Many people researching Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters on Pettable ask if they can have more than one emotional support animal and exactly how many ESAs they can have. We turned to one of our highly experienced mental health experts to help you understand the rules and requirements for having more than one ESA. In this article, we share everything a person with a disability needs to know about having multiple ESAs, what to do to get your dog, cat, or other pets certified, and how to obtain an ESA letter.
How Many Emotional Support Animals Can You Have?
How many emotional support animals you can have depends on whether each animal alleviates separate symptoms of your mental health disability. To confirm whether this is the case, you need to consult with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state, who can write you an ESA letter for your animals.
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How Many ESA Can You Have?
According to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act, you can have more than one emotional support animal, but the number may depend on your specific situation and the recommendations of your mental health professional. Make sure to check with your therapist and follow the regulations set by your state or local laws.
How Many ESAs Can You Have?
You can have as many ESAs as you need. There are no rules or guidelines saying you can only have a certain number of emotional support animals. As long as the emotional support animals do not violate state or local laws, your request is reasonable, and both you and your licensed mental health professional agree your ESAs provide you necessary mental or emotional support, you can have one, two, or as many Emotional Support Animals as you need. But, you need to follow government ESA rules and guidelines to make sure you can keep your ESA companion with you at home and when you travel.
We base our ESA guidance on the four most authoritative sources:
- The Federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing Act rules
- The Air Carrier Access Act
- Advice from Licensed Mental Health Professionals
Each of these sources plays a role in helping you figure out how many emotional support animals you can have, and we'll dive into what each one tells us.
What Does Federal Law Say About Multiple ESAs?
Federal laws from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have been put in place under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that protect emotional support animals – including situations in which an individual may require multiple ESAs. These laws acknowledge the fact that sometimes individuals need different assistance animals for different purposes. In addition, a person may need multiple assistance animals to serve the same purpose – but each animal may be equally essential to that person’s coping with and treatment for their disabilities.
The FHA Recognizes That People May Need More Than One Emotional Support Animal
Federal law explicitly recognizes that individuals may require more than just one emotional support animal. For example, if one of your pets helps you with anxiety and another pet helps you stay active (which benefits depressive symptoms), both emotional support animals are deemed necessary to your mental health.
HUDs stance on multiple ESAs per Michigan State University College of Law:
HUD acknowledges that there are circumstances where a person could need more than one assistance animal. For example, a person has a disability-related need for more than one animal, or two people living together each have a disability-related need for a separate assistance animal. Each request would be individually evaluated based on the criteria explained in the guidance.
No Federal Law Exists that Limits the Number of Emotional Support Animals You Can Have
In some cases, a person may have multiple emotional support animals that assist with unique symptoms of the same diagnosis/disability. For example, a person with depression may experience both fatigue & low motivation. While one animal may assist with getting their owner's energy levels up by getting them out of bed first thing in the morning, the other animal may require being walked first thing in the morning to help resolve low motivation.
The FHA Says Your Request Must Be Possible To Accommodate
While the Fair Housing Act does not forbid multiple ESAs, landlords are only required to provide "reasonable accommodation" and may deny emotional support animals if they cause "undue financial burden". As a result, the quantity of emotional support animals a person can have is partially dictated by what can be considered as reasonable to accommodate. For example, 2 or 3 ESAs may be okay, but 50 assistance animals may cause undue financial hardship on the landlord.
What Does The Department of Housing Say About Multiple ESAs?
The Department of Housing and the Fair Housing Act’s guidance for landlords and people who want to bring emotional support animals into their housing complex is relatively straightforward.
The Fair Housing Act and HUD recognize that individuals may need multiple emotional support animals and simply state that your request for reasonable accommodation must be, well, reasonable.
This means that if you live in a tiny New York apartment, having a horse live with you (not sure that would be enjoyable in the first place) is most definitely not a reasonable request.
However, if you have two or three dogs that serve as your emotional support animals, plus they're well-behaved, and you're not stuffing them into a tiny apartment, that would likely fall under reasonable accommodation. In that case, you'd be able to move in with them provided you have proper ESA Letter documentation to share with the landlord.
What Do Mental Health Professionals Say About Multiple Emotional Support Animals?
