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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Doing my own digging to learn about an esa which site would you use once you get the papers from the doc. I've found usdogregistry.com and another one called esaregistration.org in my google search as two common places for info as well as your equipment. How can you tell which is "legit?" Or would the doc do all of registering for you?

Also what are some restrictions an esa would have compared to a normal service dog? I don't plan on taking it to a restaurant (we hardly go out to eat as it is.) And similarities to a regular service dog?


I'm considering talking to my dad about an esa dog for him. I know it requires a psychiatrist sign off but I think it would help him having a dog that can be with him. So before I talk to him with my sisters I'm going to learn. :)
 

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The biggest difference between a service animal and an ESA is that ESAs are not trained to perform tasks to aid an individual.Service dog tasks must be related to the person's disability. ESAs provide emotional comfort or support and do not have to perform tasks related to a handler's disability. As such, ESAs are NOT granted public access. Essentially this means that anywhere animals are generally not allowed, ESAs are not permitted. The only exceptions they have are the ability to fly, and to be allowed in traditionally no-pet housing. They do not have the same access rights as service dogs. Any public-access place (motels, restaurants, libraries etc.) can refuse you and your ESA.

To my (limited) knowledge, you do not register your ESA. You just need to have a letter from a mental health professional stating that you are emotionally disabled and require an ESA.
 

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There is no registering body for either service animals or emotional support animals in the United States. The registry sites that you mention, and any other website that claims to register an animal as a service animal or an emotional support animal are scams, and are held in contempt by those in the service dog industry.
@Shandula is correct- emotional support animals are different from service animals, and emotional support animals are not granted "public access' (ie, able to accompany their handler into non-pet-friendly places) like service animals. Emotional support animals are allowed to fly in the cabin of planes with their disabled human, and are also granted protection in most housing. In other areas, they are looked at legally the same as a pet.

The reason that they have these protections but not public access is because of the laws that govern each of these areas: The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA (which is what grants service animals public access), The Air Carrier Access Act or ACAA, and The Fair Housing Act or FHA. Before I go into detail on the laws, however, I'll elaborate on the difference between a "service animal" and an "emotional support animal" (which I'll abbreviate from here on out as ESA).

First, it is important to note that the only law I mentioned above that makes a distinction between service animals and ESAs is the ADA. The ACAA and FHA do not. The reason that the ADA makes a distinction is because when the law was first put into effect it did not, and there were a great many cases of people using questionable species as service animals (such as snakes, rats, parrots, monkeys, etc) or using dogs that displayed troubling behaviors (such as aggression towards certain people/other dogs/children/etc). The way the law was written, it was made to be reviewed within 10 years of first being enacted. When it was reviewed, it was changed, and in 2011 the distinction was made between ESAs and service animals.

Now, a service animal is defined under the ADA as "an animal specifically trained in work or tasks to mitigate the handler's disability", and under the ADA a service animal may only be a dog or miniature horse. The ADA mentions ESAs only to state that a dog whose sole purpose is to provide emotional support is not a service animal. There may actually be a service animal whose main tasks involve emotional support, but the distinction is that they have had some form of training in this area. What the ADA requires for a service animal legally and the most ethical way to use/train a service animal are slightly different, though. I highly suggest International Association of Assistance Dog Partners for more information about the ethical use of a service animal. I'd also be happy answer any other questions you have/clarify anything I've been unclear about.

A service animal is allowed by law to accompany its disabled handler into any place of business that the general public is allowed so long as its presence does not represent a fundamental alteration to that business' services. Very few things would actually be upheld by the courts to be a "fundamental alteration".

Here is a link to the ADA revision made to the policies surrounding service animals/ESAs: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

It is important to note that proper training of a service animal takes upwards of 2 years, is difficult, often costly, and a great many of the dogs who start training as service animals do not finish the training due to unsuitability to the job, even those from purpose bred lines and professionally trained by programs dedicated to producing service dogs. Most dogs would not make a good service dog candidate.

I talked a bit about the ADA already, but I will elaborate a bit more below.

