Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Required to Wear Any Identifying Clothes or Harness?

No law requires your Emotional Support Animal (ESA), to wear identifying clothes when they’re out with you in public. The only legal requirement for your ESA is having a prescription letter from a qualified therapist or mental health professional. Having this means your furry friend can travel and live with you following federal laws.  

Many ESA owners prefer to buy their animal an identifying item. Such gear might be a harness, collar, or leash. This gear lets people know that their dog isn’t just a pet but has a specific designation as well and provides therapeutic value.  

Consequently, this identifying apparel will reduce the chances of someone coming up to the dog. It’s not unusual for strangers to approach friendly dogs on the street. However, for people who rely on their ESA, this attention can be very overwhelming. 

Unwelcome attention can trigger social anxiety, panic attacks, and even PTSD. These reactions can occur no matter how kind the intentions of the people approaching might be. If your animal is something more unusual than a dog, for example, a pig or gerbil, they might also attract curiosity in public. Having your ESA wear a harness or collar will let those around know it’s not appropriate for them to distract your ESA (or you). Please note, while ESA’s are allowed to be animals of different species, our therapists will not write ESA letters for exotic animals even to those that qualify.

Is There a Minimum Requirement of What I Need to Have with Me to Prove My Dog Is an ESA?  

When you’re out and about, you’re not required to carry anything that proves your dog is an emotional support animal. However, if you have plans to travel, you need to bring a copy of your ESA prescription letter from your therapist. Some airlines require this be submitted days before your flight. The same goes if you are visiting a landlord or housing association. When discussing renting accommodation, they’ll need proof that your dog is an ESA.  

ESA Registration of America recommends that you carry around your prescription letter at all times. This letter should be from a qualified therapist or mental health professional.  

The ADA ensures that by law, businesses such as restaurants, cinemas, or stores must admit service animals. Service animals include seeing-eye or seizure alert dogs. However, there is no law requiring these same businesses to let your ESA enter their premises. Some managers may be willing to waive a ‘no pets’ policy if you can prove that your pet is an ESA, but by no means is this a requirement by law. 

For your prescription letter to meet the legal requirements for a valid ESA identification, it must meet the following criteria and contain the following elements: 

  • Written on a professional letterhead
  • Contain a genuine signature from your licensed mental health professional or therapist
  • Contain the professional’s contact details, and the address of the practice they work for
  • Proof that you suffer from a condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, edition 4 of 5
  • Confirmation that this condition prevents you from undertaking a significant life activity, such as going to work, socializing or being in public spaces
  • A statement from the professional that they deem your Emotional Support Animal to be a necessary part of your treatment and mental health support

With all the correct information on your letter, officials such as landlords or flight attendants can contact the practice that authorized your ESA registration certificate. From there, they can confirm that your pet is exempt from travel or housing regulations.  

Where Is the Best Place to Get the Correct Clothing for My Dog?  

If you decide that you’d like to buy some ESA clothing for your dog or other ESA, it’s essential to buy some that will clearly and recognizably identify your pet’s role.  

Brightly colored harnesses will be noticeable from a distance. An official badge or patch will let people know what your animal’s job is and why you need them. 

Online at the ESA Registration of America website, we sell a range of kits. These kits include everything you could need to identify your pet in public. For example, our Premier ESA Identification Kit and our Ultimate VIP All-Access Kit contain necessary items such as: 

A bright red vest-style harness for your animal
An embroidered ‘Support Animal’ badge to attach to the harness
PVC ID cards that display a searchable ID number
It’s essential to make sure that any clothing you buy doesn’t just identify your animal—it must also be comfortable for them to wear. Our harnesses are available in 6 sizes, from XXS to XL. These sizes range from 10 inches to 42 inches. With a wide selection, there are suitable options for everything from an emotional support guinea pig to a Great Dane! 

A good vest should also be lightweight enough that your pet can wear it throughout the year without overheating. Note that dogs are particularly sensitive to high temperatures. 


The bottom line is that identifying clothing isn’t a legal requirement for your emotional support animal. However, many people find that there are benefits to purchasing some for your pet—and at ESA Registration of America, we often recommend it.  

The gear will put your mind at rest and hopefully discourage people from approaching your pet. As well, it can act as additional proof that you (and your animal) take their emotional support role seriously. 

There has been an unfortunate increase of people who pretend that their pet is an ESA in an attempt to get around travel and federal housing regulations. As such, clothing such as harness or vests can help to confirm the validity of your ESA registration letter. Because they help to identify your pet visually, harnesses with an attached identification badge can also save you from feeling as though you have to keep explaining why you’ve got your pet with you.  

So, to answer the question of whether your ESA must wear a vest and harness, the short answer is no. However, to navigate public spaces more comfortably, we recommend they do.