Feeling low can make everyday tasks seem hard. Emotional support animals (ESAs) offer comfort to those in need. This article explains how different pets, from dogs to birds, can become ESAs and help you feel better.

Keep reading to learn more.

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental health conditions. They are recommended by licensed mental health professionals and can offer comfort, companionship, and a sense of security to their owners.


An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a pet that helps people with mental health conditions. These animals give support, comfort, and friendship. They do not need special training like service dogs.

ESAs can be many types of animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds. To have an ESA, a person needs a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

These animals are important for people with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. They help their owners feel happier and less lonely. Laws protect ESA owners from discrimination in housing under the Fair Housing Act.

This means they can live with their animal even in places with no pets allowed.

Supporting evidence

Studies show that animals offer more than just companionship. They can also play a crucial role in improving mental health. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and even birds can serve as emotional support animals (ESAs), proving that a variety of species have the potential to aid humans emotionally.

These ESAs help individuals cope with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and specific phobias by providing comfort and a calming presence.

Legal frameworks like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognise the importance of ESAs in supporting people with hidden disabilities. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) allows these special pets to live in housing that typically does not permit pets, ensuring their handlers are not victims of discrimination due to their need for an ESA.

This legal protection affirms the role of ESAs beyond being mere pets; they are essential aids for those dealing with psychological stressors or mental health disorders.

Can Any Animal Be An Emotional Support Animal?

Many animals can serve as emotional support animals, but there are legal considerations. Obtaining an ESA involves specific steps and potential controversy.

Species that can be ESAs

Dogs and cats are popular choices for emotional support animals. They offer comfort and companionship to their owners. But ESAs can be more than just furry friends. Rabbits, birds, and even ferrets can serve as emotional support animals too.

Each of these animals can bring joy and ease feelings of anxiety or depression in their own unique ways.

You might find it interesting that some people choose less common pets like lizards or horses as their emotional support animals. These less typical choices show the wide range of companions that can help with mental health care.

People who struggle with loneliness, panic attacks, or other health issues often find that having an ESA makes a big difference in their lives. No matter if it’s a traditional pet like a dog or something more unusual like a bird, the key is the animal’s ability to provide significant emotional support to its owner.

Legal considerations

There are important laws that protect people with emotional support animals. The Fair Housing Amendments Act says landlords must allow emotional support animals, even if they have a no pet policy.

This law helps stop housing discrimination against people with disabilities. It means you can live with your animal without extra fees.

Another important law is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It makes sure people are not left out because they need an ESA. These rules say you have a right to bring your emotional support animal to most places you go.

But these protections don’t apply everywhere like they do for service animals. Now let’s discuss how to get an ESA.

How to obtain an ESA

Getting an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) involves a few steps. These animals provide companionship and comfort to help with various mental health issues.

  1. Confirm your need for an ESA with a healthcare professional or psychologist. They can assess if your condition qualifies for this kind of support.
  2. Obtain an ESA letter from the healthcare professional. This document proves your need for an emotional support animal due to a disability.
  3. Choose an animal that suits your lifestyle and needs. While dogs and cats are common, rabbits and birds can also be great ESAs.
  4. Train your animal to ensure it behaves well in public places and at home. Although ESAs do not require special training like service dogs, good behavior is essential.
  5. Know your rights under laws like the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). These protect ESA owners from discrimination in housing and during air travel.
  6. Make reasonable accommodations requests if you live in rented accommodation. Landlords must allow ESAs without extra fees, thanks to civil rights protections.
  7. Update any necessary documentation regularly, especially the ESA letter from your healthcare provider, as some entities may require a recent letter.

Next, we’ll explore the controversy surrounding ESAs.

Controversy surrounding ESAs

Some people argue about ESAs. They think not all animals should help as ESAs. This makes rules around which animals can be support companions unclear. Places like airlines and rental properties have strict policies due to these debates.

Laws protect ESA owners from being unfairly treated because of their animal friends. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Transportation set guidelines, but some still find gray areas confusing.

These controversies make it tough for people who really need their support pets to get fair treatment everywhere they go.


Many different animals can be emotional support buddies. From dogs to birds, they all help people feel better. You don’t need a special certificate to have one, but your animal should make you happy and calm.

Pets like these are more than just friends; they give comfort when things get tough. Everyone has the right to choose their own furry or feathered supporter that fits their life best.


1. What animals can be emotional support animals?

Most domesticated animals can become emotional support animals if a health care provider says you need one for your mental health.

2. Do I need anything to prove my pet is an emotional support animal?

Yes, you need an emotional support animal letter from a doctor or another medical professional to prove your pet helps with your health problems.

3. Can landlords refuse my emotional support animal?

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, landlords usually cannot say no to your emotional support animal even in rental properties that normally do not allow pets.

4. How does having an emotional support animal help people?

Having an emotional support animal can lessen feelings of distress and help with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, and autism spectrum disorders.

5. Can any dog become a guide dog or assistance dog?

Not all dogs can be guide dogs or assistance dogs as these roles require specific training to help people who are hard-of-hearing, handicapped, or have other disabilities.

6. Are there special rules for flying with an emotional support animal?

Recent changes by the Department of Transportation (DOT) mean airlines might treat emotional support animals as regular pets so check with the airline before you fly.