ESA Letters require a live consultation with a licensed mental health professional. During this evaluation, the LMHP will look at the purpose that each of your emotional support animals serves in helping manage your mental or emotional symptoms. Specifically, a therapist is looking to understand:
- What is your relationship with each emotional support animal?
- How does each emotional support animal help you to deal with your disability?
For a mental health professional to write you ESA documentation for more than one emotional support animal, they need to first determine that each emotional support animal does in fact help you with your disability and that you can speak to how they specifically help. You’ll need to be able to describe your unique relationship with each emotional support animal.
Most mental health clinicians will also ask the context of why you need your ESA letter. They need that information to help them determine if your request for ESA letters and multiple assistance animals falls under the standard of reasonable accommodation.
If your clinician feels your situation does not meet the standard for reasonable accommodation, they will likely not approve a letter for multiple ESAs, even if you are able to speak to the specific therapeutic relationship with each one. This would be the case if you were asking for an ESA accommodation for 10 cats in rented housing – this likely wouldn’t pass the “reasonableness” test, and a clinician likely wouldn’t be able to sign off on letters for all of them.
So How Many Emotional Support Animals Can I Have?
Ok, so we’ve covered a bunch of stuff about laws around assistance animals. How do you figure out whether you can have more than one emotional support animal, and can you get an ESA letter for each one?
Here's a checklist you can run through before going through the whole process to feel reasonably confident that you will or won't qualify.
What Kind of Emotional Support Animals Do You Have?
First, what kind of emotional support animal(s) do you have? Whether you can get an ESA letter for them might depend on how your ESA helps you and where you need them to be accommodated. Here are some common animals:
- Miniature Horses/Pigs (really!)
- Other Assistance Animals
Whether you are entitled to accommodation for each kind of support animal will depend on its size, your living or other situation, and your specific needs. A clinician will need to look at those factors to decide if your request is likely to be considered reasonable according to the laws and if they can provide you with an ESA letter.
How Does Your ESA Help You?
Next, think about how each of your assistance animals helps with a mental or emotional disability. Remember, the mental or emotional disability they help you with does not need to be different for them to qualify as an ESA. If you need language for your disability, here is a list of common ones:
- Various Kinds of Phobias
- Panic Attacks
- Personality Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
What Is Your Housing Situation Like And Does Your Request Feel Reasonable?
Next, we encourage you to consider whether your request is reasonable for housing (as per HUD and the FHA). First, what are your living conditions?
- Are you in an apartment?
- Is it a small apartment?
- Will having your ESA (dogs or cats) potentially risk damaging the apartment?
Remember your request for accommodation needs to be reasonable, and if your request feels reasonable, you'll be protected by the FHA and protected as a tenant.
How Many ESAs Are You Planning To Travel With?
At the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it revised its Air Carrier Access Act regulation on the transportation of service animals by air. We are working to update the information provided below to align with the changes. While we take the time to update our information, check out a summary of the changes available on DOT’s website.
The Fair Housing Act does not require public places or airlines to allow ESAs, however some airlines still choose to accommodate emotional support animals. The amount of animals allowed and whether you will be charged for them will depend entirely on the airline you travel with. We recommend you research an airline that works for you and call ahead before your date of travel to explain your situation.
If you have a service dog, they are generally allowed onboard all flights free of charge. Airlines are only allowed to deny transport to service dogs under certain circumstances, such as if the dog violates safety requirements (too large/heavy) or poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. If you have an ESA, they may qualify to become a Psychiatric Service Dog, a type of service dog for those with mental health disabilities. Read our article on how to get a psychiatric service dog for more information on the requirements.
What Is An Emotional Support Animal?
If you’re considering obtaining one or multiple emotional support animals of your own, it’s important to understand exactly what emotional support animals are. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals are animal companions that offer comfort, friendship, and emotional support to those struggling with an emotional or mental disability. Emotional support animals can come from any of the places that pets come from. One or many emotional support animals can be adopted from shelters, purchased from breeders or pet stores, or obtained from anywhere else that a pet could come from.
One or several emotional support animals can help those struggling with major life activities and have difficulty falling asleep, are frequently worried, or whose life is severely affected by any mental condition that's diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional. One or many emotional support animals can provide unconditional love to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other mental health illnesses.
