Clearing the Confusion Over Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s)

 Many articles are emerging and causing a lot of confusion about emotional support animals. It is time to clear the air. 

Here are some of the claims and articles I’ve seen:

  1. I don’t have a disorder or anything, and my ESA helps keep me that way.
  2. I take my ESA with me everywhere, and people always come and pet her/him.
  3. I bought a certificate and vest online; you can too!
  4. ESA’s are only for people with disabilities, not mental conditions.


What’s wrong with these statements?

  1. ESA’s are only for those with documented conditions and usually for those who have tried all other means of treatment first.
  2. ESA’s do NOT have public access rights, and this is causing a huge problem for legitimate service animals who do have that right. Also, it is making the general public think it is now okay to pet service animals because not many know the difference between Service, Emotional, or Therapy animals.
  3. If you truly need it, your doctor/therapist will write you the letter. If you’re buying a certificate and vest online, you most likely don’t need it, so please just stop.
  4. Mental conditions are categorized as a disability; no it’s not physical, but it can still greatly affect day to day life.

Above is a great infographic that you should take time to familiarize yourself with. I wish everyone could see this and finally understand the difference. 

Most of my knowledge on Emotional Support Animals from my own experiences. 

First, ESA stands for emotional support animal. They are not specifically trained. If you are looking for an animal that is trained on psychological disorders, there are psychiatric service animals for certain disorders. ESA’s require a certified therapist or doctor to write a letter; it is basically a prescription explaining why the ESA is a necessity. Another thing to know is that they are technically not pets, they have more purpose than to be a companion. 

Something I cannot emphasize enough is that they are NOT allowed in public establishments where it isn’t clearly stated pets are allowed. That means you can’t take your ESA into restaurants, stores, hotels/rentals or public transportation. 

 What having an ESA letter does allow you to do: bypass any pet fees or no-pet rules in housing/apartments. However, there is a loophole for landlords: they can’t deny you from living under their management, so that means they could say you have to live in this building we own that does allow pets. So always check with the landlord what their policy is for ESA’s. Having the letter also allows you to bring your ESA on commercial airplanes with you. Again, check with the airline’s policies before you buy a ticket.

You may be asking, why is this such a big deal? People who take advantage of ESA’s by either getting their fake letter online or not following the rules are making it much more difficult for those who need an ESA and even more difficult for those who have service animals. Establishments are getting sick of unruly pets or people passing their pets off as service animals when they aren’t, so they are more suspicious of every service animal that walks through their door when service animal owners should not have to deal with this hassle. Also, when people act like their ESA’s get the same treatment as service dogs but then let strangers pet their dog or cat, it confuses people, especially kids, into thinking it’s also okay to pet service animals. 

If you need an emotional support animal, talk to your doctor or therapist; there are many studies that prove the benefits of having one. If you just want some extra perks for your beloved pet, please don’t. You’ll ruin it for us all who do need one.