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Can a Snake Be an Emotional Support Animal? - ESA Guidelines Explained

As with any animal commonly kept as a pet, snakes can be emotional support animals. As long as your snake supports your mental or emotional health condition and alleviates a symptom of your disability, they can qualify as an ESA.

Matt Fleming
April 3, 2024
July 11, 2023
6 minutes
Updated By
Grant Fiddes
April 3, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
July 11, 2023
August 18, 2021
6 minutes
April 3, 2024
Make your Snake an ESA with Pettable. Speak with a licensed professional for qualifying and documentation. Get the emotional support you need today.

If you’re a reptile-lover living with psychological challenges, you may be wondering: “Can a snake be an emotional support animal? While the unconventional pet might not be suitable as a service animal to someone with a physical disability, a snake might serve someone well as they navigate their mental and emotional health. So while you won’t be able to teach your slithering assistant to perform any helpful tasks, you could still find it useful to make them your emotional support animal (ESA). Let’s take a closer look with the experts at Pettable.

What are Emotional Support Animals?

For many individuals, mental and emotional health is a daily struggle, but with an ESA, their lives become more manageable. An ESA provides therapeutic emotional benefits through companionship or affection, and sometimes, their sheer presence brings unrivaled joy. Unlike service animals — typically dogs or miniature horses — which are trained to perform specific helpful tasks, ESAs are considered pets rather than working animals. To have one of these officially in your life, you need an ESA letter from a mental health professional.

What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

While most physical or psychiatric service animals are dogs, many different domesticated animals can be an ESA, including:

  • Cats
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Birds
  • Hedgehogs
  • Domesticated Rats and Mice
  • Minipigs
  • Mini Horses
  • Ponies
  • Ferrets
  • Chickens
  • Snakes

That’s right, even though it is an uncommon and often misunderstood pet, a snake can become an official ESA for anyone who will find their attention beneficial toward their emotional health.

Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Snake

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

  • Reduce Anxiety
  • Relieve Stress and Depressive Symptoms
  • Reduce Loneliness
  • Improve Sleep Quality
  • Other Intangible Benefits

How Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Snake?

You might be surprised to learn who qualifies for an ESA — many disorders and disabilities can entitle someone to an emotional support snake, including:

  • Mental Health Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Cognitive Disorders
  • Motor Skill Disorders

The essential stipulation is that your emotional support snake needs to soothe or alleviate symptoms of your disability or condition.

How to Get an Emotional Support Snake

It can be easier than you may think to get an emotional support animal, such as a non-venomous snake. Thanks to Pettable, you can make your snake an official assistant in just a few steps.

Take Our Assessment

To get started take our online ESA assessment to determine your eligibility. By answering a few 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 write your ESA letter, you’ll need to make a consultation 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

After you’ve made it this far, our friendly professionals will issue your ESA letter, which will give you some privileges when it comes to housing and traveling. Now, your snake is officially your emotional support animal.

What Is Your ESA Letter Legally Required to Have?

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

Where Can You Go with Your Emotional Support Snake?

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 Snakes vs Psychiatric Service Animals

Unlike an ESA, 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), and more.

While an emotional support snake might have a few protections, a PSA has more safeguards. While an ESA’s protections in some areas are at the discretion of those in charge, a PSA, such as a dog, is guaranteed accommodation in most public places, including restaurants, shopping centers, and medical facilities. 

Are Snakes Good Emotional Support Animals?

For people with a love for the cold-blooded critter, a snake can make a great ESA. 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 quite simple. Also, unlike on the big screen, domesticated snakes aren’t likely to attack or otherwise disturb owners or their guests.

However, the safety of others should always be considered; your snake should be defanged and non-venomous, and it should have a generally mellow demeanor. There are plenty of people with a fear of the reptile, so it’s always advisable to be considerate of your neighbors and other individuals in your vicinity. 

Can a Landlord Refuse an Emotional Support Snake?‍

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. Due to their bad reputation, some housing managers may be inclined to deny you having your emotional support snake in your home. However, in this case, 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.

04/03/2024 Update: Article was reviewed for accuracy by Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW.

Meet the author:
Matt Fleming

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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