Does Your Senior Pet Qualify as an Emotional Support Animal?

We are a publicly-supported 501C3 nonprofit. Your purchase through links on our site supports our mission. Learn more.

We are a publicly-supported 501C3 nonprofit. Your purchase through links on our site supports our mission. Learn more.

Pet owners who qualify their pet as an emotional support animal, or ESA , can receive certain benefits that they may not ordinarily receive.

What is an Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals change the lives of people around the world by providing companionship, comfort, security and love. An ESA is more than just a beloved pet, these animals help to alleviate the challenging symptoms of a wide range of emotional and mental disabilities. An ESA is a designated companion animal that provides comfort and support to a person dealing with a diagnosed emotional, mental, or psychological disability. An ESA may also be an assistance animal or support animal that helps their owner or handler manage the symptoms of a mental or emotional condition.

Many people who have ESAs feel an improved sense of well-being from the daily routine of caring for an ESA.

An emotional support animal differs from a service animal or a therapy animal in that it does not perform a specific task or job, instead their purpose is to offer relief in challenging situations. A service animal helps owners complete certain tasks or alert owners in the event of an oncoming physical or emotional episode. A therapy dog provides comfort and joy through their presence. Therapy dogs typically work with large groups of people, not just one specific person.

Types of Emotional Support Animals

Dogs and cats are typically the most common ESAs, but almost any animal can fulfill an ESA role. The animal must be trainable so as to ensure good behavior in public places. An ESA cannot pose a danger to other people or animals.

An existing pet can be an emotional support animal but there are certain rules that apply and a licensed professional must provide the official recommendation and documentation for each ESA you may have.

ESA qualifiable conditions


A licensed mental health professional will need to provide an evaluation and diagnosis in order for you to pursue an official ESA certification for an animal. Common conditions include:

  • Panic and anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Phobias
  • Mood disorders

Many doctors are hesitant to write ESA letters due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. An ESA letter is an important and extremely useful document for anyone considering an ESA because the official documentation “prescribes” an emotional support animal to the individual. The letter states that the person has a diagnosed disability and is allowed an ESA as a result. The ESA letter applies to you as the patient rather than to a specific animal.

An ESA letter functions as official ESA documentation securing your rights under applicable ESA laws. You would need an ESA letter for air travel with your emotional support animal as well as filing an official request for housing accommodations for your ESA. Your rights granted by ESA laws apply to travel and housing and ensure you receive fair treatment.

Although you cannot take an ESA just anywhere, there are some limitations on where you can take it. Most businesses are legally permitted to deny entry of an ESA, while certified service animals are required to be allowed. However, if you contact the business ahead of time and communicate your situation, you may find that many are willing to make accommodations if possible.

An emotional support pet can be a life changing addition to many people’s lives. There are services available that make acquiring the required documentation easy and hassle free.

To learn more about getting documentation for your ESA, please visit Support Pets.

We do not endorse or promote any products or companies. You should always consult your vet to determine what is most appropriate for your senior pet.

With your help, we can keep senior pets out of shelters and place them in loving, caring homes. Your gift can help save senior pets from an uncertain future.

Scroll to Top