For those who experience mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, an emotional support animal (ESA) can greatly increase their quality of life. An ESA can provide a sense of comfort, help ground their handler, and even calm panic attacks or flashbacks simply by their presence. Unlike standard animal companions, an emotional support animal must be deemed necessary to a patient’s well-being by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP); because of this, ESAs are granted certain privileges – such as being allowed to live in housing with “no pet” policies, and being exempt from breed and weight restrictions or pet rent and security deposits.
While many assume you’re legally required to register your emotional support animal, that’s not the case; the only legal requirement is an ESA prescription letter from an LMHP in your state. However, many ESA registration sites offer photo IDs, legal support, and identifying accessories for your ESA (like vest or collar tags) in order to minimize potential disputes with your landlord. Keep in mind, there are illegitimate ESA registration sites that may overcharge you or provide you with an inadequate prescription letter. Luckily, we’ve sorted through the most promising options and narrowed them down to our three top picks, so you can register your ESA with confidence.
Top 3 Emotional Support Animal Registration Services
- U.S. Service Animals – Best Overall Emotional Support Animal Service
- Certapet – Runner Up
- Valid ESA – Best Budget Emotional Support Animal Service
How to Choose the Best Emotional Support Animal Registration Service?
The most important things to look for are an ESA registration service that provides an ESA letter as well, and that offers a real video or phone call diagnostic session with a licensed mental health professional in your state; without these two components, your animal cannot legally be considered an emotional support animal. Next, you’ll also want to consider price, customer service quality, legal support, and turnaround time. We considered all these factors when selecting our top three ESA registration services, listed below.
3 Best Emotional Support Animal Registration Services
If you want to be completely confident in your ESA registration service, we couldn’t recommend U.S. Service Animals more highly. Not only do they offer exceptional legal support, in case you run into hassles in the future, but they were actually founded by lawyers – so there’s no doubt that they meet every legal requirement. Their customer service team is also wonderful, so you’ll never feel alone in the process.
While U.S. Service Animals is highly regarded, it’s also an excellent value – they offer a money-back guarantee, and you can even register multiple animals as ESAs for no additional cost. And if you’re in a hurry, you’ll be comforted to know you typically receive your ESA letter within just 24 hours. The only downside we found is that they do send a lot of promotional materials after you’ve registered, but we think it’s worth the slight annoyance, considering how outstanding everything else is. And we’re not alone in our approval – they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a perfect 5.0 score on Trustpilot with nearly 3,000 reviews!
-Founded by lawyers
-Strong legal and customer service team
-Great value and doesn’t charge for multiple ESA registrations
-A+ rating with the BB- 5.0 Trustpilot score
-Sends too many promotional mailings after registering
Certapet is a fantastic option if you are looking for a simple and quick ESA registration service. For instance, if you aren’t sure if you’re eligible and don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted time by going through the entire process, you’ll be interested in Certapet’s approach: they offer a free, 5-minute pre-screening test that evaluates your eligibility before you are scheduled to speak with an LMHP. Once you pass this evaluation, you’re able to schedule your appointment.
We also love their excellent customer service, as well as their fast turnaround time. However, we are a bit troubled by their offering psychiatric service dog (PSD) letters – which are not legally required and are honestly misleading to offer. They also offer a payment plan, but the first $35 is non-refundable, which may be an issue if you’re on a very tight budget. Still, overall, they’re a reliable service and may work well for someone who wants to spend as little time on the process as possible.
-5-minute eligibility pre-screening
-Excellent customer service team
-Payment plan offered
-First $35 of the payment plan is non-refundable
-Offers a misleading and unneeded PSD letter
If you’re closing minding your budget, then Valid ESA is a great choice you can trust; they also offer a strong legal team, which isn’t always the case with other budget options. If you aren’t approved for an ESA prescription, after speaking to an LMHP through them, then you aren’t obligated to pay at all. Valid ESA also stands out by offering psychiatric support dog training courses, so if an ESA isn’t enough for your treatment plan, you can look at adding a PSD to your life as well.
