What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is an assistance animal that provides a sense of comfort and safety to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities. Unlike Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals do not have to be specially trained. ESAs do not need to perform any particular tasks for their owners other than providing emotional support. Two federal laws provide protection for these types of animals, the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Austin, Texas? 

To qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in the city of Austin, you must qualify for an ESA letter. ESA letters are formal recommendation letters and carry weight under the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act when presented. Only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) or a doctor who has evaluated your mental or emotional illness can write an ESA letter for you.

Should you decide to use an online ESA service, make sure that you are connected with an LMHP licensed in the State of Texas.

ESA Doctors, est. 2015

If your current therapist is able to write you an ESA letter and is familiar with ESA regulations, they would be your best choice. If you do not have access to an LMHP for an ESA letter, ESA Doctors can help connect you with an LMHP that can help you if you live in Austin, TX.

To work with a licensed health professional to qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, click below.

What is an ESA letter and who can write one?

How to get an ESA Letter in Austin, Texas infographic.

ESA letters are letters of recommendation written and signed by a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor, stating that the assistance animal helps with the owner’s disability. The animal needs to alleviate the symptoms of an emotional or mental disability, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD or phobias.

The person who writes and signs the ESA letter must be a licensed mental health professional. The ESA letter may be used in cases where the disabled person:

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If you need help finding a LMHP, we are here to help you.

Where can you go with your ESA in Austin, TX?

Just like any other animal, you can bring them to places such as dog parks or businesses that allow animals on the premises in the city of Austin. Emotional Support Animals have special access rights on airplanes and in housing where normal pets would not be allowed. An ESA letter must be presented alongside any other documentation required for your emotional support animal to be allowed on planes or for housing.

Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore they don’t have access to public spaces where animals are not allowed.

Where can you adopt an ESA in Austin, TX? 

In the lone star state, there are many animal centers where pets and assistance animals can be adopted. Animals such as dogs, cats, and even rodents may qualify as emotional support animals, and adopting helps give that animal a new home and a second chance at life.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular animal shelters in the Austin community: 

Austin Animal Center – As the largest no-kill community in the nation, the Austin animal center is a government-funded animal shelter, providing shelter for over 16,000 animals each year.

Austin Animal Center - Adopt an ESA in Austin, TX
Austin Animal Center

Austin Pets Alive! – Austin Pets Alive is a no-kill animal shelter that has saved over 60,000 pet lives by decreasing the euthanasia rate of animals in shelters through fundraisers and charity events. (AustinPetsAlive)

Austin Pets Alive! - Adopt an ESA in Austin, TX
Austin Pets Alive!

Austin Humane Society – The Austin Humane Shelter has been around since 1952, making it the longest standing no-kill shelter in Austin. The AHS has helped save over 11,000 animals as a result of their efforts to protect and care for homeless and abused animals. (AustinHumaneSociety)

Austin Humane Society - Adopt an ESA in Austin, TX
Austin Humane Society (photo by Mark Springer)
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PAWS of Austin –  PAWS is a nonprofit animal rescue organization, specializing in Great Danes and focuses on solving issues relating to animal cruelty, disaster preparedness, and helping homeless animals find new and loving homes. (PawsofAustin). 

PAWS of Austin - Adopt an ESA in Austin, TX
PAWS of Austin


Central Texas SPCA
– The SPCA in Central Texas has been running for over 30 years, protecting homeless and abused animals. Since 1988, the Central Texas SPCA has rescued over 6,700 dogs and cats over the years, making this establishment an excellent place to give a homeless animal a new home. (CentralTexasSPCA)

Central Texas SPCA - Adopt an ESA in Austin, TX
Central Texas SPCA (photo by Phillip Barnhart)

Where can you take your ESA for exercise, especially before a flight in Austin, TX? 

Before a long flight, you can give your ESA some exercise at the Montropolis Neighborhood Park or the Dove Springs District Park. Both parks accommodate dogs and their owners and are relatively close to the airport. 

Montropolis Neighborhood Park is a wonderful place to exercise your ESA before a flight.
Montropolis Neighborhood Park is a wonderful place to exercise your ESA before a flight.

If you plan on traveling across the county or even internationally, preparing your Emotional Support Animal for the long flight may seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there are places that you can walk to in the airport where your ESA can relieve itself.

The Austin-Bergstorm International Airport accommodates animals before travel by offering a pet drinking fountain, dog waste pick up bags, and a pet relief area. Their dog walk area is lighted and landscaped, allowing your animal to work off some energy before and after a flight and relieve themselves without having to leave the airport.

Austin airport even has an animal relief center inside the airport for connecting flights.

Austin-Bergstrom also teams up with wellness companies to offer therapy dog sessions. Travelers waiting long hours for their flight can pet a therapy dog to soothe their worries.

If you are interested in qualifying for an Emotional Support Animal in Austin, we are happy to help you.

Good local pet stores to purchase food and treats for your Emotional Support Animal

Want to get some awesome treats and toys for your emotional support animal? The city of Austin has plenty of pet stores around the area that can serve your needs. 

Map of select pet stores in Austin Texas
Find a pet stores close to your location in Austin, Texas

P & F Pet Provisions – Born out of the sheer passion for pets, P & F Pet Provisions aims to have everything an animal needs to be comfortable and happy. P & F Pet Provisions works with numerous shelters in the area to provide beds, treats, toys, and food to animals in need. They do next day delivery for online shoppers. (PandFPet). 

Tomlinson’s Feed – Open since 1946 and run by a family of four generations, Tomlinson’s Feed advocates for animal rescue and focuses their selections for those who are health-conscious and care about what their pets eat. Focusing on all-natural ingredients, Tomlinson’s Feed sells products that meet a standard of health that every dog owner can appreciate. (Tomlinson).

Healthy Pet – Healthy Pet is a nationwide pet store that opened its doors in 2002. Regularly hosting animal adoption events and nutritional education classes, Healthy Pet is a pet supply store that prides itself on high-quality service and its wide selection of premium products. (HealthyPetAustin)

News regarding Assistance Animals around Austin, TX

In August 2019, the tragic El Paso shooting occurred, which resulted in 22 deaths and 24 injuries. Two trained golden retrievers of Austin’s Bethany Lutheran Church K9 Comfort Dog program traveled to El Paso to provide emotional support to the survivors.

Austin Therapy Dogs waiting to board their flight to El Paso.
Austin Therapy Dogs waiting to board their flight to El Paso.
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