How Many Emotional Support Animals Can You Have?
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?
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 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?
The ADA 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.
Here is a direct quote from the Federal ADA law:
Some people with disabilities may use more than one service animal [or emotional support animal] to perform different tasks. For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use one service animal [or emotional support animal] to assist with way-finding and another [emotional support animal] that is trained as a seizure alert dog. Other people may need two service animals [or multiple emotional support animals] for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking. - ADA
The ADA States That Your Emotional Support Animals or Service Animals Can Be Used To Help With The Same Disability
The ADA also states that your emotional support animal does not need to support you in a different manner than your other emotional support animal. Specifically, if both your dogs help you with depression, then the ADA recognizes that both may play a crucial role in supporting you in your depressive symptoms. The ADA explicitly states:
Other people may need two service animals for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking. - ADA
The ADA Says Your Request Must Be Possible To Accommodate
The ADA does place some limits around the Federal rules for multiple support animals. For example, suppose your request to enter a private business with multiple support animals can't be reasonably accommodated. In that case, the private business may have the right to deny your request to bring in more than one of your support animals. This would be like if you bring two Great Danes to a tiny restaurant and both your dogs aren’t able to fit under the table, the staff may request that one of the dogs remain outside. Here is what the ADA specifically says:
If both dogs can be accommodated, both should be allowed in. In some circumstances, however, it may not be possible to accommodate more than one service animal. For example, in a crowded small restaurant, only one dog may be able to fit under the table. The only other place for the second dog would be in the aisle, which would block the space between tables. In this case, staff may request that one of the dogs be left outside - ADA
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.
Meaning, 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:
- Service Dogs
- Emotional Support Dogs
- 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 Are You Planning To Travel With And Does Your Request Feel Reasonable?
Next, to have your legal rights protected when you travel, we encourage you to think about whether your request is reasonable (as per the ADA). For a clinician to feel comfortable writing emotional support animal letters for someone who wants to bring multiple cats or dogs on an airline, for example, they’ll need to explain clearly how each supports your mental disability.
Allowing one ESA to travel with you is seen as reasonable most of the time, so you’ll need convincing reasons to get an emotional support animal letter for multiple companions.
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. An ESA provides emotional comfort to a person with emotional or mental wellness challenges through physical companionship.
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, the 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.
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.
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.