What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

by Haley Mills · July 1, 2023

Discover the power of emotional support animals! Learn what they are and how they can help you. Click now!

If you’ve heard the term emotional support animal or ESA before, you may wonder what it means and how it differs from a service animal. ESAs have become increasingly popular in recent years, but there is still some confusion surrounding what they are and who qualifies for one.

In short, an ESA is an animal that provides emotional support to someone with a mental or emotional disability. They are not trained to perform specific tasks like service animals but rather provide comfort and companionship to their owners. This article will explore what distinguishes ESAs from service animals, who qualify for an ESA, and the legal rights and responsibilities of owning one.

Defining Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

So, you may want to know, what exactly is an emotional support animal (ESA)? An emotional support animal is a type of animal that provides emotional support to individuals who have a mental or emotional disability or disorder. These animals are not considered pets, but they are seen as a necessary tool for individuals who need the support and comfort provided by their animals.

ESAs can be any animal, from dogs and cats to birds and even miniature horses. The animal must be well-behaved and trained to behave appropriately in public settings, as they may accompany their owners to various places such as restaurants, stores, and even on airplanes. While ESAs are not considered service animals and do not have the same rights and protections, they are still essential for individuals who rely on their companionship and support to function in their daily lives.

How ESAs Differ from Service Animals

Did you know that ESAs have different roles and responsibilities than service animals? While both types of animals provide emotional support to their owners, there are some key differences between them. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks that help their owners with disabilities, while ESAs do not require any training and provide comfort and companionship to their owners.

Service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can accompany their owners in public places such as restaurants, stores, and airplanes. ESAs, on the other hand, are protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) but do not have the same public access rights as service animals. ESAs are allowed to live with their owners in housing that typically does not allow pets and can accompany their owners on flights at no additional cost. However, they are not allowed in public places that do not allow pets, and their owners must provide documentation from a mental health professional stating that they require an ESA for emotional support.

Qualifying for an ESA

To qualify for an ESA, you need to meet certain criteria that allow you to receive the necessary support. The first step is to have a diagnosed mental or emotional disability significantly affecting your daily life. This can include anxiety, depression, PTSD, or phobias. Your disability must be recognized by a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, who can provide a letter stating that an ESA would benefit your mental health.

Once you have the letter, you can request an ESA from your landlord or airline. It’s important to note that while ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, you may still need to provide additional documentation and follow certain rules, such as keeping your animal well-behaved and properly cared for. Researching and understanding your rights and responsibilities as an ESA owner is important.

Benefits of Having an ESA

You’ll love having an ESA because they offer a sense of companionship and help alleviate loneliness. Emotional support animals are known for their ability to provide comfort and support to their owners in times of distress. They can help ease anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions by providing security and unconditional love. For those who may struggle with socialization or feel isolated, having an ESA can be a beneficial way to connect with the world around them.

In addition to emotional support, an ESA can also provide physical benefits. For example, having a dog as an ESA can encourage its owner to be more active and get outside for walks. This can lead to improved physical health and overall well-being. ESAs can also improve their owner’s sleep patterns by offering a calming presence at night. Overall, the benefits of having an ESA can be extensive and life-changing for those needing it.

Is an Emotional Support Animal the Same as a Therapy Animal?

Yes, emotional support animal letters legitimacy has been a topic of discussion lately. It is important to note that emotional support animals and therapy animals are not the same. While both provide comfort and support, emotional support animals are specifically for individuals with emotional or mental health issues, whereas therapy animals are trained to provide therapy to others.

Legal Rights and Responsibilities of ESA Owners

As an ESA owner, it is important to understand the legal rights and responsibilities associated with having a designated animal for emotional support. Under the Fair Housing Act, individuals with disabilities can have an emotional support animal in their home, even if no-pet policies exist. This means that landlords cannot discriminate against an individual with a disability who has an ESA, and they cannot charge additional fees or deposits for having one.

However, it is important to note that ESA owners also have responsibilities. They must provide proper care for their animal, ensure that it does not cause damage to property or harm to others, and follow any rules or guidelines set forth by their housing complex or other public places. Additionally, ESA owners must have a letter from a licensed healthcare professional stating that they require an emotional support animal to cope with their disability. ESA owners need to understand their rights and responsibilities to ensure that they can have a positive and successful experience with their designated animal.


In conclusion, emotional support animals (ESAs) provide unique support for individuals with mental health conditions. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not require specialized training and can include many animal species. Qualifying for an ESA requires a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional and can provide benefits such as reduced anxiety and improved mood.

However, it is important for ESA owners to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, including the ability to live with their animals in housing that otherwise does not allow pets. Overall, ESAs can offer much-needed emotional support and companionship to those in need.

Last Updated: April 4, 2024

Certify Your Emotional Support Animal Today

Keep Reading