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What is an Emotional Support Dog?

An emotional support dog is similar to a working service dog in that it is a companion animal whose function is to improve the life of its owner. An emotional support dog does not need any special training, however, while a working service dog needs very specialized training.
An owner can bring its designated emotional support dog into any public place as long as the dog does not present itself as a nuisance. The emotional support dog must be properly trained and very easy for the owner to manage in a public setting. If a dog bites or injures another person, then the owner is liable.

Is My Dog Eligible to be an Emotional Support Dog?

An emotional support dog can be any breed and any age of dog. Simply by being there, the dog provides vital stability to its owner. The owner’s disability or emotional and psychological challenges are significantly assisted by the presence of the companion animal known as an emotional support dog.

The greater legal question is, are you someone who legally qualifies as being in need of an emotional support animal? A therapist must diagnose you as having an emotional disability and be willing to write a letter on your behalf.

What is the Application Process?

A medical doctor can not clear you to be a support dog animal owner. This must be done by a licensed mental health professional. This verification form must be presented to property owners, airlines, and business owners who dispute your right to have an emotional support dog on-site with you.

The letter needs to state that:

  • You are an active patient of the licensed mental health professional who is writing the letter;
  • Your diagnosis and care plan are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, specifically versions 4 or 5;
  • Your life is significantly limited in at least one way by this disability; and
  • The emotional support animal is a necessary treatment for mental health.

If you do not have a therapist, you can apply through a licensed mental health services agency approved by federal departments of housing and transportation.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are properly diagnosed, your right to an emotional support dog is protected by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 as well as federal codes that dictate airline and transportation laws. If you are being denied your service animal or emotional support animal, you should speak with an employment lawyer right away.

Photo of page author Danielle Winterton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-14-2018 02:38 AM PDT

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