How Much Does It Cost to Make Your Dog an Emotional Support Dog?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are companions who offer immeasurable support for those overwhelmed by the symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. They provide comfort, reassurance, and a sense of security, and they can help make everyday challenges easier to manage.

If you qualify for an ESA and wish to have your dog legally recognized as one, you probably have many questions about the process and how it works.

Today, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about making your dog an ESA and address one of the most common concerns individuals have: how much does the process cost?

What Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An emotional support animal is an animal that provides therapeutic relief to individuals with an emotional or mental disability through their physical presence, companionship, and affection.

Any animal can become an ESA—even reptiles and spiders. ESAs also receive legal protections under certain federal and state laws. For example, ESAs are exempt from a landlord’s pet-related restrictions, policies, and fees in every state (as per the Fair Housing Act).

However, to receive such legal privileges, you must get your dog officially recognized as an ESA. The only way to do this is to obtain a valid ESA letter from a mental health professional (LMHP) licensed to practice in your state.

What Is an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is a document that declares you have a diagnosed mental or emotional disability and have been prescribed an emotional support animal as part of your treatment plan.

The ESA letter is printed on official letterhead and must feature the LMHP’s signature, license information, and the date the letter was prescribed. It will also contain other crucial information, such as your contact details and the type of animal you have.

Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal Letter?

To qualify for an ESA letter, you must have an officially diagnosed mental or emotional disability that is classified in the DSM-5 manual.


The disability must also hinder at least one major aspect of your life, such as your work life or ability to carry out chores like getting yourself dressed. Conditions that qualify for an ESA letter include:

● Depression

● Anxiety

● Borderline personality disorder

● Bipolar disorder

● Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

In addition to this, you must undergo an ESA assessment with an LMHP. You’ll receive the letter if the LMHP deems an ESA will assist you with your disability. In some states, such as Montana and California, you are also required to have at least a 30-day relationship with the LMHP before they can provide you with the ESA letter.

How Much Does It Cost to Make My Dog an ESA?

At the bare minimum, you can expect to pay between $50 to $250 to make your dog an ESA. This is the cost of meeting with your LMHP, undergoing an assessment, and receiving an ESA letter prescription.

However, the exact cost can vary depending on your health insurance plan, which LMHP you use, and state laws. For example, you may need to pay for multiple meetings if you’re required to have an established relationship with the provider in your state.

There are other potential costs to be mindful of, too. While your dog isn’t legally required to undergo any training, it does need to be well-behaved and know its basic obedience to benefit from the legal protections outlined in the Fair Housing Act. This means you may need to pay for training costs if you’re unable to fully train it yourself. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $75 for each training session.


You can also pay a fee to register your ESA with an online database. This isn’t necessary and won’t grant you any additional legal protection, but it can entitle you to additional perks. For example, US Service Animals’ emotional support animal registration grants you access to attorneys whenever you need legal assistance and a convenient animal ID card to show to those who question your animal’s status.

Making Your Dog an Emotional Support Dog: First Steps

Making your dog an ESA can seem daunting, but remember that the effort, time, and fees are truly worth it. Legal recognition gives you additional protections that can make daily life much easier to manage.

You also don’t have to undergo the ESA letter process alone. US Service Animals is an organization that can arrange everything for you and connect you with an LMHP quickly, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you feel you would benefit from having extra support.

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