While dogs are the most common type of emotional support animal, any species of animal can qualify to become a legitimate emotional support animal. As long as the animal is proven to alleviate at least one aspect of a person’s mental and emotional disorders, their emotional support cat, horse, bird, or any other animal or pet they feel connected to can turn into their official emotional support animal.
Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals
One essential factor to remember about owning one or multiple emotional support animals is that they are very different from service animals. Understanding these significant differences is crucial to allow you to properly choose and certify an animal that best satisfies your needs. Below are the major differences between emotional support animals and service animals.
Service Animals Perform More Tasks Than ESAs
Many people believe that emotional support animals and service animals are interchangeable, but these two types of animals are trained for separate tasks. A service animal is specially trained to perform a function or job for an owner that has a physical, intellectual, emotional, or mental disability. An emotional support animal serves as more of an emotional companion for the owner to help with major life activities. A service animal may still be able to provide the comfort of an emotional support animal, but it has been trained to complete tasks that a support animal will not, such as checking blood pressure or alerting others if their owner’s health or well-being is in danger.
Service Animals Are Protected Under Federal Law
Service dogs are usually needed more frequently as they help the owner with physical tasks. Therefore, they are offered legal protections through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that emotional support animals do not get. You can take a service dog almost anywhere that you go and they legally cannot be denied access. A person can own multiple assistance animals, as long as they are all deemed necessary to treat a person’s disability by a licensed mental health professional. On the other hand, an emotional support animal doesn’t share the same legal protections. It’s important to understand that if you have an emotional support animal, they may not be allowed into areas that a service animal will. Legal protection of an emotional support animal is limited to housing and air travel. However, there may be businesses that will allow you to bring your emotional support animal inside, so you’ll have to check with state or local beforehand to see where emotional support animal allowed places are.
Service Animals Require Proper Training
Unlike Emotional Support Animals, who need no formal training, Service Animals must be trained on tasks that assist their handler with their mental or physical disability. Service animals are also required to undergo general obedience and public access training to ensure they are able to behave in public spaces and provide their essential services to their handler even when surrounded by distractions.
However, contrary to popular belief, a professional trainer is not required in this process. The ADA explicitly states that owners can train their service animals from home. Having a professional trainer involved in the process can nonetheless be a valuable asset both to ensure the quality of the animals training, and to ensure a smoother experience when traveling. If you are looking to train a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD), consider our online training program guided by a professional dog trainer experienced with service dogs. The online self-guided video courses will give you the confidence and knowledge required to train your very own PSD.
How An Emotional Support Animal Is Beneficial
Mental health professionals note vast improvements in patients with a mental or emotional disability thanks to the presence of one or multiple emotional support animals. Below are the mental health benefits of having an emotional support animal.
They Provide Mental and Emotional Encouragement
Having one or multiple emotional support animals provide comfort to owners with mental health issues, especially to those who have:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety disorders
- Specific phobias like agoraphobia and aerophobia
- Bipolar disorder
During tough times, multiple emotional support animals can help individuals stabilize intense emotions that are the results of the mental illnesses mentioned above. Studies show that animals, especially dogs, help humans stimulate neurotransmitters that send happy signals to the brain. Dogs can help re-regulate the flow dopamine, which helps reduce both depression and anxiety. This is the neurochemical associated with love, bonding, and pleasure.
When you take care of another living being, such as an animal companion, your capacity to love increases, and you feel less depressed. People suffering from loneliness feel safer and loved when they have an animal around. Having one or many emotional support animals, especially dogs, also gives you a reason to go out for a walk, maybe a run, or spend time outdoors. These are all good for your mental well-being.
They Give Unconditional Love
Animals can feel love and give love, too. The truth is that one or many emotional support animals can provide unconditional love. They give love unconditionally to people struggling with mental health decline or an illness like depression or grief. With the unconditional love provided by these animals, a person will feel loved and get back on their feet after a difficult emotional experience.
Feeling loved can dramatically improve a person’s overall mental health. This is important for a person to re-engage with the people around them, form loving relationships, and have more meaningful relationships with their loved ones.