ADA
There are 3 titles, or sections, that the ADA covers.
Title I- Employment
Title II- State and Local Government
Title III- Public Accommodations
Public access with service animals would fall under Title III. Asking for a reasonable accommodation to bring your service animal to work with you would fall under Title I. Bringing a service animal into a state courthouse, or living in a state funded housing complex, would fall under Title II.
Frequently asked questions page about service animals: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html
Another: https://www.ada.gov/archive/qasrvc.htm
Homepage about the ADA: https://www.ada.gov/archive/qasrvc.htm

Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act does not speak specifically about "service animals" or "emotional support animals" or make any distinctions of training or species. The FHA talks only about "assistance animals". The FHA does not require an assistance animal be any specific species (ie, it could be a ferret or rat or cat as much as a dog), and does not require it have any training. Under the FHA, fully trained service animals, animals in training to be service animals ("service dogs in training", for example), and ESAs are all under the blanket of being an "assistance animal". When you're requesting an allowance be made in housing, you need to request an "reasonable accommodation" from your landlord or housing board or apartment complex. This is where a doctor's note may be required by to verify your need for said accommodation (I will talk more on this below).

Here's a good rundown on that: The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Assistance Animals : The Humane Society of the United States

The federal site that talks about the FHA: Fair Housing -- It's Your Right - HUD

Air Carrier Access Act
Again, no distinction is made between ESAs and service animals. Some airlines do do ban certain species (such as rabbits and ferrets) from flying. Most airlines I know of will say you need a letter of need from a medical professional written in the last year for an ESA, or for a service animal for a non-physical disability, though they don't always actually ask for it. I can go into more detail on this and provide links to it if you would like, but figured I'd just touch on it for now.

"THE LETTER"
A letter from a medical practitioner is referred to as a letter of need. The letter that these registries give you technically fulfills this requirement in some cases, since they often employ doctors to write it on their letterhead after a short "consultation" (usually an on-line questionnaire of some kind, I think). A letter of need should be written by a medical professional that is currently seeing you for the disabling condition(s) in question to be of optimal efficiency/use. Pretty much the only times you would actually need said letter would be: when applying to a housing authority/landlord for a reasonable accommodation for an ESA in housing or possibly when flying. With an ESA, you'd not be going into non pet friendly places with it, and with a service animal it would be inappropriate to be showing a doctor's letter, since it is not required by law and the establishment is then likely to think the next service dog team "should" have one to show them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I know you need a letter. Could it be a doctor? Or does it need to be an actual psychiatrist? I'm assuming the later
 

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there are no legitimate "registries" for ESAs.
an ESA does not need to be registered anywhere, and in fact, having a registration from one of those bogus websites can even make your need for an ESA look bogus to those in the know.
all you need is a signed letter from your doctor/psychiatrist stating your need for the animal.
my dog is an ESA. I am also in the process of training her to properly perform certain service dog tasks, but I would not officially consider her a "service dog."
...however, I must admit, I do kind of "skirt the rules" occasionally, by bringing my dog into the grocery store w/ me, or to the public (no dogs allowed) beach, and stuff like that. and nobody has ever taken issue w/ it, possibly because my letter from my psychiatrist repeatedly refers to her as my "service dog." ESAs technically are not allowed anywhere in public that the average pet would not be allowed, except airports. the main privileges afforded ESAs is that they are allowed in all housing, even those which have rules banning all pets or pets of a certain size, and that they are generally allowed to fly on airplanes in cabin w/ their owners. <<-- though depending on the size of the dog, you may have to pay extra for bulkhead seating allowing extra "leg room" for the dog to lie down.

I had a vest for her, but she has outgrown it, so she does not wear one these days. I need to get her a new one, especially if I want to fly w/ her next summer. the patches I use/d on her vest do not say "service dog" OR "ESA," they just say "do not pet" -- not that she is in any way aggressive or averse to being pet, I just obviously prefer her to be completely focused on me when we're out in public, and not distracted by people coming up to pet her all the time. plus, there have been times when we've been out and about and she has been absolutely mobbed by hoards of 5-10 small children (ages maybe 4-7), all persistently trying to pet her face all at the same time, despite insistent pleas of "PLEASE, ONE AT A TIME," "PLEASE, start by petting her neck or back," "you're scaring her, PLEASE..." which made her very obviously quite nervous, though of course she's a good girl and just sat there not moving a muscle until the gang of kiddies had finally dispersed.
she does LOVE the deli workers at our local grocery though, who are always happy to offer her a slice or two of deli meat in exchange for a few pats. =P
 

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I know you need a letter. Could it be a doctor? Or does it need to be an actual psychiatrist? I'm assuming the later
Like moonstream said, your current medical professional that is overseeing your condition should be writing this letter.
 
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