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What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

Any animal commonly kept as a pet is eligible to be an emotional support animal. To know for sure if your pet qualifies, speak with licensed mental health professional and they will determine if having your pet with you assists your mental health condition.

Matt Fleming
January 12, 2024
June 27, 2023
6 minutes
Updated By
Expert Reviewed By:
June 27, 2023
August 18, 2021
6 minutes
Updated By
If your pet provides you with emotional support for your mental disability they may qualify as an emotional support animal. Make your pet an ESA and speak to a licensed mental health professional with Pettable today.

For many people living with emotional problems or disorders, every day can present new challenges that often exacerbate their issues. That’s where an emotional support animal (ESA)can help — they can provide peace, relief, affection, and other comforts. But one of the most significant barriers to finding an ESA is a lack of reliable information about finding the right one for every individual. While service dogs are popular for people with physical and psychiatric disabilities, this other category lets you choose from a veritable menagerie of species. One question: what animals can be emotional support animals (ESAs)?

What Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals (ESAs) can include a variety of species, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and even birds. These animals provide companionship and comfort to individuals with emotional or mental health conditions. While dogs and cats are commonly chosen as ESAs, other animals like guinea pigs, horses, and even miniature pigs can also fulfill this role, depending on individual needs and legal regulations.

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Simply put, an ESA is an animal that provides therapeutic emotional benefits for an individual struggling with emotional or mental challenges. Their affection and companionship help their human handler as they navigate their daily lives. Unlike service dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks, ESAs offer support through their presence and are considered pets instead of working animals. 

What Kinds of Animals Can Be Emotional Support Animals?

Many individuals with mental health challenges may not know that almost any domesticated animal can be certified as an ESA. Unlike a service animal, many different species can be ESAs including:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Birds
  • Hedgehogs
  • Domesticated Rats and Mice
  • Minipigs
  • Mini Horses
  • Ponies
  • Ferrets
  • Chickens
  • Sheep and Goats
  • Llamas and Alpacas

What is an ESA Letter

To bring one of these animal assistants into your life, you’ll need to acquire an ESA letter from a healthcare professional. This letter certifies an individual’s need for a support animal to help with their mental and emotional needs, officially recognizing their disorder and guaranteeing certain rights for them to have their ESA in their home, lodging, and occasionally, accompanying them on domestic flights. 

Emotional Support Animal Laws

Although psychiatric support dogs (PSDs) or physical support animals have more safeguards in public accommodations, at least one law also benefits individuals and their ESAs. 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires landlords and other housing managers to "reasonably accommodate" tenants or guests who have ESAs. Under the FHA, ESA owners have the following rights: 

  • The right to have their ESA in their home (even if pets are prohibited in the housing complex).
  • Exemption from weight, breed, or size restrictions. 
  • Exemption from paying any pet-related fees (since ESAs are seen as assistance animals rather than pets).

Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal?

Numerous conditions can qualify an individual for an ESA, in fact, a wider array than those that qualify for a PSD. Who qualifies for an emotional support animal? Anyone living with:

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

How to Get an ESA Letter

If you’re living with an emotional or psychiatric disability that could be benefitted from having your own ESA, you can get an ESA letter easily with the help of the experts at Pettable. Just follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way to an enhanced way of life with your supportive furry or feathered best friend. Here’s how to get an ESA:

Take Our Assessment

First, visit our website and take our simple ESA assessment. By answering a few questions, our professionals can evaluate your needs and prepare recommendations for your certified ESA. You can begin this process whether you already have a pet to train or still need to identify and acquire the right animal for your situation.

Attend a Brief Consultation

Next, once it has been determined that you have a qualifying condition, you can attend a short online consultation with one of our friendly licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs), who will give you an official diagnosis. 

Get Your ESA Letter

Once a Pettable LMHP has evaluated and diagnosed you with a qualifying condition, we will issue your official ESA letter. Once you have that, all that remains is choosing the perfect animal to match your life and needs. Whether you need to acquire a new ESA or train your current pet to be your support animal, Pettable is here to help you along the way.

Emotional Support Animals vs Service Animals

Though the language is similar, there are some significant differences between ESAs and service animals. Primarily, service animals, such as dogs or miniature horses, are protected by not only the FHA but they are also guaranteed additional rights by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ADAA). These laws allow psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) and physical support animals to accompany their owners in public places, such as restaurants, shopping centers, medical facilities, and government buildings, or to accompany them on flights.

On the other hand, ESAs don’t have the same protections from the ADA and ACAA, so there’s no guarantee that you can bring your animal to public settings or on an air travel trip. However, private businesses and other public settings may have their own rules for permitting ESAs, so it’s always best to check ahead of time.

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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