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Can a Reptile be an Emotional Support Animal?

Any animal that is commonly kept as a pet can qualify as an emotional support animal, including reptiles! The only criterion is that your pet helps alleviate symptoms of your mental health disability. Speak with a licensed mental health professional in your state to get your reptile ESA status.

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Matt Fleming
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January 17, 2024
December 4, 2023
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6 minute read
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Expert Reviewed By:
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December 4, 2023
August 18, 2021
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Any pet that provides you with emotional support for your mental health disability can qualify as an ESA. Speak with a licensed mental health professional to make your Reptile an ESA with Pettable today.

Since you can’t train reptiles to perform tasks, you might find that your favorite gecko, chameleon, turtle, or python gives you the comfort and companionship you need to get through your daily life. Due to the comfort they provide, your pet reptile may qualify as an emotional support animal. To know for sure, you'll need to consult with a. licensed mental health professional who will assess both your mental health and how your favorite reptile helps you get through the day. Learn more about emotional support reptiles with the experts at Pettable.

Can a Reptile Be an Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, reptiles can serve as emotional support animals (ESAs) for individuals with mental health conditions. While they may not express emotions in the same way as mammals, the presence and care of a reptile can provide comfort and companionship, contributing to the well-being of their owner. ESA status, however, requires a prescription from a mental health professional.

What are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are much like your standard pet: domesticated, well-loved, and more. However, an ESA provides just a bit more to help its owner live with an emotional or mental health disorder. While dogs are preferred for psychological service animals, ESAs can come in any domesticated species, as long as it isn’t harmful to the owner or others.

What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

Unlike physical and psychiatric service dogs, ESAs can be any domesticated animal that brings its owner mental and emotional relief— including some reptiles. So, in addition to cats, birds, and rodents, reptiles can be ideal for individuals who would prefer a cold-blooded assistance animal. Even some larger animals, especially miniature horses, can make great emotional support animals (or physical service animals).

Some common ESAs include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Bearded dragons
  • Turtles
  • Geckos
  • Hedgehogs
  • Domesticated rats and mice
  • Minipigs
  • Mini horses
  • Ferrets
A woman outdoors with her emotional support lizard

Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Reptile

Snake-loving individuals with emotional struggles may find numerous benefits from their ESAs, such as:

  • Reduced Anxiety
  • Relieved Stress and Depressive Symptoms
  • Reduced Loneliness
  • Improved Sleep Quality
  • Other Intangible Benefits

How Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Reptile?

  • You must have a diagnosed mental health disorder
  • Your reptile needs to support or alleviate symptoms of your mental health-related disability
  • Qualifying conditions include:
  • Mental Health Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Cognitive Disorders
  • Motor Skill Disorders

How to Get an Emotional Support Reptile

It can be easier than you may think to get an ESA letter for your reptile. Thanks to Pettable, you can make your snake an official assistant in just a few steps.

Take Our Assessment

First, take our online ESA assessment to determine your eligibility. By answering a few quick questions, our experts can assess your needs, prepare recommendations, and guide you through the rest of the process.

Consult with a Licensed Mental Health Professional in Your State

Before our professionals can issue your ESA letter, you’ll need to consult with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state. They can make an official diagnosis of your condition, which will enable our team to finish the process.

Receive Your ESA Letter

Finally, our friendly professionals will prepare and issue your ESA letter, which will give you some privileges when it comes to housing. Now, your reptile is officially your emotional support animal and can legally live with you — just don’t expect it to pitch in for rent.

A woman lounging on the couch with her emotional support turtle

What Is Your ESA Letter Legally Required to Have

  • Official letterhead of your licensed mental health provider
  • Statement about your disability diagnosis and ESA qualification
  • License and contact information for your LMHP

Where Can You Go With Your Emotional Support Reptile?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers some protections to those living with emotional and mental health disorders. With your ESA letter, you’ll be able to bring your snake along in some of the most important aspects of life, including:

  • Housing: Apartment complexes or rental homes that would not normally allow pets.
  • Flights with Select Airlines: An ESA can accompany you in some instances of travel, as long as they do not pose a threat to other passengers.
  • Some Hotels: You can bring your emotional support snake to some lodging locations, as long as the animal doesn’t threaten other guests or pose possible damage to the premises.
  • Some Public Places: You might be able to bring your ESA along in some public accommodations, but only at the discretion of the specific spaces and management.

Emotional Support Reptiles vs Psychiatric Service Animals

While an ESA provides comfort and support, a psychiatric service animal (PSA) is trained to perform specific tasks to help their handler in their daily lives. These tasks can include fetching medication, performing deep pressure therapy (DPT), emergency response, and more. 

While an emotional support reptile might have a few protections, a PSA (typically a service dog)  has more. While an ESA’s protections in some areas are at the discretion of those in charge, a service dog is guaranteed accommodation in most public places, including restaurants, shopping centers, and medical facilities. Your slithering sidekick has to stay at home.

Are Reptiles Good Emotional Support Animals?

For lizard lovers and their ilk, reptiles can make great emotional support animals, and in many ways, they’re better than larger animals. For one thing, reptiles are almost always lower maintenance than larger or furrier friends. Plus, they are naturally hypoallergenic, odorless, and easy to care for, and their sheer presence can bring happiness to their owner. They are easy to control by experienced handlers and their feeding requirements are easy to follow. Just make sure your guests don’t mind a scaly sidekick hanging out on game night!

Can a Landlord Refuse an Emotional Support Reptile?‍

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords are prohibited from discriminating against anyone with an official ESA letter — within reason. In some instances, a landlord may legally deny an ESA if they can demonstrate that the animal will cause undue hardship or pose a threat to other residents. Reptiles are uncommon pets, and some people aren’t as comfortable near lizards and snakes as they are around cats and dogs. 

However, if you feel that you are wrongly accused, you may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where officials can investigate any potential discrimination and determine if their worries are valid. However, it’s always best to be open and upfront with any housing managers before running into a conflict.

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming
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Matt is a Midwestern-based writer and devoted dog dad, living with a sweet mixed-breed pup named Robin. A life-long dog lover, he had the pleasure of growing up with several German Shepherds, a Cocker Spaniel, and a Black Labrador. He is a full-time editor, as well as a musician and poet, who loves basketball, birdwatching and listening to The Cure and Nick Cave.

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