Assistance Animals (Service, ESA, Therapy)

There are three general categories of animals considered to be assistance (support) animals.

Emotional support animals

These animals are not always explicitly trained, but serve as a comfort to individuals with a documented mental health condition. There is no restriction for the breed of emotional support animals because all domesticated animals can serve as ESAs.

An ESA is not like a Service Animal. SAs have access into the public space. An ESA only penetrates no-pets-allowed housing and on airline flights. A Service Animal performs a task, is often highly trained and penetrates the public space.

Therapy animals

These animals are usually evaluated and registered by an agency and provide emotional support to individuals who need them. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes and in school reading programs such as Reading Educational Assistance Dogs.

Service animals

These animals have been specially trained to perform tasks their owner can’t do on his or her own. Guide dogs for the blind are perhaps the most well known in this category. Service animals are not required by law to wear vests or have any form of identification.

Eighteen states, including Virginia, Colorado and California, have laws that criminalize fraudulent representation of a service animal. These violations are usually misdemeanors, but repeated violations can result in jail time. West Virginia is not one of the 18 states, however, businesses could pursue a trespassing charge if a second incident occurs. Play it safe with an ESA!

 Emotional Support AnimalService DogTherapy Dog 
Right to bring animal into public establishments.
Needs to tolerate a wide variety of experiences.
May live with their disabled owners, even if "no pets" policy in place.
May fly inside the airplane with the disabled owner.
Primary function is to provide emotional support thru companionship.
Specially trained to assist just one person.
Provide emotional support and comfort to many people.
Handlers encourage these dogs to accept petting and socialize with other people while they’re on-duty.
Petting, talking to or otherwise distracting these dogs can interfere with their job and pose a serious danger to the dog and handler.
Subject to state laws regarding dog licensing and vaccination.
They'd love a cookie, please!

Assistance Animal FAQs

Do I need to register my emotional support animal?

There is NO REGISTRATION for either a service animal or an ESA. That’s all nonsense — sold by Internet vendors looking to take advantage of those in need.

Does my emotional support animal need to be spayed or neutered?

No, there are no requirements for an emotional support dog to be spayed or neutered.

Does an emotional support animal (ESA) require to wear any identifying clothes or a harness?

Federal law does not require Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals to wear any type of clothing or harnesses. However, we strongly encourage this since harnesses, leashes, patches and identifying items cut down on the hassles and unnecessary explanations when in public. We have found that these products drastically save time and frustration.

Does my ESA need a vest?

A person who is assisted by an emotional support animal must have a correctly formatted letter from a licensed mental health professional. That’s all. The ESA letter must state that the animal’s handler has an emotional or psychological disability identified in the DSM V and that the animal helps mitigate specific symptoms of the handler’s disability. The letter is all that is required.

To reiterate, however, an ESA vest made of a brightly-colored fabric, such as red or orange will help identify your pet as an emotional support animal.

It is NOT required.

Do emotional support animals need special training similar to a service dog?

Emotional support animals do not require specialized training. However, they do require a therapist letter in order to be considered valid. Service Dogs require specialized training because they perform a specific task for their owner such as acting as a seeing eye dog or calming someone down who has PTSD.

What animals will you qualify?

ESADoggy makes no designation or recommendation as to the specific animal an individual can or should have as their emotional support animal, no representation as to a particular animal’s fitness to function as an emotional support animal, and assumes no liability for the actions of the emotional support animal or its handler under any circumstance.

That being said, we will only consider dogs and cats.

What about my ESA goat?

We only recommend dogs and cats as emotional support animals.

Can you answer questions about Service Animals?

We’re in the emotional support animal business, and given this, we cannot offer advice or support regarding service animals.

Information regarding service animals can be found here and here.

Can I get three assistance animals?

ESADoggy does not assess/approve more than two emotional support animals. Our decision is based upon the current environment — aka the peacock in the airplane.

To be recommended an three or more ESAs would likely require multiple sessions, whereby your therapist could, in face-to-face sessions, understand and develop your disability-related need for each assistance animal — this is a time-consuming endeavor that is outside of the cost and scope of our current product offerings.

Do you inform clients about an ESA’s rights?

As previously mentioned, we try to educate our clients/potential clients regarding the legal rights on an ESA. All too common though, folks try to extend the rules, make an ESA into a service animal.

We don’t perpetuate that silliness, but we can’t stop individuals.

On a side note, we’re pertpetually “mystery shopped” by service animal activists who want to see if we’re bending the rules.

Who provides the animals?

Some clients come with animals … some get to go to the pound/rescue, etc.

That’s really not “my worry,” as I’m not in the animal biz per se.  We’re in the mental health field.

Can I have more than one Emotional Support Animal?

Maybe. That’s up to the discretion of the therapist prescribing your letter. Handled on a case-by-case basis, there needs to be a valid reason to recommend multiple ESAs.

Each emotional support animal must ameliorate a symptom associated with a mental disability.

Does my animal need any specific training?

The short answer is no.

There are no unique training requirements for an ESA, however, it’s important for your animal to be well-behaved. You will be held responsible for any property damage or harm to others.

What is the difference between a service animal and an ESA?

There are three general categories of animals who may be considered under these regulations:

Emotional support animals: These animals are not always explicitly trained, but serve as a comfort to individuals with a documented mental health condition. There is no restriction for the breed of emotional support animals because all domesticated animals can serve as ESAs.

An ESA is not like a Service Animal. SAs have access into the public space. An ESA only penetrates no-pets-allowed housing and on airline flights. A Service Animal performs a task, is often highly trained and penetrates the public space.

Therapy animals: These animals are usually evaluated and registered by an agency and provide emotional support to individuals who need them. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes and in school reading programs such as Reading Educational Assistance Dogs.

Service animals: These animals have been specially trained to perform tasks their owner can’t do on his or her own. Guide dogs for the blind are perhaps the most well known in this category. Service animals are not required by law to wear vests or have any form of identification.

Eighteen states, including Virginia, Colorado and California, have laws that criminalize fraudulent representation of a service animal. These violations are usually misdemeanors, but repeated violations can result in jail time. West Virginia is not one of the 18 states, however, businesses could pursue a trespassing charge if a second incident occurs. Play it safe with an ESA!