Companion dogs provide emotional support and comfort to people who have a significant mental health problem. While a companion dog certificate is not required for you to have a companion dog, the certificate provides proof that your dog is a legitimate companion animal. With a companion dog certificate, you are much less likely to be challenged by the employees of businesses you are trying to visit with your companion dog. However, companion animals are not protected by the same federal laws that protect service animals.
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What is a companion dog?
Unlike a service dog, a companion dog isn't trained to perform any specific task. Rather, a companion dog, also called an emotional support animal, provides comfort to his owner just by being present. An official emotional support animal must be prescribed by a mental health professional. When a mental health professional prescribes an emotional support animal to someone, she deems the animal necessary for the person's mental health and well-being.
There are all types of emotional support dogs. A companion dog can be of any age or breed.
Who qualifies for a companion dog?
Anyone who has a significant mental health problem that would benefit from the companionship a dog provides qualifies for a companion dog. This determination needs to be made by a mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Among those who could benefit from an emotional support animal include people with anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and substance use issues.
What is a companion dog certificate?
By law, there is no official companion dog certification. However, you can get your companion dog registered as an official emotional support animal through several emotional support animal organizations. When you register your dog as an emotional support animal, you'll receive an ID card for her certifying her legitimacy as a companion animal. You'll also receive documents you can show others to help explain your rights when it comes to having an emotional support animal.
Once you register your dog as an emotional support animal, you can purchase her official emotional support animal ID tags, vests, and leashes. While these accessories are not required, people are less likely to question the legitimacy of your companion dog if she is wearing them.
What laws protect companion dogs?
Service dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service dogs have access to all public spaces and must be allowed to accompany their handlers on airline flights. Companion animals are not service animals and are not protected under the ADA. That's because emotional support animals are not specifically trained to do certain tasks for a person with a disability.
While an emotional support animal does not have access to all public venues, they are protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to allow tenants who qualify for an emotional support animal to live with their companion animal even if the residence has a no pets policy. A landlord is not allowed to charges fees, such as pet rent or a pet deposit, to individuals who have companion animals. The FHA also prohibits landlords from imposing weight and breed restrictions on emotional support animals.
An emotional support animal certificate may suffice for some landlords in verifying your dog's legitimacy as a companion animal. Other landlords will still require a prescription letter from a mental health professional to prove your dog's legitimacy as an emotional support animal.