We also like that they don’t offer accessories, like vest and collar tags, that aren’t legally required. While these can be helpful in order to avoid landlord disputes, not offering them is a clear sign that they are focused on the well-being of their customers and aren’t simply out to make a profit any way they can. One issue we found though is that there is no way to check out on your phone – you have to speak to an ESA expert to input your credit card info. While this may be annoying for many, it can place undue stress on those who suffer from social anxiety or related conditions.
-Strong legal team
-Offers PSD training courses as well
-Does not sell legally non-required items
-Must checkout over the phone
-Process may be stressful for those with social anxiety or similar disorders
Emotional Support Animals – Frequently Asked Questions
To help make your ESA registration process even smoother, we’ve answered the most pressing questions about ESAs below.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is any animal that has been deemed necessary to a patient’s well-being by a licensed mental healthcare provider. While they are not trained in specific tasks to aid their own, like service dogs, their presence provides a grounding sense of comfort that can help reduce mental health disorder symptoms.
How Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?
To qualify for an emotional support animal, you must be officially diagnosed with a mental health disorder by a licensed mental health professional in your state. This LMHP must also declare, in a letter written on their letterhead, that an ESA would benefit you due to your diagnosed disorder.
Do Emotional Support Animals Require Specific Training?
Unlike service animals, like guide dogs, emotional support animals do not require specialized training. However, they do need to be well-behaved so that they are not a nuisance to neighbors or a danger to anyone.
Is Registering Your Emotional Support Animal a Requirement?
Registering your emotional support animal is not legally required; all you need is an ESA prescription letter from a licensed mental health professional in your state. In fact, one of the easiest ways to spot an illegitimate ESA registration site is if they do not offer an ESA letter and only offer ESA registration services. However, many legit sites will offer both, and may even offer other unrequired but helpful accessories, like vests, collar tags, or leashes, to help prevent landlord disputes.
How Does the ESA Letter Process Work?
While each emotional support animal registration site may have slightly different steps required, the general process is:
- Submit your contact information to the ESA site.
- Receive a phone call from an ESA expert to answer your questions and schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health professional in your state.
- Have your session (either by video call or by phone) with the licensed mental health professional to find out if you qualify and receive your diagnosis.
Receive your ESA letter, sometimes within as soon as 24 hours.
How can you tell if an ESA letter is legitimate?
To be legitimate, your ESA letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional in your state of residence. This letter may confirm your diagnosis, and it must state that an emotional support animal will benefit you due to your diagnosis. It also must be written on your LMHP’s official letter (even if it’s submitted to you via email), and you must have had a video or phone call with your LMHP before the letter was written.
Does a cat qualify as an emotional support animal?
Yes, a cat – or any other animal that complies with local zoning laws – can qualify as an emotional support animal if your licensed mental health professional approves them.
Is there a size limit for an emotional support animal?
No, there is no size limit for an emotional support animal, as long as your animal complies with all local zoning laws.
Can I have more than one emotional support animal?
If your licensed mental health professional approves multiple ESAs for you, you are allowed to have multiple.
My apartment has a strict “no pet policy,” but can I still have an emotional support animal?
ESAs are protected by the Fair Housing Act, and as such, they must be allowed to live in any housing, including those with no-pet policies. You also cannot be charged pet rent or a pet security deposit for an ESA, and they are exempt from weight and breed restrictions.
Does my emotional support animal need a vest?
Legally, your emotional support animal does not require any visible identification at all, including vests, marked leashes, or collar tags. However, you may choose to have your ESA wear items like this to avoid confrontations or disputes with your landlord, etc.
Can I fly with my emotional support animal?
Since ESAs are no longer considered service animals legally, they are not granted public access rights to airplane cabins. However, some airlines may still allow an ESA to board, often with an additional fee charged. Make sure and check with your respective airline before your flight.
Are emotional support animals valid in all 50 states?
ESAs are federally protected, and as such, they are valid in all 50 states. However, keep in mind that to be legally valid, the licensed mental health professional who writes your ESA letter must be licensed in your state of residence.