Animal Therapy Works in Conjunction with Other Forms of Treatment
Therapists or counselors are becoming more aware that one or many emotional support animals work in concert with other forms of treatment to overcome mental illness. It’s like advising patients to exercise and eat nutritious food to control the symptoms of a mental health problem or avoid depression.
Assistance animals, including emotional support animals, are used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Pets are also utilized for mindfulness techniques, to help patients find a sense of purpose, encourage people to spend more time outdoors (by walking their dog), and help individuals feel safe during highly stressful events. Whichever form of therapy works for you, you will find that emotional haven you need when you incorporate an emotional support animal into your treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind of Animal Can Be an ESA?
Any animal can qualify as an emotional support animal as long as they meet the criteria defined by either the FHA and HUD and the ADA. If a licensed mental health professional determines that your cat, dog, or other pet acts as an ESA, they will provide an emotional support animal letter that will help protect your rights for housing, travel, and other purposes.
What's the Difference Between a PSD and an ESA?
A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is a Service Animal trained to support a specific individual who is diagnosed with a mental illness. PSDs assist by reacting to their owners’ emotional cues or in stressful situations. PSDs training includes performing specific tasks to protect, alert, or distract their owners.
An emotional support animal is not required to be trained to serve only a specific individual or perform a specific task. ESAs are naturally emotionally supportive with their general disposition, which provides emotional comfort to a person with emotional or mental wellness challenges.
How Much Does It Cost to Have More than One ESA or Service Pet?
Many services will tell you that you need documentation for each ESA you have, but HUD does not require that, nor is it required by the FHA or the ADA. We also consulted with each therapist on our team – they explained that the most important thing when writing an emotional support animal letter is that the clinician needs to understand and explain what they call the “nexus” of your relationship with each ESA you own. That takes more time and work, and most services and therapists charge extra for more than one ESA.
Does Pettable Charge For More Than One ESAs?
At Pettable, we get how critical your ESA is to your mental health, and we understand the ESA laws and regulations (HUD, FHA, ADA, ACA, etc.). We also work with each therapist on our team to make sure we can provide a high-quality and affordable service for you and your ESA.
As a result, we accommodate up to two pets per ESA letter for no additional charge. Yes, that requires our therapist team to do more in their evaluations, but all of us at Pettable are dedicated to making our services affordable.
We do have to charge per letter when we provide you with documentation for 3 or more ESAs. Our guideline is up to 2 ESAs per official letter.
What Should Tenants Say to the Landlord If They Have Multiple Emotional Support Animals?
The same rules apply if you have one ESA or more than one ESA. Specifically, your landlord has the right to request documentation (an emotional support animal letter) in which your therapist certifies your need for an ESA.
They can ask whether or not you have a disability and ask if each of your ESAs helps with your disability. But, for both housing or travel, state and local laws are clear: no one can ask you to tell them exactly how your ESA helps or what assistance they provide. They also can't ask what disability you have. A person's disability cannot impact whether a landlord provides reasonable accommodations to its tenants.
Suppose the person or organization you are dealing with has additional questions about their obligation to accommodate your ESAs. In that case, the best thing to do is direct them to the therapist who determined your diagnosis, and they can confirm that your emotional support animal letter documentation is valid and legal.
If needed, Pettable customers also have access to our legal team to help explain and protect their rights under the ADA, FHA, and other laws.
Is there a limit to how many service animals you can have in an apartment?
No, the Fair Housing Act and the Department of Housing simply say that the request for ESAs must be reasonable. A person should not be penalized for their medical need for an assistance animal, regardless of his or her disability.
So, if you have multiple large animals you’re trying to cram into a tiny apartment, that will probably be considered unreasonable. On the other hand, if you have smaller animals to fit into a small apartment or a larger apartment for several larger animals, that will likely be looked upon as more reasonable. Emotional support animals allowed in apartments can continue to support their owners unless they cause health hazards or a direct threat to anyone's safety. Generally, ESA cats, dogs, and other animals on the smaller side will do well in an apartment.
What does an ESA letter need to say?
A valid ESA letter must include your licensed healthcare provider’s official letterhead, license number, contact information, and the date the letter was issued.
The body of the letter must use specific wording to explain your need for emotional support pets. While it cannot give specific information about your medical issues, it must state that you have a qualifying condition. The ESA letter also must say that your symptoms are improved by the companionship of your ESA animals. Finally, it must include the medical professional’s request for reasonable accommodation for your assistance animals.
