Emotional Support Animals: What You Need to Know

little boy with large dog
Paige Kutilek
|3 min read


Owning a pet has many benefits, including emotional support. Some pets, however, can become officially designated emotional support animals (ESAs). How do pets get this extra-special badge of honor? Does it have any legal teeth? How are emotional support animals similar to, and different from, service animals?

What is an emotional support animal?

While service animals perform tasks to aid people with physical disabilities, emotional support animals aid people with diagnosed psychological disabilities (such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder). If you or someone you know has such a condition, having a pet designated as an emotional support animal gives you special air travel and housing privileges.

How do you get your pet certified as an emotional support animal? The same doctor who diagnosed your disability can either designate your pet as an ESA, or prescribe you a pet. You heard that right—you can be prescribed a puppy.

How crowdfunding can help

Of course, pets can be expensive. If you’re prescribed a puppy, the first year (according to the ASPCA) will cost you an average of $1,270. A kitten will cost you $1,070.

This is where GoFundMe’s free crowdfunding comes in. When Aunt Beatrice can’t afford the pet she’s been prescribed for emotional support, our platform makes it easy (and free) to pass the hat among family and friends.

The many benefits of ESAs

An official emotional support animal can offer several benefits:

  • Costs associated with your pet can be deductible medical expenses.
  • Airlines must accommodate emotional support animals without extra fees.
  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits landlords from denying housing to or collecting pet fees from people with emotional support animals. There are some exceptions—find out more about service animal exceptions.

Last but not least, if your emotional support animal is a dog, you might be wondering if she needs to wear a vest identifying her as an ESA. The answer is no—though such a vest can (stylishly) signal her special status to the public.

“We decided to try and find something that would help us to reconnect, heal and bring our family back together. That something that turned out to be our blessing in disguise was Bodie. Through raising Bodie we were able to heal and grow together. Bodie became our Registered Emotional Support Animal and has helped us to heal and get through the most difficult of family times.”

Freshta, GoFundMe organizer

“I have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), a dog named Birdie, to help me with my disability. The difference she has made in my life cannot be overstated. She helps me get through the most difficult times of my illness and makes those times more bearable.”

Lily, GoFundMe organizer

Raise funds for your own emotional support animal

People turn to GoFundMe for animal fundraising every day. With our free fundraising model, you can rest assured that you get to keep more of the funds you raise.

Start an animal fundraiser

Paige Kutilek

About Paige Kutilek

I'm keen on creating meaningful and thoughtful content that will have an impact. I'm a dedicated individual with a creative touch who is always eager to learn more. Lover of cats, avocados, and tea.

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