How to Register an Emotional Support Animal in Colorado

 A person hugging a dog serving as an emotional support animal; the dog has secured an emotional support animal letter in Colorado

For many people with emotional or mental health struggles, a support animal can be a crucial part of their treatment plan. Fortunately, Colorado recognizes the importance of emotional support animals and has laws in place to protect them and their owners.

If you would like to learn more about emotional support animal registration for dogs and cats, the Sploot Veterinary Care team explains the key information you need to know in this complete guide.

What’s in this Guide?

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are typically small animals, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and ferrets, that offer relief for people with qualified emotional or mental disabilities or conditions. ESAs provide therapeutic benefits for individuals who have the following disabilities or conditions: :

  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias
Note: Emotional support animals differ from service animals that are professionally trained to perform tasks on behalf of a person with disability. Emotional support animals can be other animals (not just dogs) and they do not need to have special training.
An emotional support animal dog in Colorado comforting their owner

How Many Emotional Support Animals Can I Have?

It is possible to have more than one emotional support animal for one individual. However, this needs to be prescribed by a mental health professional on the official emotional support animal letter.

Why Declare Your Dog or Cat as an Emotional Support Animal 

Federal laws allow ESA owners to have equal and fair access to housing opportunities, as detailed in the Fair Housing Act. By going through the steps of emotional support animal “registration” (i.e. securing a formal ESA letter), finding housing can be easier for said individuals and their ESAs. 

Because verified ESAs are needed for therapeutic reasons (as attested to by a mental health professional), landlords are obliged to give reasonable accommodation. 

However, landlords may charge the owner of the ESA in case damage to the property has been caused by the ESA.

Do Landlords Have to Accept Emotional Support Animals?

Landlords may at times evict or reject a request from an ESA owner. These situations usually arise when an ESA poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others — or if the ESA has caused extensive property damage.

Responsibilities of ESA Owners 

Maintaining a harmonious relationship with landlords and with the community hinges on responsible ESA ownership

We encourage owners of emotional support animals to look after their ESA’s health and well-being, keep necessary vaccinations updated, and ensure beneficial house training or obedience training, if possible. 

It's essential to note that owners of emotional support animals must comply with certain pet laws applicable to the region. As an example, in Denver, Colorado, dogs and cats over 6 months of age, need to be vaccinated for rabies. In addition, dogs and cats in Denver need to be licensed. 

Learn more - Denver Dog Laws and Denver Cat Laws

Well-behaved, vaccinated cats in an apartment after being registered as emotional support animals and having proper house training

Is “Emotional Support Animal Registration” a Real Thing? 

Technically, there is no such thing as emotional support animal registration. Though this is a common phrase used, there is no database where dogs, cats, or other pets should be registered as ESAs. In addition, emotional support animals do not require a license or official certification. 

More accurately, “emotional support animal registration” is a matter of securing a formal emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health professional. 

What is an Official Emotional Support Animal Letter?

An emotional support animal letter prescribes a certain dog, cat, or other animal for emotional support or therapeutic benefits. This letter is prepared and signed by a licensed mental health professional, mainly for individuals with a diagnosed disability or condition.

Emotional Support Animal Registration in Colorado: Steps & Requirements

For a dog or cat to be recognized as an emotional support animal in Colorado, the dog or cat must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, as stated in an official emotional support animal letter. ‘Registering’ the emotional support animal in a database is not necessary.

Here are the steps for getting an official emotional support animal letter

1. Consult a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The first step for emotional support animal registration in Colorado is to be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional who will determine if an individual can be prescribed an ESA.

2. Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter

An emotional support animal letter, written by a licensed mental health professional, explains why a dog, cat, or other pet provides relief or therapeutic benefits for someone with a qualified condition. 

An ESA letter must be written on an official letterhead, signed, dated, and include the mental health professional's name, contact information, and license number.

3. Presenting the ESA Letter to a Housing Provider

After securing a valid emotional support animal letter, this can be presented to landlords. In Colorado, securing a valid ESA letter is the sole document needed — no need for “emotional support animal registration.”

Furthermore, ESAs don’t need to wear a vest or tags for identification. Some owners, however, may choose to outfit their support animals with special collars or vests indicating their role.

4. Update Your ESA Letter

A landlord may request for an updated ESA letter, issued within the last 12 months. In such cases, we recommend reaching out to a licensed mental health professional to renew the letter.

Closeup of a mental health professional updating someone’s emotional support animal registration in Colorado

Final Thoughts on Emotional Support Animal Registration (Dog or Cat) in Colorado

To conclude this article, we’d like to remind readers that in Colorado, a formal ESA letter from a mental health professional is all the “emotional support animal registration” that an ESA needs. 

In addition, emotional support animal owners, similar to other pet parents, have the responsibility to ensure that their ESAs pose no threat to other people or animals in the community. 

For owners of ESA dogs and cats, it is important to ensure good behavior and have the required dog vaccines or required cat vaccines that prevent transmissible diseases from spreading. 

Seamless Veterinary Care for Dogs & Cats in the Denver Metro Area

If you have any questions about your emotional support animal’s health, we’re here to help!

Sploot Veterinary Care is a top-rated provider of primary and urgent care for dogs and cats, with multiple locations in Denver. Our clinics are open 365 days a year, for extended hours. Book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app.

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!