Maybe people are interested to know whether or not they are eligible for a Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA). Maybe you’re wondering this yourself.
In addition, you might like to know if you’ll be able to receive a Psychiatric Service Animal letter to legitimize your companion for landlords, airlines, and other organizations – so your PSA can accompany you without any trouble.
You’ve come to the right place – take our quick quiz to find out if you might qualify.
Read on for more information on Psychiatric Service Animals and PSA letters.
What is a Psychiatric Service Animal?
Many people are used to seeing guide dogs supporting individuals with hearing or sight impairment. While service dogs help individuals suffering from physical disabilities, psychiatric service animals (PSA) assist individuals living with mental and emotional disabilities.
A psychiatric service animal is a type of assistance animal trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. This training is the main difference between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals (ESA). While emotional support animals also assist individuals living with mental and emotional disabilities, ESAs are not required to receive training. Emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship to their owners through their mere presence.
The tasks a psychiatric service animal is trained to perform must be directly related to its owner's mental or emotional disability. For instance, a psychiatric service animal could be trained to alert others if its handler is epileptic and having a seizure.
Psychiatric service animals are commonly referred to as psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). Unlike emotional support animals, service animals can only be dogs and, in some cases, miniature horses.
Can I Take a Quiz to See If I Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal?
By taking our PSA qualification quiz, you’ll better understand your eligibility for a psychiatric service animal. Following this, Pettable will work with you to complete the next steps to pursue getting an actual PSA letter.
It’s important to remember that, for a PSA letter to be legally enforceable, you must complete a live consultation with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) – in person, or via phone or video call. During this consultation, you can explain your situation so the LMHP can have the details they need to write a legal and legitimate PSA letter for you.
(Some PSA services will claim to give you a PSA letter after you complete a questionnaire or quiz without a consultation with an LMHP. Beware of these – remember, your letter is only legal and legitimate when written by an LMHP, after a live consultation with them.)
If a PSA letter may be helpful to you for housing, travel, or other purposes, our quick quiz can get you started.
Who Qualifies for a Psychiatric Service Animal?
1 in 5 Americans experiences mental health illnesses, disorders, or illnesses. A Psychiatric Service Animal can be instrumental in helping people manage such mental health challenges. Several mental health issues can qualify a person for a psychiatric service animal.
What Mental and Emotional Disorders Benefit From a PSA?
Remember that to receive a PSA letter, you must be evaluated by a mental health professional and certified as having a recognized emotional or mental disability. Thus, you may benefit from a psychiatric service animal.
Many mental and emotional health issues may qualify a person for a PSA letter. Some common ones include:
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Panic Attacks
- Personality Disorders
You may be able to get a more complete list of these qualifying disorders from a mental health professional. Consult with one if you feel you have a condition that could benefit from having a psychiatric service animal.
How is a Pet Helpful For Mental Health?
Plenty of research has established that a dog, cat, or another animal can have therapeutic effects on its owners. Those with mental health illnesses can significantly benefit from the companionship of a psychiatric service animal. In fact, a pet or emotional support animal can improve an owner’s quality of life and even increase their lifespan.
Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets Help You Get Outside
One of the ways emotional support animals support their owners’ health and wellbeing is by helping people stay active. Caring for a pet keeps you busy and can help you get exercise and fresh air while walking a dog, taking a cat in for a check-up, or running to the pet store for some treats. The combination of getting out in the world and regular exercise can greatly impact many mental health issues.
Psychiatric Service Animals Help You Socialize
Having a PSA companion can also help people socialize more and create a broader support circle. There are many more people with PSAs than you might expect. When you discover other people who are helped by having a PSA, it can be much easier to connect with them and talk about the good things your PSA does for you, too.
That can create opportunities to help people living with a disability or reach out to others dealing with anxiety or depression. For many people, being of service to others is a great way to feel part of a larger community and also help themselves feel better.
Psychiatric Service Animals Can Help Quiet the Mind
Caring for and thinking about the well-being of a PSA is often a real help for people dealing with emotional and mental wellness challenges.
Many folks who live with an emotional support dog, cat, or other pet find that having a companion helps them focus outside themselves. That makes it easier to avoid rumination (overthinking) and calm social or other anxieties, often part of the conditions ESAs can help people deal with.
