The Difference Between an ESA Letter and a Service Animal Certification

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Animals are pivotal in bringing love, companionship, and even services to humans. In a world where the little furry felas give bundles of joy to the handlers, it becomes essential to understand animal documents and certifications. 

Living arrangements can be tricky when an emotional support or service animal is in the picture. Understanding what a housing ESA letter entails and its role in easing residential problems can be challenging. 

This article explores the letters and documents and explains the differences between an ESA letter and service animal certification. Dive in and be delighted with the information.

ESA Letter Explained 

ESA letter refers to a written document issued by a mental health professional stating the legitimate reason why an individual with a disability needs an emotional support animal. The letter indicates how the emotional support animal helps the person with a disability cope with specific challenges. 

Service Animal Certification 

While service animals undergo special training to help persons with disabilities with particular tasks, there is no certification issue for service animals in the United States. Service animals undergo specific training to help persons with disabilities; this training is what certifies them. 

What Is The Main Difference Between an ESA Letter and Service Animal Certification?

An ESA letter stipulates why an individual with a disability needs an emotional support animal. At the same time, a service dog does not require any certification to provide services to a person with a disability. 

Also, service animals require special training to deliver essential services to a person with a disability, while emotional support animals do not undergo training. An ESA letter needs the involvement of a professional such as a psychiatrist, while the service animal certification is the training and does not require a psychiatrist. 

Components Of An ESA Letter

The components of an ESA letter can vary due to the difference in jurisdictions and the places of issue. While some environments accept any ESA letter, some specifically demand a legitimate ESA letter. 

Some of the components of an ESA letter are: 

  • The licensed mental health provider’s information, such as qualifications, license number, contact information, date of their license, and the licensing state 
  • The letter should indicate the date of issuance.
  • It should have specific information about the patient. For example, name, contact information, and date of birth.
  • The letter should indicate the particular diagnosed mental and emotional disability
  • It should explain how the mental disability affects the patient
  • The letter should explain why having emotional support animals gives therapeutic benefits for their emotional disability symptoms. 
  • The mental health professional should indicate their support for the patient having an ESA.
  • The letter can indicate the specific emotional support animal in possession.
  • The letter must have the signature and stamp of the mental health professional to enhance the validity.
  • The letter can include the duration of its validity

Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal 

While emotional support animals and service animals play similar roles for individuals with disabilities, there are distinctions between the two regarding what they can do and their legal rights. Some of the differences are: 


Emotional support animals offer a company that provides comfort and relief for individuals with mental health conditions, while service animals give physical support to individuals with disabilities.

Service animals have essential functions such as alerting the handle with hearing or vision problems. Emotional support animals are ideal for providing psychological support to individuals experiencing distress. 


Service animals must undergo intense and specific training to ensure their capacity to perform tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals do not need training for them to function effectively. 


Emotional support animals do not require special certifications showing their ability to perform well. Service animals undergo training that assesses their ability to provide adequate services to their handler. 


Service animals have sufficient training that suits them for individuals experiencing physical disability. On the other hand, emotional support animals are suitable for emotional and psychological disabilities because they do not possess special skills to assist the handler with physical tasks.

Understanding the Legal Rights Of ESAs and Service Animals  

According to the Federal Housing Agreement, emotional support animals and service animals are allowed to live with a tenant. The agreement outlines the protection from discrimination against using assistive pets such as ESAs and service animals. In cases where the rental agreement prohibits pets, it should legally allow service animals and ESAs. 

On the rights in regards to being in public places, service animals can accompany the handler to public spaces as is their right. However, no law obliges public spaces to accommodate emotional support animals. Therefore, ESAs cannot go to pet-restricted areas in public. 

Regarding traveling, service dogs can go on planes with the handler and have the right to travel with the person they are assisting. However, airline services are not legally obligated to recognize or allow ESAs to travel with the handler; this does not mean that airlines do not allow ESAs. Some airlines require an ESA letter with specific details and have rules about submitting an ESA letter before traveling.