Short Answer: You do not have to certify an emotional support animal (ESA). The correct way to qualify for an ESA under U.S. laws is to get an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

Why You Don’t’ Need Certification: The U.S. Department of Housing publishes guidelines for how someone can qualify for an emotional support animal. HUD warns people to be careful when purchasing certificates online. This is what HUD has to say about certificates:

Documentation From the Internet

Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals…In HUD’s experience, such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal.


Why ESA Doctors is Different: You cannot qualify for an ESA by purchasing a certificate online, but you can use an online healthcare provider. HUD says that in contrast to certificates:

many legitimate, licensed health care professionals deliver services remotely, including over the internet.


HUD establishes that the way to qualify for an ESA is by getting an ESA letter “from a person’s health care professional that confirms a person’s disability and/or need for an animal when the provider has personal knowledge of the individual.”

ESA Doctors connects clients with independent healthcare professionals licensed for their state. These providers offer their services remotely, so you don’t have to deal with office visits. Qualify the right way for an ESA letter through ESA Doctors by clicking on the link below.

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Why do people still say they “certified” their ESA? Sometimes people understand that the only way to qualify for an ESA is to get an ESA letter, but they still say they “certified” their pet or got a “certification” from their therapist or doctor.

The term “certify” when it comes to ESAs is not technically correct, but people often use it to describe how they got an ESA. That is perhaps why there is so much confusion about whether certifying your pet actually does anything.

Even after receiving an ESA letter, many of our clients still refer to their letter as their “certification” for their ESA.

While it may be true that your therapist or doctor has, in a manner of speaking, “certified” your qualifications and need for an ESA, they do not provide an actual certificate or certification.

Why do people still get certificates? To be crystal clear, you cannot qualify for an ESA if you only have a certificate. If someone told you that a certificate you purchased would transform your pet into an ESA, you have been duped.

Some ESA owners, however, still buy certificates for their ESAs, why is that? Certificates, like ID cards and vests, fall under the category of assistance animal paraphernalia. An ESA owner might want to commemorate their pet’s graduation to ESA status with these items or have an easily accessible way to show others in their building that they have an ESA that is exempt from pet rules.

Thus, while it is fine for genuine ESA owners to use these accessories, a certificate should never be used by someone to trick others into thinking they have an ESA. And, as you now know, a landlord does not have to accept a certificate as proof someone owns an ESA. The proper documentation for an emotional support animal is an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

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