Washington emotional support dogs

Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs – What’s the Difference?

If you are in Washington, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits.

emotional support animal florida

Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.

The procedure

To get an emotional support animal in Washington , you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing.

requirements for emotional support dog

However, the animal isn’t treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.

emotional support dogs in Washington

A service dog encourages outward expression from a young boy with autism.

A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder .[1][2]

Although assistance dogs have traditionally helped people with disabilities such as blindness or more recently deafness or mobility disabilities, there is a wide range of other disabilities that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well, including psychiatric disabilities.[3][4]

A Psychiatric service dog in training Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to provide calming pressure.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.[5] Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as "walking the dog" for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.[3][4][5][6]

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Many psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric service dog handlers.[7]

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual,"[8] and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals.[2] Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are allowed to accompany their handler in any location that is normally accessible to the public whether or not health codes or business policy normally would allow a dog to enter, provided the dog behaves properly and does not interfere with normal operations (e.g. barking, biting, defecating, or obstructing other people) or pose a direct threat to the safety of others.

An alternative to a psychiatric service dog is an emotional support animal, which may or may not have specific training related to the handler's disability, but provides companionship and emotional support. They do not qualify as service animals in the United States, though they do qualify for several exceptions in housing and air travel.

The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that does not allow pets.[9] Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.

The Air Carrier Access Act also permits psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals to be permitted to travel in the cabin when accompanied by a person with a disability.[10]

People with psychiatric service dogs are often faced with several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves.

emotional support animal rights

Emotional support animal

A service dog encourages outward expression from a young boy with autism.

A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder .[1][2]

Although assistance dogs have traditionally helped people with disabilities such as blindness or more recently deafness or mobility disabilities, there is a wide range of other disabilities that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well, including psychiatric disabilities.[3][4]

A Psychiatric service dog in training Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to provide calming pressure.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.[5] Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as "walking the dog" for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.[3][4][5][6]

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Many psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric service dog handlers.[7]

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual,"[8] and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals.[2] Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are allowed to accompany their handler in any location that is normally accessible to the public whether or not health codes or business policy normally would allow a dog to enter, provided the dog behaves properly and does not interfere with normal operations (e.g. barking, biting, defecating, or obstructing other people) or pose a direct threat to the safety of others.

An alternative to a psychiatric service dog is an emotional support animal, which may or may not have specific training related to the handler's disability, but provides companionship and emotional support. They do not qualify as service animals in the United States, though they do qualify for several exceptions in housing and air travel.

The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that does not allow pets.[9] Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.

The Air Carrier Access Act also permits psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals to be permitted to travel in the cabin when accompanied by a person with a disability.[10]

People with psychiatric service dogs are often faced with several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves.

emotional support dog certification online

How Do I Certify My Service Dog?

The following is a summary of possible legislation in your area that may affect you and your dog

Leash Laws - Leashes laws not only protect the community at large but also the dog itself. Normally, when a dog is in a public place, the owner is required to be in control of the dog on a leash that is six feet or less. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and/or having the dog impounded. Many municipalities have specific designated areas where a dog may be off leash as long as it is licensed, current on its vaccinations and friendly to people and other dogs.

Noise Ordinances - These ordinances are common in most cities and often include excessive barking. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and in some cases even having the dog impounded.

Livestock Laws - In many rural areas dogs can legally be shot or euthanized for harassing or killing livestock and the owner may be required to compensate for any losses.

Animal Cruelty Laws - These laws are designed to protect animals including dogs. Definitions vary widely throughout different areas ranging from intentional injury or killing to neglect in providing food, water and shelter to abandonment. Penalties also vary widely from felony convictions to fines and misdemeanors.

Antifreeze Laws - Antifreeze is typically sweet to the taste, yet highly toxic. Some areas require that antifreeze have a bitter agent added to it, to make it less palatable, but this does not normally apply to wholesalers. Thousands of dogs die each year due to poisoning.

Airline Laws - In the U.S. dogs being transported by airline are required to have adequately sized and ventilated kennels with handles and be clearly marked. They must also be provided with adequate food and water depending on their age. Puppies under 8 weeks old are not allowed.

Breed Bans - Many cities, counties, provinces or states, and even countries have introduced legislation banning or controlling certain dog breeds. These are typically aimed at the pit-bull or other guardian breeds. It is also not unusual to find certain apartments, housing complexes or gated communities banning certain breeds. Some insurance companies are also not insuring homeowners with certain breeds.

To learn the specific rights and responsibilities you have as a dog owner contact your local animal control agency.

register dog as emotional support animal

How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled

I'm often asked how you register or certify your service dog, the answer is "You Don't". Companies that claim to register or certify your animal without training are simply taking advantage of the handicapped to make a dollar. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect which gives handicapped persons with service animals legal protection to be accompanied by the animal in public places.

Understanding the ADA

So lets first define what a service animal is, According to the ADA, an animal is considered a service animal" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." As you see, the word certify or registered doesn't appear in the law. As a matter fact the US government does not register, certify, license or approve any animal.

So What's a Service Dog Owner to do?

First, make sure you meet the definition of a disabled person and that your dog is specially trained to perform tasks related to your disability. Trying to pass off your pet as a service animal is a federal offense and comes with severe penalties. Outside of the two requirements spelled out in the ADA you don't have to do anything. If you feel identifying your service dog will make your life easier then purchase a quality photo service dog tag, vest with patches or a cape.


The ESA Letter Professionals