Do Emotional Support Animals Need Vests?

So many folks around the world struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses that make daily life taxing and difficult. In fact, almost 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States has a diagnosable mental illness. This staggering statistic drives home the reality that we live in incredibly stressful times, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for people to handle the weight of it all.

Service animals can be a life-changing support for people who face severe mental or physical disabilities, giving them the power and autonomy to live fulfilling, independent lives. But not everyone who struggles with mental health qualifies for or needs a trained and registered service animal to support them.

An alternative? Emotional support animals can provide owners with therapeutic support that can empower them in their daily lives.

Are You Required to Have a Vest for Your Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals, or ESAs, do not require nearly as much upfront work. While service animals need specific training, you can help your pet become an emotional support animal relatively easily. You will need to acquire an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional stating a need for an emotional support animal. On that basis alone, you have a legal right to have that animal with you in a variety of settings, including on airplanes and in rental apartments.

But what else does your ESA need? In actuality, very little aside from that letter. There is a common misconception that emotional support animals are legally obligated to have a vest that declares their role. This is false!

Given the importance of their role to their owners one would also think service dogs require vests, but this is not the case. In public places, vests help to notify any surrounding people that the animal is working and should not be distracted from their important mission of caring for their owner. The vest is essentially a letter to the world stating “Do not touch me!”. It also helps to alert others that the person the service animal is accompanying may need assistance, so folks can spring into action if a situation calls for it.

Emotional support animals are also not required by law to wear vests. Aside from the ESA letter written by a qualified licensed mental health professional, you don’t need much of anything!

That said, there are major perks of getting an ESA vest for your pet that can make a huge difference in your daily life.

Benefits of Emotional Support Animal Vests

You’ve taken the first step towards your pet being recognized as an emotional support animal by getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. But now what?

Letter in hand, there isn’t a clear path forward. But investing in a vest for your emotional support animal can make your life easier for a multitude of reasons!

Here are some of the key benefits of opting for a vest after you have your letter:

Helps Identify Your Animal as an ESA

When people see an animal wearing a vest, they automatically notice that something is different about this pet. This can be incredibly helpful in a variety of situations.

Day-to-day, strangers will know that your emotional support animal has a specific purpose, which can influence how they act towards them. If you are flying with your animal, having a vest for your pet can ensure the folks sitting around you on the plane don’t complain to the airline staff. Please note that airlines have changed policies and not all US carriers allow for ESA’s anymore.

However, ESA harnesses can be a great option for people in a new apartment. You will likely be asked by your new landlord to provide a copy of your ESA letter, but you won’t have the letter with you constantly to prove to your neighbors that your animal is legitimately an ESA.

Vests give a sense of legitimacy to your pet that puts minds at ease every step of the way, and this can prevent any unnecessary stress for you.

Makes Your Pet Easy to Spot

No one wants to think about their beloved pet getting lost, but sometimes these things happen. If you lose a pet that has no easy form of identification to notice, it may be next to impossible to get that pet back. But if your ESA is wearing a vest at the time that they get lost, it can be a total game changer for a few reasons.

Firstly, they are a bold, unique way to identify your pet. If you post signs around your neighborhood or slide letters into mailboxes, being able to say that your dog is wearing a brightly colored vest can make it so much easier for your lost emotional support pet to be identified and brought back to you safe and sound.

Additionally, an unaccompanied dog wearing a vest communicates a sense of urgency to folks that may see it. It lets people know that this animal has a great level of importance to its owner, which can encourage people to do something to help.

Prevents Unwanted Interaction

An animal vest is an automatic sign to the world that something is different. It allows you to share valuable information with others instantly. If the letters “ESA” or the words “Emotional Support Animal” are boldly written on the vest, this notifies folks that this is not a pet and should not be treated as such.

One of the biggest benefits of having a vest for your ESA is that it can prevent strangers from petting your dog without your permission. While it may be proper pet etiquette to always ask before petting someone’s dog, many people do not abide by this unwritten rule day to day. If you have a vest on your emotional support animal, people are more likely to ask permission before interacting with your pet.

How to Measure Your Animal

Once you’ve decided that you want to get a vest for your emotional support animal, you’ll need to find the best fit for them. Luckily, there are lots of options available on the market, so you’re sure to find the perfect vest for your pup.

Most online sites and in-person stores do not require proof of an ESA letter in order to purchase a vest, but it’s a good idea to have it handy just in case!

To begin deciding what vest you want to buy, you’ll need to figure out the best fit for your dog. Since most animals don’t wear clothes, it can be hard to understand the sizing of vests. Measuring your dog is remarkably easy though!

You’ll need a flexible measuring tape, like one from a sewing kit. Have your dog stand on all four legs and wrap the tape around the center of the dog’s rib cage, between their front and hind legs. This is the area you want to ensure the vest will sit snugly on your pet.

What Fabric Should You Choose for the Vest?

Vests are available in a variety of fabrics, so you can find one that works best for your needs.

Here are some of the most common options and why they may be a good fit for you and your emotional support animal.


Cotton vests are a great option because they are soft and comfortable for your dog to wear. The fabric is breathable, which is great in a warmer climate, but it is not as lightweight as others.

As such, cotton vests can easily be worn year-round. Plus, they often have handy pockets in which you can store treats or a copy of your ESA letter in case you need it.


Mesh vests are the way to go if you live in a warm climate or have a long-haired dog. These vets are incredibly breathable, so your pup can stay cool during the summer. These dry quickly and are easy to clean. Plus, they often come with reflective panels, so your dog will be easy to see!


Padded vests come in a variety of materials, but are a great choice for colder climates. The vest can notify folks that your pet is an emotional support animal while also keeping them warm. Padded vests often come with hoods and pockets, so you can always carry your letter with you on the go.

How Much Should You Spend on an ESA Vest?

While the exact cost of ESA vests differs, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on a high-quality vest for your pet. You’ve already invested in getting an official letter, and we believe the rest shouldn’t have to be so expensive.

A great way to save some money is to purchase a bundle! Our bundles drastically cut costs and have everything you’ll need and more, from a top-quality vest to identification card holders, guidebooks, and more!

Kit Out Your ESA

It can be daunting to navigate the process of getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional on your own. But with the help of the experts at ESA Registration of America, you’ll be shopping for vests and confidently taking your pet with you on the go in no time.

Reach out today!