Psychiatric Service Animals Give Unconditional Love
Another thing that frequently helps with a mental disability or emotional disorder is knowing you have a source of unconditional love and support. Often, PSA owners report that the love they get from their animals is some of the most effective treatment they’ve found for the emotional and other health issues they struggle with daily. For many people, getting an ESA letter that lets them live or travel with a loving companion is critical to improving their overall well-being.
Who Decides if I Qualify for A Psychiatric Service Animal?
PSA rules and regulations state that only a licensed mental health professional can determine your eligibility for a psychiatric service animal. They have insights and knowledge to help them decide whether such a service animal would benefit you.
The mental health professionals authorized to write a PSA letter for travel or housing include the following:
- Behavioral Therapists
- Cognitive Behavioral therapists
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists
- Addiction Therapists
- Licensed Clinical Psychologists (Note: not all psychologists can write one)
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Doctors qualified to conduct mental health assessments
If you’re seeking out a PSA letter, remember to confirm that the professional evaluating you for one is licensed to make this decision and write you a legally recognized PSA letter.
How Do I Find Out if I Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal?
To discover whether or not you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal, seek a consultation with a licensed mental health professional, either in person or via phone or video call. During this discussion, you’ll explain the symptoms you’re experiencing and their impact on your life. The LMPH will evaluate your symptoms and condition to determine if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal. If you do, they can write you a PSA letter. This document is the only one that legally classifies a pet as a psychiatric service animal.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does Pettable Work with Me to Get a PSA?
Pettable’s PSA letter process is as smooth as possible for our users. We’ve worked hard to design a thorough yet simple process. When you work with us, you won’t have to worry about going in person to a medical clinic to be approved for a psychiatric service animal.
Our clinicians have extensive experience writing PSA letters and consulting clients on various issues that may arise regarding PSA letters. They are there to support you in whatever problems you may face.
Complete Our Assessment
Your first step in our process is to complete our online PSA assessment (click below to begin).
With the information in this quiz, we’ll be able to match you to the right professional for you and your situation.
Select a PSA Letter
Your next step is to inform us of the type of PSA letter you’ll need – whether that’s a housing letter, travel letter, or a combination of the two.
Fill Out HIPAA and Telehealth Forms
Next, we’ll send you some privacy and consent forms that authorize us to connect you with one of our clinicians. Once we have those signed off from you, you’ll be ready to move on.
Schedule Your Consultation
Once we have your approval and consent from those forms, we’ll connect you with the appropriate mental health professional so you can book an appointment. At this appointment, you’ll complete a mental health evaluation, assessing how a PSA will help you specifically with your mental or emotional health challenges.
Obtain Your PSA Letter Within 24 Hours of Your Appointment
After you’ve completed your consultation and the clinician determines that your emotional support animal(s) are essential to your care and wellbeing, they’ll write a personalized and legally recognized PSA letter for you. With Pettable, you’ll have the option to receive that letter within 24 hours of your consultation. (There is a small fee for booking an express consultation.)
Are There Any Other Fees Associated with Using Pettable?
You’ll provide a one-time payment at checkout that covers your consultation and your letter certifying 1-2 PSAs. Should you need a letter for additional PSAs, we will evaluate your unique situation and provide this at cost, if required. Typically each letter certifies up to 2 animals as PSAs.
What if I Pay for a Consultation, But Don’t Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal Through Pettable?
Any legitimate service that offers help to obtain a PSA letter should also provide a refund if you’re not approved for one after consulting with a licensed mental health professional. At Pettable, we go even further. We are so confident in the quality of our service that we guarantee your PSA letter will fit your needs. If it doesn’t, we’ll fix it. If we can’t, we’ll provide you with a refund.
How Do I Begin the Process to Get a Psychiatric Service Animal with Pettable?
Getting started in the process of having your Psychiatric Service Animal recognized legally is quite simple. Here are the steps:
- Complete our assessment
- Book a consultation at the end of the quiz
- Sign privacy and consent forms
- Schedule the phone appointment with your assigned clinician
- Receive your PSA letter within 24 hours after your consultation
What Are My Protections Under Federal Law?
The Department of Health and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for regulating housing-related protections. According to HUD regulations, landlords must accept your PSA letter and accommodate your PSA, as long as your letter is written by a licensed mental health professional who diagnosed you with a qualifying disability.
If you tell a landlord you have a legal PSA letter, they can only take the following actions:
- Ask to see your PSA letter
- Ask you to confirm that you have a disability (but not ask what the disability is)
- Ask if your disability is improved by having a psychiatric service animal (but not precisely how)
- Contact your clinician to verify that they have consulted with you to determine your eligibility for a PSA
Do I Need a Letter for a Service Dog?
