What Are The Requirements For Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals
Emotional support animals have grown in popularity.

Nowadays it seems like whether you are in a store, at an airport, or even at a restaurant, you are likely to see an emotional support animal (ESA). Interestingly, we have seen some retail stores such as Publix Super Markets recently ban emotional support animals from their establishments. Ultimately, there has been a lot of confusion from businesses and condo associations on how to handle ESA’s. Emotional support animals are animals that provide comfort and support to people with mental or emotional disabilities. ESA’s are not the same as service dogs, which are trained to perform specific tasks to assist people with disabilities. Since ESA’s have become so popular, they have also had an impact on the housing market. We share the requirements for ESA’s and other relevant information below.

Requirements for emotional support animals

To qualify for an ESA, you must have a diagnosed mental or emotional disability. A licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, must provide you with a recommendation letter stating that your animal helps alleviate your symptoms.

There are no specific breed or training requirements for ESA’s. However, your ESA should be well-behaved and under your control at all times. You may also need to provide documentation of your ESA’s vaccinations and health records.

Legal Rights of emotional support animals

ESAs have certain legal protections under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. This means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to you because of your ESA, and airlines must allow ESA’s to fly in the cabin with you. However, ESA’s do not have the same access rights as service dogs. For example, ESA’s are not allowed in public places where pets are prohibited, such as restaurants and stores.

Obtaining an emotional support animal letter

To get an ESA letter, you will need to schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. The professional will evaluate your condition and determine if an ESA would be beneficial for you. If the professional decides that an ESA is right for you, they will write you a letter stating that you have a mental or emotional disability and that your ESA is necessary to mitigate your symptoms. The letter should be on the professional’s official letterhead and should include their contact information.


Emotional support animals can provide valuable companionship and support to people with mental or emotional disabilities. Given their increased popularity, we have begun seeing the impact of ESA’s in the housing market more and more. If you are considering getting an ESA, be sure to do your research and understand the requirements. If you do have an ESA, it is important that you teach some basic training commands for your animal such as:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Down
  • Heel
  • Leave it

Are you thinking about buying or selling real estate in the South Florida area? We can help! Contact Natasha at Live South Florida Realty, Inc. today! Also, be sure to download the free Florida Home Search app for your smartphone or tablet.

By natasha moore

REALTOR® with Live South Florida Realty, Inc.