Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

In 2006 I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) the year before I started working with animals professionally. After years of being in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, I finally got enough courage and by the grace of god to get out alive with my dogs.  However after I left, both my dogs and I had severe emotional issues because of it.  It took me almost a decade of cognitive therapy, yoga and 12 step program for people that want healthy relationships, and life with my client dogs, to heal those wounds and to turn traumatic events that happened to me into something positive to help other people and their dogs. 


And I've made it my life's mission to help others with their own dogs and heal ourselves along the way.  Because of what I have been through, I learned that dogs have the same feelings as we do they just communicate differently.  I know what dogs are going through in terms of anxiety and emotional issues, that lead to behavior issues.   After my therapist office was not aware of the process of prescribing a dog for anxiety issues instead of medication, I did my own research and with their cooperation, I was able to get my own dog Barry who also came with a host of his own issues to become my Emotional Support Animal (ESA).  


Emotional Service Animals (ESA) do not perform a specific task other than offering a calming presence to help alleviate anxiety and reduce the need for medications and can live in housing that normally would not allow animals, as well as fly with you. They do not have access to all public locations. 

It was through training him that I knew that I would become better.  By helping him work with his issues I was actually working through my own issues. We often say "dogs are our mirrors" and most rescue dogs have been through trauma themselves. So it's by understanding their trauma, we can help them process their emotions and feelings by working through our unique "life changing dog training" process. We help the dogs achieve a state of balance and therefore help their humans too.  



National Service Animal Registry  




What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a person's licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability.


What Animals Qualify To Be An ESA?

All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific task-training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person's psychological/emotional disability, unlike a working service dog. The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.


How To Qualify

For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Typically, a medical doctor does not qualify because they are not a licensed mental health professional. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor, however.   


The letter should state that:

  • You are currently his/her patient

  • Are under care for the treatment of mental disability found in the DSM IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5).

  • Your disability substantially limits at least one major life activity.  He/she prescribes for you and emotional support animal as a necessary treatment for your mental health.

  • In addition, the letter must be dated, written on his/her letterhead, include his/her license type, number, date of license, and state in which the license was issued


Do You Have A Therapist?

If you have no therapist or your therapist is unwilling to write such a letter, NSARCO recommends using Chilhowee Psychological Services; a licensed mental health services agency that specializes in online/telephone disability assessments and offers letters of prescription to clients who qualify. This agency is approved by the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (the agencies that govern the laws protecting emotionally disabled handlers and their ESAs): www.cptas.com


What Are Your Legal Protections and Rights?

The Air Carrier Access Act 49 U.S.C. 41705

Dept. of Transportation 14 C.F.R. Part 382

Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 are the laws that protect an emotionally disabled person and his/her ESA.


The Legal Protections an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has are to:

  • Fly with its emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in the cabin of an aircraft without being charged a pet fee. Check out NSARCO website for detailed information on Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal.

  • Qualify for no-pet housing (that also includes limited sze, breed, or species housing) without being charged a pet fee. Check out NSARCO website for detailed information on Housing Rights For You And Your ESA.


No other public or private entity (motels, restaurants, stores, trains, taxis, busses, theaters, parks, beaches, libraries, zoos, etc.) is required to allow your ESA to accompany you and in all other instances, your ESA has no more rights than a pet. That means they aren't protected by law to accompany you into any public place that does not allow pets. That doesn't mean these places won't let you, it just means that they are not required to, by law.