Most of the time, no. For those who require a service dog to aid in physical disabilities, it’s not common to need a letter from a medical professional. This is primarily because the medical condition is usually visible in those situations.
For those with a service dog for mental or emotional support, it’s best to obtain a letter from a mental health professional. You’ll likely be asked for one if your PSA needs to accompany you in a new place of residence, on an airplane, or in another public place. The letter does not have to specify your diagnosis, but it does need to confirm that you have a disability that requires you to be accompanied by a psychiatric service animal.
How to get a Psychiatric Service Dog
You have two options if you are ready to begin searching for a PSD after taking a psychiatric service dog quiz. First, you can purchase an already trained service dog from an organization that trains PSDs. A professional trainer will teach these dogs to perform tasks specific to a handler’s disability and recognize public access skills, such as house training, sitting quietly by the handler’s side in public, and remaining calm and collected in various settings.
Interested parties also have the option to adopt an untrained dog from a shelter or purchase an untrained dog from a breeder. It’s essential to keep in mind that not all dogs have the potential to become service dogs. The dropout rates for service dog candidates can be as high as 50 to 70 percent at organizations that train PSDs. Therefore, if you are adopting or purchasing an untrained dog for it to become a PSD, careful consideration is required when selecting your dog.
The dog's temperament is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting your PSD. A dog with PSD potential must be reliable, keen-to-please, focused, highly intelligent, and cooperative. Some dog breeds naturally possess traits that make them susceptible to PSD training. Some of these typical psychiatric service dog breeds include:
- Labrador retriever
- German Shepherd
- Lhasa Apsos
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Border Collie
- Miniature Schnauzer
How to Train a Psychiatric Service Dog
There are a few routes that you can take to train a dog to become a PSD. The first option is to hire a professional dog trainer to train your PSD. While this may be the more convenient option, it is also the more costly one. Professional dog trainers typically charge between $150 and $250 an hour. Plus, it can take up to two years for a dog to be trained to perform all the support services its owner needs.
Interested parties can also train their dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not require service dogs to be professionally trained. Individuals with disabilities have the right to train a service dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog trainer or abide by any specific training program. Aside from teaching your dog to perform work or a particular task to assist with your disability, there is another basic training that all PSDs should receive.
For your assistance animal to be considered a PSD, it must be able to perform basic obedience tasks. This includes basic commands such as sit, stay, come, down, drop, heel, and leave. Depending on your dog’s breed or age, these commands might take weeks or months to teach. All PSDs must also be house-trained.
Psychiatric service dogs are granted access to all public spaces, from doctor's offices and movie theaters to grocery stores and restaurants. However, with that privilege comes great responsibility. A hyper, jumpy, distracted dog will not fit the bill for a Psychiatric Service Dog. PSDs must remain calm, especially in unfamiliar settings, as well as quiet, alert, relaxed, and friendly.
Exposing psychiatric service dogs to many different situations and environments is a part of social training. A PSD can not react to noise, commotion, chaos, or food smells when it is out and about. A PSD's primary focus must always be its handler, which can be difficult for dogs, who are usually stimulated by the hustle and bustle.
Most importantly, psychiatric service animals must be able to perform at least one task related to their owner's mental or emotional disability. Depending on the handler's needs, these tasks will vary for psychiatric service animals. For example, a psychiatric service animal may be trained to perform room and safety checks for someone grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Other disability-related tasks may include fetching medication, opening drawers, and serving as a barrier in crowded places.
There are various other rules that service animals must be able to follow in public places. These rules include:
- No sniffing other people or merchandise
- No begging for food
- No barking at other people or animals
- No aggressive behavior, including jumping onto or lunging at people or objects
- No relieving themselves in inappropriate behaviors (PSDs must be trained to go to the bathroom on command).
Training a service dog isn’t easy and can take up to a few years of intensive training. It is highly advised that you begin training your PSD as soon as possible, preferably when it is still a puppy. Training an older dog is a much slower and more challenging process.
Why Work with Pettable to Get Your PSD?
At Pettable, we’re committed to helping you overcome any obstacles from airlines, landlords, and others to keeping a psychiatric service animal or emotional support animal in your life.
With affordable fees, experienced mental health professionals, and our guarantee of effective PSD training, you can have peace of mind that you’re getting valuable service working through us for your needs.
We’re here to help and support you. Get started today by taking our quick quiz.