Animals for Emotional Support

By Michele Robert Poche

What is an emotional support animal?
An ESA is a companion animal prescribed by a licensed mental health professional as part of a treatment program designed to bring comfort to and minimize the negative symptoms of an individual with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Am I required to register my ESA?
No, but it is highly recommended as it will greatly reduce any complications you could otherwise encounter with an unregistered companion. To register your animal, visit

What are my legal rights? 
There are laws for housing (Fair Housing Act) and air travel (Air Carrier Access Act) that enable the disabled to be accompanied by an ESA.

What animals qualify as ESAs?
Any domesticated animal (dogs, cats, birds, rodents, teacup pigs, ferrets, rabbits, reptiles, etc.) can serve as an ESA at any age. No special training is needed but they must be manageable in public settings.

Source: National Service Animal Registry (