Which Animals Qualify as Emotional Support Animals?

By January 30, 2020 February 1st, 2020 Pet Behavior, Pet Care

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are common domestic animals that provide therapeutic support to certain individuals, including those who are disabled or elderly. An ESA provides companionship, affection, non-judgmental positive regard, and a focus in life. Most ESAs are dogs, but they can also be cats or other animals. For someone to be prescribed an ESA by a medical professional, they must have a verifiable disability.

Which Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

Any domesticated animal may qualify as an ESA. Not just dogs and cats but other animals such as rabbits, ferrets, and birds – even rats and mice. An ESA can be any age, and, unlike working service animals, they don’t need any specific task-training. This is because their very presence helps mitigate symptoms associated with someone’s psychological and/or emotional disability. The only suitability requirement is that the animal should be manageable in public and is not a nuisance in or around the home. Click here to see some unusual ESAs.

How Do Emotional Support Animals Qualify?

Unlike service animals, other animals don’t really need to qualify as ESAs because they are not required to perform specific tasks. Rather, the prospective animal handler must show eligibility by demonstrating an emotional and/or mental need to have an ESA with them at home and when traveling. 

How Does a Person Qualify to Receive an Emotional Support Animal?

The legal requirement to qualify for an ESA is that the person must be diagnosed as emotionally disabled by a mental health professional (a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist) who supplies a properly formatted prescription form. Usually, a medical doctor is not involved, although some property managers and airlines will accept a verification letter from a family physician. 

What Is an ESA Dog Required to Wear?

Federal law does not stipulate that service dogs or ESA dogs must wear any distinctive clothing or harness. However, an owner should make their dog look as official as possible to prevent confusion when taking them places. 

Are Any Animals Excluded From Being ESAs?

The law does not exclude any particular kind of animal from becoming an ESA. However, commonsense needs to prevail. For example, if an emotionally disabled airline passenger desires to fly with their ESA goat, the airline will probably require the goat to be crated and placed in the cargo hold. Occasionally, an ESA makes the news. This was the case when a disruptive ESA support pig and its owner were made to get off a plane. 

In an Emergency, Bring Your ESA to CVETS

CVETS knows that most pets are unofficial emotional support animals. At CVETS, we understand that although you may not be emotionally disabled, you are emotionally attached to your animal companion, be it a dog, cat, or parrot. This is why we offer the highest level of emergency treatment for ESAs and all pets.