Information on Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are dogs that provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. An emotional support dog is not required to perform any specific tasks for a disability like service dogs are. They are meant solely for emotional stability and unconditional love. They can assist with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, panic attacks, fear/phobias, and other psychological and emotional conditions.

Emotional support dogs are protected under federal law

Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), an individual who meets the proper criteria is entitled to an emotional support dog to assist them with their life. The FHAA protects individuals by allowing their emotional support dog to live with them (even when there are no pet policies in place). The ACAA protects individuals by allowing the emotional support dog to fly with them in the cabin of an airplane (without having to pay any additional fees). Any dog can be an emotional support dog, and emotional support dogs do not have to be professionally-trained.

A Medical Recommendation is Required

You are required to have a letter from a doctor or mental health professional recommending that you have an emotional support dog for your condition. You may be asked to present this letter by airline staff when flying or by your landlord when renting a home.

Identifying emotional support dogs for the public

Emotional support dogs are often identified by wearing an emotional support dog vest or tag, letting the public know that it is an emotional support dog; otherwise, their handlers will find themselves having to explain that their dog is an emotional support dog. Some businesses, such as airlines, prefer to see an identification card or vest that indicates that the dog is an emotional support dog.

List of Disabilities
An emotional support dog can assist with various kinds of mental and emotional conditions.

Here is a list of some mental and emotional conditions individuals may have that may be helped by having an emotional support dog:

Anxiety
Depression
Bipolar disorder
Mood disorder
Panic attacks
Fear/phobias
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Suicidal Thoughts/Tendencies
Do you have a Disability?
The National Institute of Mental Health shows that more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States have some form of mental disorder. If you are suffering from an emotional or psychological condition then you are entitled to an emotional support dog. Consult with your physician for more information.

Living With Your Emotional Support Dog
The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) gives individuals the right to live with their emotional support dog regardless of any building or residences with a no-pet policy. Building managers or landlords may not refuse your emotional support dog. You are required to have a current (within the past year) letter from a doctor or mental health professional recommending that you have an emotional support dog for your condition.

Flying With Your Emotional Support Dog
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows emotional support dogs on airplanes when individuals with emotional support dogs are traveling. A written note from a doctor or mental health professional is required by the airlines that is not more than one year old. Also, your emotional support dog must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. There is no additional charge to travel with your emotional support dog. You should let your airline know 48 hours before your scheduled departure that you are bringing an emotional support dog so that they can make the proper accommodations for you.

Information on Service Dogs

Service dogs are dogs that have been individually trained to perform a specific task for individuals who have disabilities. The disabilities can vary greatly, and so do the tasks that the service dogs perform. Service dogs can aid in navigation for people who are hearing- and visually impaired, assist an individual who is having a seizure, calm an individual who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and even dial 911 in the event of an emergency. Many disabled individuals depend on them every day to help them live their everyday lives.

Service dogs are protected under federal law

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability is entitled to a service dog to help them live their lives normally. The ADA protects disabled individuals by allowing them to bring their service dog with them to most places that the public is permitted, including restaurants, hotels, housing complexes, and even in air travel. Any dog can be a service dog, and service dogs do not have to be professionally-trained. The important thing is that the dog is trained to be a working animal and not a pet.

Identifying service dogs for the public

Service dogs are often identified by wearing a service dog vest or tag, letting the public know that it is a service dog; otherwise, their handlers will find themselves having to explain everywhere that they go that their dog is a service dog. Some businesses, such as airlines, prefer to see an identification card or vest that indicates that the dog is a service dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has a specific definition of a disability, and it states essentially that a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.

List of Disabilities


A disability can take many forms, including bodily functions such as those of the neurological, respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and reproductive systems.

Here is a list of some disabilities that individuals may have that may be helped by having a service dog:

Mobility Issues (Including Paralysis)
Sensory Issues (Blindness, Hearing Loss, etc.)
Diabetes
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Cancer
Autism
Epilepsy
Bone and Skeletal (Such as Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, etc.)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Do you have a Disability?
If you are limited in your ability to perform major life tasks such as seeing, hearing, standing, walking, eating, sleeping, thinking, speaking, or other similar tasks, then you likely have a disability that would make you eligible to have a service dog under ADA laws. The service dog helps you in performing the particular tasks that you would otherwise be unable to perform without the service dog.

Your Disability and Public Knowledge
You are NOT allowed to be asked by an owner, manager, or other representative of a business what your disability is that allows you to have a service dog. That information is private and you do not have to disclose it to anyone if you are asked. The only information that may be asked is if it is a service dog, and what tasks the service dog is trained to perform for you. For example, if you have a mental illness that requires that you take medication and your service dog is trained to alert you when it is time to take your medication by tugging at your shirt, then you may explain the task your service dog performs, but you are not obligated to divulge the nature of your illness or disability.

Living With Your Service Dog
ADA law gives individuals the right to live with their service dog regardless of any building or residences with a no pet policy. A service dog is not considered a pet and is required for daily life functions and activities. Building managers or landlords may not refuse your service dog nor may they require you to submit any pet deposits or fees for your service dog.

Hotels fall under the same policy as well. They are not permitted to deny access to you or your service dog and may not charge any extra fees or collect any deposits.

Flying With Your Service Dog
ADA law also allows service dogs on airplanes when individuals with service dogs are traveling and they do not have to pay an extra fee to have their service dog by their side. Here are the guidelines that some of the airlines have with regards to flying with your service dog:

Jet Blue
Documentation and Requirements for Traveling with a Service Animal
Service Animals
Service Animals shall have identifiers such as identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags or “the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal”.

American Airlines
There is no charge for service animals used by customers with disabilities. A harness, tag or vest indicating status as a service animal will be helpful in distinguishing them to airport personnel. However, credible verbal assurance that the animal is providing a service to assist with a disability will suffice should an inquiry be made.


US Airways
To show that an animal is a service animal, you must provide one of the following:
Animal ID card
Harness or tags
Other written documentation
Credible verbal assurance


Virgin America
Service Animals
Service animals (seeing eye dogs and other animals that are appropriately certified by a physician or other credible person/agency, etc.) may accompany a Guest with a disability on a flight. Any of the following evidence is acceptable as proof of an animal’s service status.
An identification card for the animal;
The presence of harness or markings on harnesses tags; or
The Guest’s credible verbal statement.


Alaska Air
Service Animals
There is no additional charge to travel with a working service animal.
A harness, tag or vest indicating status as a service animal will be helpful in distinguishing them to airport personnel. However, credible verbal assurance that the animal is providing a service to assist with a disability will suffice, should an inquiry be made.
Properly harnessed service animals may sit at the traveler’s feet, unless the service animal is too large and obstructs an aisle or other area used for emergency evacuations.
 

Updated August 12, 2017 at 3:23 PM

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