Do I Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that support individuals’ emotional well-being with psychological or emotional issues. Examples of these issues include phobias or panic attacks. 

Not to be confused with service dogs, service animals have been trained to help their owners with specific tasks. Owners of service animals must have intellectual, physical, or psychiatric disabilities. An example of a service dog could be a guide dog that helps a blind person.

An emotional support animal can be comforting to someone struggling with a mental disability, and in most cases, can be a life-changer. Not sure if you qualify for one?

Here’s all you need to know. 

What Disorders Qualify for An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

So, here’s the million-dollar question – what disorders qualify you for an emotional support animal? 

To qualify for an emotional support dog, you must be struggling with a mental disability officially documented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a regularly updated body of work on mental health of over ten years old. It is run and managed by hundreds of global licensed mental health professionals and experts in all elements of mental health. The result of their hard work and commitment is an authoritative manual that defines and categorizes mental conditions to help with their diagnosis, treatment, and research. 

Here are examples of mental conditions that could qualify for an individual for an ESA:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a mental disorder caused or triggered by witnessing or experiencing a disturbing event. Persons who have PTSD may display symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, or bouts of severe anxiety. 
  • Clinical depression: Depression is a mental illness caused by a mix of social, psychological, and biological distress. Symptoms include a constant feeling of sadness or the individual loses interest in daily activities. Second-order effects of these symptoms include insomnia, low energy levels, suicidal thoughts, loss of appetite, and lack of focus. 
  • Motor skills disorder: Individuals suffering from motor skill disorders find it difficult to undertake motor skills such as walking, running, or feeding themselves. It isn’t related to intelligence, but it can also affect the individual’s cognitive function. 
  • Learning disabilities: These are mental disorders that disrupt an individual’s cognitive learning function—those suffering from this sort of disorder struggle to learn the skills expected of individuals of the same age. 
  • Anxiety disorders: Individuals suffering from this condition find it difficult to live everyday life as they are always struck with extreme bouts of fear and worry. They usually express signs of high distress. 
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): ADD is a behavioral condition that leads to low concentration, highly impulsive individuals, and hyperactivity. 

How to Know If You’re Qualified for An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Ready to get your emotional support dog? Here’s how to know if you qualify for an ESA: 

1. You must see a certified psychologist, psychotherapist, therapist, or social worker. 

The first step to qualifying for an emotional support dog is being certified by a psychotherapist or any licensed mental health professional as an emotionally disabled individual. Your certification is achieved through a formal letter called an ESA letter.

Note that general practitioners or specialists such as surgeons or pediatricians aren’t qualified to certify you for such as they aren’t mental health experts. 

In some instances, such as moving into a new apartment or boarding a plane, the individual in charge may accept forms signed by your family doctor if you are being treated for a mental disorder. 

2. You must undergo a detailed mental health diagnosis

You need to undergo a mental health check and get a diagnosis that shows you suffer from one of the mental health disorders listed earlier, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, learning disabilities, or anxiety disorders. 

The diagnosis will show that you indeed have a mental disorder and require an emotional support dog or pet. Only then will you qualify to receive an ESA letter. The letter allows you to bring your support pet into places where animals are typically prohibited from entering, such as planes or your home if your landlord has a no-pet policy. 

3. Ask for an emotional support animal prescription

There are no national rules and regulations that need you to register your support pet legally. But an ESA letter written on your licensed mental health professional’s letterhead helps you avoid embarrassment if you walk into an area where pets are prohibited. 

The letter is proof that you do need your pet nearby all the time. 

The letter must state that you are the licensed mental health professional’s patient and should contain the following:

  • The mental health professionals’ license number
  • The license type
  • The date the license was issued
  • The state in which the license was issued
  • The doctor’s contact details
  • The diagnosis of your disability and that your pet is vital to your everyday life

If you plan to fly with your pet, ensure your letter is dated no later than 12 months from the date of your flight. Also, you should plan to plan to renew the ESA letter every year once it expires. You’ll need to see a licensed mental health professional to renew your letter. 


So, you do qualify for an ESA. Then the next hurdle is choosing the type of support pet you prefer. 

Most individuals prefer to get dogs as a support pet. The good news is dogs aren’t the only type of animals you can get as an emotional support animal. A host of other animals can fulfill the same role a dog fulfills as an ESA. Some animals you can consider are:

  • Cats
  • Parrots
  • Chickens
  • Rabbits
  • Hamsters
  • Some folks also use fishes

An emotional support animal letter could do wonders for your mental health and grant you reasonable accommodation to start the journey to recovery. For detailed information on ESA letters and service animals, please contact the real professionals at ESA Registration. Please note that our therapists will only certify dogs and cats as ESA’s should you qualify.