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How to Qualify to be an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

Vancouver ecoVillage does NOT certify Emotional Support Animals (ESA) that support a single individual or a family with psychological or emotional problems such as PTSD. Instead, our dogs are certified to provide help to people at the community level through Animal-assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy. This means that our dogs are trained with health-care professionals or school counsellors to help their clients, or they work with patients recuperating in hospitals, the elderly in retirement homes or even students trying to cope with the stress of exams on college campuses. 

What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)? An ESA is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a person's licensed specialist ie. psychiatrist or licensed mental health professional. The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability.

What Animals Qualify To Be An ESA?
There is NO Provincial recognition for Emotional Support Animals in British Columbia. Even Emotional Support Dogs are NOT ELIGIBLE to be certified as SERVICE DOGS.


What are Service Dogs?

Guide and service dogs help people with disabilities avoid hazards or perform specific tasks to mitigate their disability. They can help a person navigate through public areas, alert to sounds, open doors and warn of oncoming epileptic seizures.

What To Do
For a person to qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Typically, a medical doctor does not qualify because they are not a licensed mental health professional. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor, however.

The Letter Should State That:

  1. You are currently his/her patient

  2. Are under his/her care for the treatment of mental disability found in the DSM IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4\5.

  3. Your disability substantially limits at least one major life activity

  4. He/she prescribes for you an emotional support animal as a necessary treatment for your mental health.

In addition, the letter must be dated, written on his/her letterhead, include his/her license type, number, date of license, and province in which the license was issued.

Next Steps

Once you obtain a letter from a specialist such as a psychiatrist, the next step is to present that letter to your landlord, an airline company or other entity to whom you wish to provide proof. 

NOTE: There is no legal obligation for the other party to approve your request but they may be motivated to do so on compassionate grounds. Keep in mind that animals that have little training, are poorly behaved or have damaged property will likely be rejected

Note to Clinician: Esure the animal is trained and will not be a hazard or disturbance to others before you give your letter to your client. If the animal attacks a person or another animal there may be repercussions for you in terms of liability or credibility. There is no provincial recognition of ESD meaning landlords and store owners are not obliged to allow the animal on premises. However, where regulations are more lax, service providers may permit the animal together with a medical letter ie. airlines and hotels.

What if You Receive a Pet Eviction?

Regardless of whether you have an ESA or simply a pet, if your pet has been living with you for at least 1 year and no one has complained about noise or allergies, you can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to have the eviction dismissed. You will need to show at least medical records for your animal with your current address to prove that the animal has been living with you. It would also help you to obtain a few letters from other tenants stating the animal has not been a nuisance to them or others. 

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