Emotional Support Dog

Information about Emotional Support Animals

While Skye’s Dog Training does offer assistance in training Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) for good behavior and helpful skills, it is important to know that all an animal needs to be an ESA is a letter from a licensed mental health provider or physician recommending an ESA for their patient. There is no training, certification or registration required for ESAs. Emotional Support Animals are different than Psychiatric Service Dogs in both training requirements and public access rights.

There are a few of things to know about having an ESA. The only legal protections an Emotional Support Animal has are 1) to fly with their handler in the cabin of an aircraft and take public transportation, and 2) to qualify for no-pet housing in certain situations (no other public or private entity is required to allow an ESA to accompany their handler, including hotels, restaurants, taxis, busses, markets, etc.). Handlers must present a letter to airlines from a licensed mental health professional or physician stating that he/she prescribes an emotional support animal for the handler.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord's policy explicitly prohibits pets. Because emotional support and service animals are not "pets," but are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law will generally require the landlord to make an exception to a "no pet" policy so that a tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy their dwelling. In most housing complexes, as long as the tenant has a letter or prescription from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, and meets the definition of a person with a disability, they are entitled to a reasonable accommodation that would allow an emotional support animal in the apartment or other housing.

Training Program for ESAs

Skye’s Dog Training can help with training Emotional Support Animals. Just as with any dog, training for basic manners and better behavior can always be helpful. Handlers that hope to take public transportation or fly with their ESA should make sure the dog has good behavior in these situations as they can be asked to leave if the dog is not behaving appropriately. Skye’s Dog Training offers many group class options (as well as private training) to work on good behavior in public settings. Some clients choose to have the dog designated as an ESA, but they will train the dog to do tasks that help the handler at home. A dog like this would still be considered an ESA with special skills that are helpful for the owner. Most of the time, people have an ESA simply because the pet provides them comfort and just the presence of the dog eases anxiety and depression.

Skye’s Dog Training suggests that clients start with a Beginning Pet Manners group class to work towards good manners and behavior or a private training session to address specific behaviors or helpful tasks. Some clients choose to take a series of group training classes to work towards good behavior for travel.

Legal Requirements for ESAs

There is no certification or other documentation that Skye’s Dog Training or any other trainer can provide to indicate that an animal is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) as the only requirement for ESAs is a letter from a mental health professional or physician recommending an ESA for their patient (the dog’s handler). Any business claiming to register or certify an ESA is not legitimate per federal law. Online business that “register” ESAs (or service dogs) are fraudulent as there is no state or federal registration requirement for ESAs.

Getting Started with ESA Training

Skye’s Dog Training usually recommends clients start out in a Beginning Pet Manners group class (or private training) even if they have done training elsewhere since the methods used may not be the same or the topics may not have been covered in as much detail (or maybe not covered at all in previous training). The Beginning class is the most important class since we cover all the basics of how we will teach future skills. Something to keep in mind is that we will not cover anything from Beginning class in any other class. We may build on some skills, but the discussions of how to teach those skills will not be covered (since most clients will have taken the Beginning class first).

After Beginning Pet Manners, clients may choose to continue on with more training by taking the Intermediate class. After Intermediate class, clients have the option of taking Advanced, field trip classes and more!

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