Emotional support dogs (ESDs) have the power to change your life. For people with mental health disorders, ESDs can relieve symptoms like anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and much more. In most cases, an ESD can complement any treatment plan for mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, general anxiety, depression, and even some more serious conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For these reasons, millions of people around the world use an ESA to relieve stress and other mental health conditions.
That said, emotional support dogs have unique laws and rules that determine where you can go with them. Plus, it’s important to not confuse these rules with laws for service dogs. Read on to learn about where you can take your emotional support dog, and check out this full guide on exactly what an ESD is and how they can help.
What Is an Emotional Support Dog?
Emotional support dogs are dogs that offer mental health support to people who need it. These dogs have a legal designation to help people, which is provided by an emotional support animal letter (ESA letter). Emotional support letters allow you to take your dog with you to places that other pets can’t go.
However, this doesn’t mean they’re service animals. In fact, there are a few differences between EDSs and service dogs.
What’s the Difference Between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Dog?
Service dogs and ESDs are different for a handful of reasons. The biggest factor is the training because a service dog needs to go through extensive training before they earn their designation. Service dogs are also trained to perform a specific task, which can be anything from pushing a wheelchair to giving someone their medication.
Another key difference is that emotional support dogs aren’t protected by the same laws. While you can have them in your home, service dogs are legally allowed to follow people just about anywhere.
How Do You Get an Emotional Support Dog?
Emotional support dogs have become easy to get as long as you have a mental health condition and a dog with a mild temperament. To get an emotional support dog, you need to speak with a licensed mental health professional and have them recommend you for an ESA letter. You can do this in person or online with a reputable emotional support dog specialist.
We always recommend going the online route because it’s quick and easy. Just enter your information, your dog’s information, and schedule a call with a licensed mental health professional. If you’re looking for a streamlined process US Services Animals is a great place to get started; you can check out their full ESD guide here.
Now that you know all about ESDs, let’s explore where they can go.
Where Can You Take an Emotional Support Dog?
Emotional support may be able to go with you to places that normal pets can’t go. That said, there are still limits. We’ll cover some places where you can take an ESD and how you can go about taking them there.
Can I Take My Emotional Support Dog Home?
Yes, you can take your emotional support dog home with you. This is one of the most common reasons to get an emotional support dog. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords can’t discriminate against people who have disabilities, which include mental health disorders. For this reason, you can have a dog with you in homes that aren’t pet-friendly as long as you have an ESA letter.
That said, you do have to be careful. If your dog damages property or harms other people, landlords can revoke your privileges.
Can I Take My Emotional Support Dog on Airlines?
Yes and no. In the past, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) protected ESAs on airlines and allowed you to take your dog where you’re sitting. Unfortunately, the law changed in 2020. Now, ESDs have to travel with other dogs in the cargo hold. In some cases, you can take your dog with you if they’re small enough to be considered carry-on luggage.
Depending on the airline, you can also ask for special access by providing them with your ESA letter. Airlines have the right to not allow your dog to be other passengers, so this won’t always work.
The good news is that even if you can’t take them on a plane you can arrive at the same destination and enjoy the rest of your time with them.
Can I Take My Emotional Support Dog to Public Places?
Yes, in most cases you can take your ESD to public places. There are some situations where you can’t but most public places are pet-friendly. If you’re worried about being denied entry because of your dog you can check with the venue before you go. Providing your ESA letter might also help your chances when visiting places like entertainment venues and museums.
Can I Take My Emotional Support Dog to Private Businesses?
Depending on the business, yes, you can take your emotional support dog into private businesses. This is at the discretion of the business owner, so make sure you check with the company before you go. The nature of the business may also play a role. For example, restaurants might be more opposed to this concept than a place like PetSmart.
Overall, you can bring your ESD with you to most places as long as you check first. The only exception is housing, which is protected by law.
Enjoy the Comfort of an Emotional Support Dog on Your Next Adventure
Emotional support dogs can go with you to places that other dogs can’t, especially housing that isn’t otherwise pet-friendly. As long as you’re approved by a licensed mental health professional and have an ESA letter, your chances of bringing your dog out in public also increase. Always check with public places and businesses before you bring your emotional support dog somewhere for the best results.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from health, nutrition and psychology.