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Emotional Support Animals: The Basics

Date Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2021
By: Anwyn Gatesy-Davis

Abstract

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that provides therapeutic benefit (e.g., emotional support, comfort, companionship) to a person with a mental health or psychiatric disability (such as a serious mental health condition). An ESA is not considered a Service Animal, but under U.S. law, an emotional support animal is also not considered a pet and is generally not restricted by the type of animal.1, 2 Any domesticated animal may be considered as an ESA (e.g., cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, rats, minipigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age. However, an ESA must be able to be manageable in public and does not create a nuisance. In this tip sheet we describe what an Emotional Support Animal is an is not as well as how someone can look into getting one.

See also the companion tip sheet: Can I Bring My Emotional Support Animal to College with Me?

Download this tip sheet →

Subject Area

Rehabilitation/Recovery, Transition Age Youth

Keywords

Emotional Support Animals, ESA, pets, service dogs, mental health, therapy animal, service animal, young adults

Suggested Citation

Gatesy-Davis A. Emotional Support Animals: The Basics. Psychiatry Information in Brief 2021;18(4):1169. https://doi.org/10.7191/pib.1169. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/pib/vol18/iss4/1