurants.
Registering An ESA
As mentioned before, emotional support animal registration is not a legal requirement. You do not have to go to your local animal control officer to register the cat, iguana or pig that can minimize the effects of anxiety, panic attacks, or other disabling conditions. But having emotional support animal certification as proof that the animal is important to an individuals' mental health can make things easier - especially when it comes to travel.
In order for your animal to be qualified as an emotional support animal, you must have a therapist, psychiatrist or mental health professional certify in a letter that you have an emotional or mental disabling condition. The health professional must explain in the letter that you are in their care, are limited in performing or participating a major life activity because of your disability, and that the animal is a part of the treatment of your current condition. The animal's presence must be certified as beneficial.
Animals are known for their therapeutic abilities. To a person living with mental, psychological or emotional disabilities, an emotional support animal can be the difference between functioning normally and not functioning. You may find yourself connected to an animal that provides essential support for a disabling condition. ESA registration of the animal can perform a critical role and give you peace of mind as an owner living with a disability, so you may want to look into it.