Emotional Support animal certification
ESA’s and PSD’s
Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs. We can help you mind your P’s and Q’s!
For individuals with mental illnesses or psychiatric disabilities, animals can be a source of comfort, unconditional love, and for some, significant symptom relief.
While guide dogs for blind people and helper dogs for people with mobility impairments are widely recognized, the general public may not recognize service dogs for people with a mental disability as the same. Service personnel may challenge someone with an emotional support animal or psychiatric services animal.
The reasons for this may include a lack of awareness of psychiatric service animals, the fact that psychiatric conditions are not always as visible as physical disabilities, and the fact that psychiatric service dogs can be any dog breed, depending on the tasks they were trained for. Not all service dogs are German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers, as some people think!
How are Psychiatric Service Dogs Different from an Emotional Support Animal?
There are differences between emotional support animals (ESAs) and psychiatric support dogs. Both groups are used to support to people with mental or emotional disabilities. However, there are differences and that is why our counselors use two different structures in a two tier system for the two different scenarios. Both groups of animals are recognized by law. However our group imposes a different set of structures for the two groups.
Emotional support animals are companions to someone with a mental health or substance use disorder to provide comfort, and decrease anxiety and sadness. Those animals can make a world of difference for an individual’s mental health. Their value is unquestioned by those whom have used them. However while most ESA’s function very well in a home or small office, they may not have basic training or extended training of service dogs.
Psychiatric Service Dogs have basic training that some pets and ESA’s may have. This training allows the dog to feel comfortable in busy, noisy environments such as airports or other busy locations that may bother most animals. It may also involve behaviors such as sit stay or down stay, and also toileting on command. Imagine walking through a busy airport with no pet bathroom in sight! Those behaviors are often helpful to pet companions also, but many times pet companions only leave their home once or twice a month at most and are not used to such environments.
First Tier - ESA: It is for this reason that we take a two prong approach to this situation. Many times people recognize that a pet may be very helpful to alleviate psychiatric symptoms and want to get them certified as an ESA. Many times because of living restrictions, certification is necessary quickly, and we provide certifications for that purpose. We recommend that individuals consult with us if possible about the animal they are choosing. For example, a large ESA may have a difficult time traveling or be difficult to manage. A small ESA may be easier to travel with, but smaller breeds can be less comfortable in public without extensive training, such as a dachshund’s tendency for aggression to strangers.
Second Tier - Psychiatric Services Animal: When individuals are able to get a certification for ESA we recommend they get training with their ESA to assist the animal to aquire skills to go in public in busy or crowded places and manage well. This can prepare the animal to cope with the stresses or leaving their home and going into busy areas, or simply become an easier ESA to have around. We then recommend that training be extended to certify the animal as a psychiatric services animal, which are specifically trained to perform functions for their handlers, which can be as varied as acting as a literal barrier between large crowds and the handler, to entering a room and barking if the room is empty. As you might imagine, those tasks can be as varied as the needs of the individuals benefiting from the service. See links below for help and information.
ESA for Substance Use Disorders
-under construction- Check back-more to come!
to Get an ESA and a PSD
While a psychiatric service dog requires extensive training, any pet can be an emotional support animal. All it needs is to be well behaved and able to offer comfort and support. If you’ve decided that an emotional support animal is the right choice for you, we have a streamlined the process of getting one into 3 easy steps.
Learn and understand what emotional support animals are, their limitations, and what legal support they have.
Undergo an evaluation by a licensed clinician. This is necessary to evaluate if an ESA or PSD is appropriate.
If you qualify for an ESA or PSD you will be provided with two copies of a letter certifying you for the service and animal. This will allow you to have the ESA or PSD in places that pets are not allowed, allowing many people whom could not previously feel safe venturing into the community.
ESD or PSD qualifications: discretion and discernment is a must!
An ESA or PSD letter is a document that proves a patient’s need for an emotional support animal. To be valid, it must be less than a year old and written on letterhead paper or a prescription pad from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. The ESA letter must state the following:
That you have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Your emotional support animal is necessary for your mental health or your ability to access services and places
The type of animal (ESA or PSD)
Tthat you are under their treatment or care for a mental health disability by a licensed Counselor, Social Worker, Psychologist, Psychiatrist or Physician.
The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was licensed.
Emotional support animals require discretion and discernment!
