Emotional Support Animals: What You Need to Know

Shot of a little boy and his dog wearing capes while playing outside
| 3 min read Crowdfunding

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 honour? 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. According to The Canadian Foundation for Animal Assisted Support Services, the cost for a service dog can range from $3,000 to $50,000.

This is where GoFundMe’s 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.
  • When it comes to housing, ESAs are also protected by laws. But these laws are not federal, they’re made by each of the provinces. 
  • 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

“He has provided me with love and cuddles, comfort, companionship and never fails to make me smile. Even on my worst days, where I struggle even to sit up, he has gotten me out of bed and outside for walks. 

Valerie, GoFundMe organizer

Raise funds for your own emotional support animal

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

Start an animal fundraiser

Written by caitlin