\nMany people have found that the companionship of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) plays an important role in alleviating symptoms of an emotional or mental disability. Dogs are the most common ESAs, although other pets (most often cats and rabbits) may qualify. Emotional Support Animals differ from service dogs in a few important ways. Service dogs are trained to perform certain physical tasks to help their owners, while ESAs do not require any specific training to provide emotional\/mental health support. Certification and legal accommodations differ for both. \nHere’s what you need to know about ESAs.\nRequirements. The ONLY requirement for an Emotional Support Animal is an ESA letter (sometimes mistakenly called an Emotional Support Animal prescription) from a licensed mental health professional or physician in your state. The letter states that an emotional support animal is a necessary aid for your mental well-being.\nDo I Qualify for an Emotional Support Dog? That question can only be answered by a physician or mental health professional. In general, the most common conditions that would qualify you for an ESA include, but are not limited to:\n -- General Anxiety Disorder\n -- Depression\n -- Panic Disorder\n -- Postpartum Depression\n -- Bipolar Disorder\n -- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder\n -- Impulse-Control Disorder\n -- Phobias and Fears\n -- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder\n -- Seasonal Affective Disorder\nObtaining a Legitimate ESA Letter. ESA letters are valid for one year. You can ask your therapist to write the letter for you or apply for one online. Either way, a legitimate ESA letter is written by a registered therapist or physician on his\/her official letterhead after a consultation with you. \nIn addition to your name, details about the support animal, and confirmation of your emotional disability, the letter should include: the therapist’s full name and qualifications; the state where he\/she is licensed to practice; the therapist’s license number and date of expiration; and the expiration date of your letter. It should be signed by the therapist.\nTelemedicine has made acquiring a legitimate ESA letter online a simple and convenient option. If this is your preference, here are some suggested sites. \nwww.myesadoctor.com\nwww.esadoctors.com\nwww.certapet.com\nBeware of Fraud! Avoid any site offering an ESA letter for a fee WITHOUT a clinical assessment or structured interview with a clinician. Being in possession of a fraudulent ESA letter can cost you up to $100,000 in fines as well as community service or imprisonment. \nA word of warning. There are a number of ‘Support Animal Registry’ and ‘Support Animal Certification’ sites designed to part you from your money. Emotional Support Animals DO NOT need to be “certified” or “registered.” They DO NOT require a special collar, tag, or vest. \nLegal Protections for Emotional Support Dogs. Two federal laws protect the rights of people with ESAs.\nThe Fair Housing Act ensures that individuals who require an ESA be granted reasonable accommodation to live with their animal, even in non-pet-friendly housing. A landlord may deny an ESA if the breed is too large, is considered a dangerous breed, or has exhibited threatening behavior. The law also prevents landlords and rental companies from charging any pet fee or deposit. However, if the animal is neglected or causes significant property damage, the landlord\/owner may be able to charge fees later. The law’s provisions extend to your workplace and college dorm.\nThe Air Carrier Access Act allows people to have their Emotional Support Animal (dog or cat only) accompany them in the cabin of an aircraft. Owners may not be charged additional fees. Airlines require prior notification and\/or review as well as a recent (less than a year old) ESA letter.\nNOTE: Unlike service dogs, ESAs are not granted access to establishments such as restaurants and malls and are not protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Amtrak does not recognize or accommodate ESAs, although for a fee they allow pets up to 20 lbs. with certain restrictions. \nTravelling and Caring For Your Emotional Support Dog A pet stroller can help keep your emotional support dog safe and comfortable as you travel. A convertible stroller such as HPZ Pet Rover can provide carrier protection required on public transportation. Having your emotional support dog in a stroller can protect their physical wellbeing should you be on long foot journeys, or difficult terrain. While your emotional support animal is trained to ignore other animals, other dogs may pose the potential for attack, and a stroller provides protection. Dogs’ feet have very sensitive pads and walking on hot pavement can cause severe burns. While it’s rare, there have been instances of emotional support animals being stolen, and a pet stroller provides security. A pet stroller provides a comfortable spot for your dog to rest while you may be in a meeting or otherwise stationary. For auto travel, a stroller which converts to a car seat, such as the HPZ Pet Rover, offers important protection. Your emotional support dog takes care of you, and having a pet stroller for safety, security and comfort is a way you can take care of your pet.