An ESA is there to help you. But an ESA also needs to not harm or bother others in the process of carrying out its duties in helping you. For this reason, it is necessary for you as the ESA handler to exercise good judgement in how this will play out. Perhaps you had heard of a person with an ESA peacock that was refused admission to a flight? Although a peacock may make a perfect ESA for someone with a large home or a lot of space on a farm, it may not be the easiest ESA to travel with. As a result, rules have narrowed and many airlines have restrictions and require documentation to be submitted two days in advance. Possibly just the shock value may make some people, airlines or public environments have difficulty accepting an unusual ESA. This is a call to all ESAs owners to strive for a measure of discretion and discernment in choosing an ESA.
Psychiatric Service Dog Training is a lot of Work!
A psychiatric service dog can be trained to perform all sorts of valuable tasks to assist people with disabilities in their day-to-day life.We certify individual humans to have psychiatric service dogs. However the dogs themselves can achieve certification through training. Typically the training is periodic, trains not just the animal, but the handler also, and continues consistently in the home and natural environment.
This sort of training requires significant work. Many people work with a specialist non-profit organization to get a psychiatric service animal that is right for them. The animals often have hundreds of hours of training leading to behaviors that can assist humans with psychiatric disorders.
For a list of these organizations, see below. That being said, there is no requirement for people with disabilities to use a professional dog trainer or program, and they may train the dog themselves too.
The following non-profit organizations support people with mental disabilities in getting and training service dogs:
Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)
The Assistance Dog United Campaign (ADUC)
The Service Dogs for America/Great Plains Assistance Dogs Foundation Inc.
Paws with a Cause
Summit Assistance Dogs
4 Paws for Ability
Service Dogs Inc.
The National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS).
The 3 Laws Protecting Psychiatric Service Animals
There are three laws protecting service animals, which includes psychiatric service dogs: The Air Carrier’s Access Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Federal Housing Act.
An important point to remember owners of emotional support dogs may be required to show an ESA letter to show their need for such an animal. But it is illegal for service dog handlers to be asked for proof that their dog is a service animal.
If it is not obvious that a dog is a service animal, as may be the case with a psychiatric service dog, employees may ask only these two questions:
Is the dog a trained service animal that is required due to a disability?
What tasks is the dog trained to perform?
They cannot ask for the dog’s documentation, or ask about the nature of the disability. ESA owners however must show documentation when certifying a living environment or for air travel. The reason you may be asked what tasks the dog is trained to perform is that if you become incapacitated, others may not understand the actions of the service animal and may need to know if an emergency exists and they need to alert an ambulance or other emergency personnel.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
The ACAA protects the rights of people with disabilities while traveling on commercial airlines. This includes bringing emotional support dogs and service dogs into the cabin free of charge, even if pets are not permitted.
Airlines have tightened their policy on allowing ESAs on their flights, so always check an airlines rules and regulations before booking a flight with your ESA!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This very important piece of legislation protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in public places. The Act allows people with service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, to bring them into any place that is normally accessible to the public, even when animals are usually allowed.
The exceptions to this rule when if the dog is behaving badly or otherwise interfering with normal operations (for example, scaring other people or invading other people’s space.
The ADA does not cover emotional support animals or therapy dogs. Remember, service dogs have received specific training and is therefore expected to know how to behave in public.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Under the this act tenants with both emotional support animals and service animals are permitted to bring their animals into rented accommodation, even where pets are not permitted. Again, this is subject to the good behavior of the animal in question.
So, What Laws Protect an Emotional Support Animal?
Some, but not all of the laws that cover service animals also apply to emotional support animals. ESAs are covered under the ACAA, so they can be brought into the cabins of commercial flights free of charge, even when pets are not permitted.
They are also covered by the Fair Housing Act, meaning that people with emotional support animals can live with them in rented accommodation, including college on-campus accommodation, even when pets are forbidden. In both these cases, you may have to show your valid ESA letter to prove your need for the ESA.
The ADA does not cover emotional support animals, so they cannot be brought into businesses or other public places where pets are not allowed.
Emotional Support Dog Training!
Unlike service dogs, ESA’s may not need specialist training. They help their owners by being a calm and comforting presence. However we recommend that you engage in extensive training of your ESA if you are going to use their services outside your home. It very important that all ESAs know how to behave properly in public. This means they must be completely house-trained, they must be calm around people and other dogs, and they must not be disruptive or aggressive.
An ESA that is not behaving properly can be asked to leave, even with a valid ESA letter. Basic obedience classes are a must! Barking, marking, and otherwise being out of calm control will quickly turn your experience using an ESA in public to an anxiety causing experience and you may get asked to leave the environment.
7021 153rd Street Suite 5
Orland Park, IL 60462
Phone: (708) 275-0934