If it is an ESA travel letter, it must also state that your ESA is needed to accompany you during travel due to your mental or emotional disabilities. It’s best to have your letter on hand when you plan to travel or go out with your support pet. Most places do not have to accommodate ESA animals, but some may.
How to make a pet an emotional support animal?
If you have a pet that you feel contributes to your mental health, it could be worth finding out if you can qualify them as an emotional support animal.
The process is actually quite simple. You must be evaluated during a live consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who determines that you have a mental health disability. They also need to determine that your pet’s companionship helps to reduce some of your symptoms of that disability, making life more livable for you.
Once your licensed mental healthcare provider has determined your eligibility, they can write you an ESA letter. Once you have a valid ESA letter in hand, your pet will now be recognized as your emotional support animal.
For more information on how to get an emotional support animal, check out this post.
Who can write an emotional support animal letter?
Only a licensed mental health professional can write an ESA letter. This includes
- Licensed clinical social workers
- Licensed marriage and family therapists
- Family doctor with experience in mental health
- Licensional counselors
- Licensed professional mental health counselors
- Licensed clinical psychologists
Can apartments charge for emotional support animals?
No. The law does not allow for property owners to discriminate against people with disabilities. Because of this, even housing providers that typically charge for pets to be allowed on the premises cannot charge for your to keep your emotional support pets with you.
Can any dog be an emotional support dog?
Any size or breed of dog has the potential to become an emotional support dog. Emotional support dogs don't need special training, like service dogs, to help someone with an emotional or mental disability. A service animal performs tasks for someone while an emotional support dog offers comfort. Your pet must be well behaved around others, under your control at all times, and must not pose any threat to the health and safety of others. Also, though not required, it’s a good idea to get them spayed or neutered to prevent the arrival of an unexpected puppy litter, as well as any aggressive behaviors related to mating.
To make it official, you must receive an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare provider certifying that you have a mental health condition that is improved by the presence of your pet.
For more information on how to make your dog an ESA, check out this post.
Can you get an emotional support dog for anxiety?
Of course. If your anxiety is determined to be inhibiting your life, and a dog could help reduce some of your anxiety symptoms, it’s definitely worth looking into. Several emotional support animals may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety to a pet owner, but a dog could help someone coping with anxiety.
Emotional support dogs provide companionship to the owner that can go a long way in helping ease mental health conditions, such as anxiety.
For more information on emotional support dogs for anxiety, check out this post.
Do landlords have to accept emotional support animals?
Yes, as long as your request for accommodation is within reason, the emotional support pets pose no threat to others, and you have provided your landlord with a valid ESA letter, they must accommodate your ESAs. Whether a person has one emotional support animal, two, or more, a landlord must accept the animals unless the request is unreasonable. Pet fees for a person's assistance animal will also be waived, so having additional pets for a medical reason will not create a financial burden in regards to pet fees.
What is an ESA dog?
Because there are several types of working dogs, it can sometimes be difficult to keep them all straight. A service animal is a pet, usually a dog, that has been specially trained to help a person perform tasks like seeing or hearing. Someone may need a service animal for a variety of reasons. Some dogs are individually trained to help a visually impaired person while others are trained to help someone who may be hard of hearing. A psychiatric service dog also needs training to help individuals struggling with things like schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, or something similar.
An ESA does not need to be individually trained to support someone with mental health issues. Therapy dogs are also different from emotional assistance animals. Therapy dogs travel from hospitals to nursing homes and other places to offer comfort and love to residents. An ESA dog helps people cope with various mental illnesses.
Dogs can make wonderful emotional support animals. An ESA dog, or emotional support dog, is simply a dog that has been officially certified with an ESA letter to provide comfort and some relief for the owner’s mental or emotional disability. In other words, an LMHP has determined that the dog’s companionship is an essential part of the owner’s treatment and coping with their condition.
What If My Letter Does Not Work For Me?
At Pettable, we know how vital our service is to our customers, and we stand behind it 100%. We guarantee that the ESA letter you obtain through Pettable will do everything it is supposed to under the law. If it ever doesn’t, we will fully refund your purchase.