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What is a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Letter & How to Get One

A PSD letter, or psychiatric service dog letter, is a document written by a licensed mental health professional that states your need for a psychiatric service dog. Although not a necessity, the document can be useful for showing to your landlord as proof that you need your service dog for accompaniment due to a seen or unseen mental health disability. PSD Letters alone cannot be used for travel as proper training is required.

April Brightman
April 2, 2024
November 29, 2023
6 minute
Updated By
Anthony Corbo
April 2, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
November 29, 2023
August 18, 2021
6 minute
April 2, 2024
Though a psychiatric service dog (PSD) letter is not a necessity, it can be useful for protecting your rights. Get one from an LMHP in your state.

A psychiatric service dog letter is a document that can greatly help you with housing, employment, and travel. Obtaining one is simple, all you need to do is speak with a licensed mental health professional who can diagnose your need for a psychiatric service dog. A PSD letter itself is not legally required, but can still be beneficial to have.

PSD Letter

A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) letter is a written document provided by a licensed mental health professional that verifies an individual's need for a psychiatric service dog. This letter outlines the person's mental health condition, explains how the dog assists them, and serves as documentation for legal rights and accommodations associated with having a service dog. It alone does not perfit you to travel with your PSD, proper training is required.

What is a PSD Letter?

A psychiatric service dog letter (PSD letter) is a document that proves your need for a service dog. It serves a similar purpose to a prescription, detailing that you have a qualifying disability and that a psychiatric service dog is part of your care plan.

A PSD letter should be written by a licensed health professional on the official letterhead of their practice. It should also contain their licensed number and a direct recommendation for a service dog to support your disability.

Do I Need to Get a PSD Letter?

Getting a psychiatric service dog letter isn’t required to have a PSD. Still, it provides proof that you may want when making a reasonable request for accommodation when it comes to housing or employment. It should be noted, however, that a PSD letter alone is not permissible or even necessary for traveling with your psychiatric service dog – you must be able to attest to your dog having been trained to assist with a specific task that benefits you psychologically and how the dog was trained.

How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Letter?

To get a psychiatric service dog letter, here are the steps you’ll need to complete:

  1. Take Pettable’s assessment to determine your eligibility
  2. Consult with one of our licensed health professionals across all 50 states
  3. Receive your psychiatric service dog letter for housing, employment, or travel needs
A woman embracing her psychiatric service dog in front of a shelter

Psychiatric Service Dog Requirements

The requirements for psychiatric service dogs are set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They define service animals as dogs who are trained to perform specific tasks that are directly related to supporting an individual’s disability. This means that a PSD letter alone is not enough to travel with, a psychiatric service dog must be properly trained as well.

Psychiatric Service Dog Training

There are no requirements for psychiatric service dog training other than it needs to be individualized and specifically support a person’s disability. Service dogs don’t have to be professionally trained or undergo any particular training programs. They’re simply required to be able to do work for their handlers.

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog is a canine companion that’s been trained to perform tasks that support a person’s disability — specifically mental health conditions, cognitive impairments, or other psychiatric disabilities. This might include but isn’t limited to conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Who Qualifies for a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Under the ADA, anyone with a diagnosed disability can get a psychiatric service dog, and there’s a huge list of disabilities that qualify. To get a service dog, your disability must impact one or more major life activities, whether the disability is physical or mental.

Emotional Support Animal vs Psychiatric Service Dog

Emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs are both types of assistance animals, but the two have some distinct differences. The first difference between an ESA and a PSD is their training. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform specific, disability-related tasks while emotional support animals provide comfort with their presence alone.

Aside from training, the other main difference between ESAs and PSDs is where they’re allowed to go. In general, a service dog is allowed to accompany their handler anywhere the public is allowed access. This includes businesses, government buildings, and public transportation. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be approved for reasonable accommodation requests in housing, businesses, and for travel, but do not have the same rights to public access and air transportation under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that service dogs do.

A family chasing after their psychiatric service dog in the snow

Benefits of a PSD Letter

There are some great benefits to getting an official psychiatric service dog letter and having the right documentation can be a big help when you need it for housing, employment or to assist with travel.

Proof of Your Need for a Psychiatric Service Dog

As we mentioned, a psychiatric service dog letter is the only legitimate proof of your need for a service dog that will be recognized. Companies offering certificates or registration of a service dog, or who only provide accessories like vests and ID tags, are likely a scam. None of these items will certify a psychiatric service dog. The only document that can do that is a legitimate psychiatric service dog letter. Proper training is also required.

Can Be Used for Travel or Housing Accommodations

When it comes to traveling with a psychiatric service dog, especially by air, you may be required to provide documentation of your need for a PSD, and a psychiatric service dog letter does exactly that. For those seeking rental housing or housing assistance with a psychiatric service dog, under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) you can use a PSD letter as proof of your need for a service dog and to make a reasonable request for accommodations.

03/22/2024 Update: Article revised to remove outdated information regarding PSD letters for travel. A properly trained psychiatric service dog and a diagnosed qualifying mental health condition are the requirements for a person to travel with a psychiatric service dog. A PSD letter does not provide these protections.

04/02/2024: Articled reviewed for accuracy by Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW.

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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