Emotional Support Animal Registration for Dogs & Cats - 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, we'll explain everything 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.

An emotional support animal comforting their owner

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 letter from a licensed mental health professional prescribing why a certain pet dog, cat, or other animal is important for the therapeutic benefit of a person who has a mental health condition.. 

Why Declare Your Dog, Cat, or Other Pet as an Emotional Support Animal 

Federal laws support ESAs and people who have prescribed ESAs. 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. 

Some landlords may put stipulations that they don’t accept tenants that have pets. However, because ESAs are needed for therapeutic reasons (as attested to by a mental health professional), landlords are legally obliged to not discriminate against potential tenants that have ESAs — as detailed in the Fair Housing Act.

Responsibilities of ESA Owners   

In recent times, there has been an issue with rising numbers of fraudulent emotional support animal registrations. Prevalent abuse of this system leads to skepticism and stigma towards ESAs. To maintain positive relationships with landlords and neighbors, it is recommended for owners of ESAs to be responsible with their special animal companion. 

Maintaining a hygienic environment and preventing loud barking in emotional support dogs are just a few examples of what ESA owners can do to positively represent the system that supports ESAs.

A well behaved cat in an apartment after the cat just underwent emotional support animal registration

Steps and Requirements for Emotional Support Animal Registration in Colorado

For a dog or cat to be recognized as an emotional support animal under Colorado law, the pet must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to an individual with an emotional or mental disability or condition. 

So before you a dog, cat, or other pet will be recognized as an emotional support animal in Colorado, they must first be registered as emotional support animals. Here are the steps for emotional support animal registration

1. Find a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The first step for emotional support animal registration is to be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional who will determine if an individual can be prescribed an ESA. It is recommended to see a reputable psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. 

With the growth of telemedicine, this step is made more convenient. It may be possible to meet with a mental health professional virtually.

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 for someone with a qualified condition. Essentially, an ESA letter details how a dog or cat differs from an ordinary pet when it comes to therapeutic benefits. 

An ESA letter must be written on an official letterhead, signed, dated, and includes the mental health professional's name, contact information, and license number. ESA letters can be sent to a patient in-person or electronically.

3. Present Your ESA Letter as Documentation

After securing a valid emotional support animal letter, a hard copy or an electronic copy can be presented to landlords (as well as other individuals who may need to see documentation). 

Note: In Colorado, securing a valid ESA letter is all it takes to accomplish what many refer to as “emotional support animal registration.” Your dog doesn'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

ESA letters are valid for 12 months from the date it was written. If you have an ESA letter that was issued more than 12 months ago, reach out to a mental health professional to renew your ESA letter.

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

Final Thoughts on How to Register an Emotional Support Animal

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. There is no need to put an emotional support animal’s details on a website — and there are no licenses, certificates, or mandatory vests/collars/tags that ESA’s need.

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 both dogs and cats, this means ensuring that the pets are well-behaved, reasonably quiet, and have updated vaccine shots that prevent transmissible diseases from spreading. 

To learn more about veterinary care for your emotional support animal, reach out to your local veterinarian. 

For Denver pet parents of ESAs, Sploot Veterinary Care is here for you. We are a primary and urgent care clinic with multiple convenient locations. Book an appointment or come in for a walk-in appointment anytime from 10 am to 10 pm, daily

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

180420-D-SW162-1293 by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is licensed with CC by 2.0

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