To Crack Down On Fake Emotional Support Animals, Experts Issue New Recommendations

For people with emotional or mental disabilities, emotional support animals (ESAs) can be a vital source of comfort and companionship. However, there has been a growing concern in the last few years over the abuse of ESAs by people who simply want to bring their pets everywhere with them. This misuse of the system has created a backlash against legitimate service animals, and has prompted experts to issue new recommendations to crack down on fake ESAs.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are animals that are trained to provide comfort and support to people with emotional or mental disabilities. They are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional and are intended to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

Unlike service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers, ESAs do not require any particular training. They are simply animals that provide emotional support and companionship to their handlers, and as such have no special public access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other disability rights legislation.

The Issue with Fake Emotional Support Animals

While ESAs can be an invaluable resource for people with emotional or mental disabilities, their recent surge in popularity has led to a significant amount of abuse. Many people now see ESAs as a way to sidestep pet restrictions in housing and public areas, without any genuine emotional or mental disability needing to be present.

This has led to the problem of ‘fake’ emotional support animals – pets that are not trained for or qualified for emotional support, but are rather simply used as an excuse to bring pets into locations that do not allow them. This abuse of the system not only delegitimizes the genuine use of support animals but can also cause safety concerns for people around them, such as people with pet allergies or those who have had negative experiences with animals in the past.

How Are Fake ESAs Identified?

Identifying fake ESAs can be a challenging process. Unlike service animals, ESAs are not specifically trained for tasks that would make it obvious that they are a support animal. As such, it can be difficult to tell a genuine ESA from someone attempting to bring their pet into a location where pets are prohibited.

One option for identifying fake ESAs is to review the documentation that a person provides to prove their animal is a support animal. The documentation should show that the person has been assessed by a licensed professional and that the animal has been prescribed for that person’s care.

However, there is currently no legal standard for the type of document or verification required to certify an animal as an ESA. Many websites claim to provide official documentation for a fee or sell certificates that people can print out at home, which has created a system where anyone can claim that their animal is an ESA even if they have no legitimate need for one.

New Recommendations to Crack Down on Fake ESAs

To combat the problem of fake ESA, experts in the field have recently issued new recommendations to help identify genuine support animals and reduce the impact of fake ones. These recommendations include:

  • Establishing a standardized certification process for ESAs, which would require qualified professionals to assess a person’s need for an ESA before issuing official certification.
  • Developing a national database of certified ESAs, which would contain information about the person, their animal, and their certification status. The database could be referenced by landlords, airlines, and other entities to ensure that the animal is actually certified.
  • Cracking down on websites that sell fake ESA certificates or put up fake certification reviews. These sites contribute to the problem by making it easier for people to fake their need for an ESA.
  • Requiring that ESAs wear identifying collars or vests to make them more easily identifiable in public places, in a way similar to service animals.
  • Training public employees, such as airline attendants and landlords, on how to identify fake ESAs and what their rights and responsibilities are regarding support animals.

The Importance of Genuine Emotional Support Animals

While fake ESAs can cause significant damage, it’s important not to overlook the positive impact that genuine emotional support animals can have on people’s lives. ESAs can provide a sense of comfort and companionship that is difficult to achieve by other means, and they are often an integral part of an individual’s mental health care plan.

When legitimate support animals are falsely equated with fake ones, the result is dangerous. People who genuinely depend on support animals can be asked to leave public areas or to surrender their animals because of the behavior of unscrupulous pet owners. This can lead to an increase in the number of people who experience anxiety, depression, and other distressing conditions.


Emotional support animals have become an essential part of many people’s lives, and it’s essential to ensure that these animals are treated with respect and legitimacy. By creating standardized certification processes and reducing the impact of fake support animals, we can help ensure that genuine ESAs continue to provide vital support to those who need it most.


FAQs about “To Crack Down On Fake Emotional Support Animals Experts Issue New Recommendations”

1. What prompted the experts to issue new recommendations regarding fake emotional support animals?

The experts were prompted by the growing number of instances where people are abusing the emotional support animal designation to bring their pets into public spaces. This has made it difficult for legitimate support animal owners and businesses to maintain safe and healthy environments.

2. What are the new recommendations that have been issued?

The new recommendations call for a more stringent verification process for emotional support animals. This includes requiring owners to provide documentation from a licensed mental health professional and ensuring that the animal is trained to behave properly in public. Additionally, the recommendations suggest that businesses and airlines should no longer be required to accommodate emotional support animals.

3. What impact will these recommendations have on those who legitimately require an emotional support animal?

Those who legitimately require an emotional support animal will not be affected by these recommendations. The new guidelines are designed to crack down on fake emotional support animals and provide greater clarity and consistency for businesses and airlines. Legitimate emotional support animal owners will still be able to obtain the necessary documentation and bring their animals with them to public spaces.


1. Binfet, J. T., & Passmore, H. A. (2016). Hounds and Homesickness: The Effects of an Animal-Assisted Therapeutic Intervention for First-Year University Students. Anthrozoos, 29(3), 441–454.

2. ESA Registry (2021). How To Certify An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) | ESA Registry.

3. Fair Housing Act (2021). What People with Disabilities Need to Know about Service Animals and Assistance Animals.