For those whose disabilities impact their day-to-day life, including mental health disorders like depression or PTSD, a service animal can be an absolute life-changer. Service animals are trained to perform specific actions that help mitigate the symptoms of a disability, such as retrieving medication, grounding their handler during a flashback, or even calling emergency services. Because they’re medically necessary, they’re also granted more rights than standard companion animals. For instance, they can live in any housing, regardless of “no pets” policies, and cannot be charged pet rent or security deposits; they’re also granted public access, meaning they can go with their handler to most public locations, including airplane cabins.
While the only legal requirement for owning a service dog is having a diagnosed disability, and then having your dog be trained to perform tasks to lessen the impact of that disability’s symptoms, many handlers choose to have their service dog registered. A major reason for getting your service dog registered is that most of these sites provide photo IDs and marked collar tags or vests that can minimize confrontations by making it clear your dog is a service animal. Many also provide legal support in case you do run into hassles in the future. However, picking the right service animal registration service can be tricky, since there are illegitimate companies that take advantage of people. Luckily, we’ve put in the research to help you find the ones you can trust, as well as answer all your questions about service animal registration.
When choosing the top three best animal registration and training services, we looked at the quality of the customer service, how effective their legal services are, how easy the process was, cost, timeliness, if they worked with licensed mental health care professionals, and if they offer service dog training. We dismissed any with particularly glaring red flags, so you can feel confident in any of these three services.
U.S. Service Animals inspired us with the most confidence for a variety of reasons. One, they were founded by lawyers, so it’s easy to trust that everything they offer matches current legal requirements. Their customer service is also outstanding, and their legal team is highly effective. While they’re highly regarded in the industry – boasting an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau – they’re also an excellent value, even going so far as to offer a money-back guarantee.
U.S. Service Animals also partners with the two most premier online service animal training schools, and as such, they offer their customers discounted pricing. This means that online service dog training is even more affordable and accessible to nearly anyone who needs it. One thing we didn’t love is they do send a lot of promotional mailers after you’ve registered, but we do feel the pros outweigh the single con.
-Founded by lawyers
-Partners with 3 premier service dog training online schools
-A+ BBB rating
-Strong legal and customer support teams
-Great value and money-back guarantee
-Sends a significant amount of promotional mailers post-registration
There are a lot of strong positives in favor of Certapet, especially if you’re unsure if you qualify and would like answers fast. Certapet offers a free, five-minute pre-screening exam which helps determine if you are eligible for either an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service dog. Once it’s determined you are, you’re set up with an appointment with a licensed mental health professional; if you aren’t, there’s no need to waste any time progressing further. They also offer a payment plan (though they do charge a non-fundable $35 consultation fee), and their customer service team is friendly and helpful. Overall, their process is quick, with a fast turnaround, so you can get what you need when you need it.
However, we’re not overly confident in their transparency, as they frame it as a “PSD letter,” which is not something that exists; there is a legally required prescription letter for obtaining an emotional support animal, but there is not one for a psychiatric service dog. If instead, they simply called it a PSD registration, we’d find them much more trustworthy. They also do not offer any PSD training programs, which is a major requirement if you’re trying to sort this all out on your own, so their service feels incomplete. Still, if you’re in a hurry and would like some reassurance that you’re qualified before you commit to a more intensive process, Certapet may be right for you.
-Payment plan offered
-Free, five-minute pre-screening exam
-Helpful customer service team
-Registration is framed as a “PSD letter,” which does not exist
-Charges a non-refundable $35 consultation fee
-Does not offer any PSD training
If budget is one of your primary concerns when choosing an animal registration service, the Valid ESA should definitely be one of your top considerations. Not only do they offer their services at a great value, but they will give you a full refund of the doctor consultation fee if it turns out you don’t qualify for a psychiatric service dog. They also steer away from non-legally required physical items, like collar tags and vests; while these are useful to have sometimes, we do appreciate that this shows a clear focus on what matters and not on making a profit. They also have an impressive legal team, which not all budget options do.
While service dog training is already less expensive than in-person options, with Valid ESA, it’s even more affordable. They’ve partnered with a premier online service animal training partner who offers discounted pricing for Valid ESA’s user base. There is one negative that keeps us from fully loving them; the entire checkout process must be done over the phone – there’s no way to input your credit card info without speaking with someone. While this may be merely inconvenient for some, for others – like those with social anxiety, or other tips of anxiety disorders or social phobias – this can be a major issue.
-Partners with a premier online service dog training service
-Great value, and offers a doctor consultation refund if you don’t qualify
-Doesn’t sell non-required accessories
-Strong legal team
-Must check out over the phone
-Process can be triggering for those with social anxieties
To help you feel even more prepared as you begin your service animal journey, we’ve answered the most essential questions about service animals and service animal registration.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog or miniature horse that has been trained to perform tasks that benefit a person with a diagnosed disability. A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a service dog that has specifically been trained to aid a handler with a mental health disability, such as anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, autism, or PTSD.
To qualify for a service animal, you must have an official diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional stating you would benefit from a service dog.
You are not legally required to register your service dog. It’s also important to remember that simply registering your animal as a service animal does not offer you legal rights; you must be diagnosed by an LMHP, and your dog must be trained to perform service dog tasks.
If a site only offers service dog registration, without also offering LMHP appointments or service dog training, it’s often a sign the site is a scam. However, there are sites that offer service dog registration along with an emotional support animal (ESA) letter, and it often comes along with a photo ID card, accessories that identify your dog as a service dog ( a collar tag, vest, leash, etc), and legal support.
If you’re willing and able to put in consistent effort, online service dog training can absolutely work, especially if you choose a service that includes live dog trainer support. That way, you’ll never feel alone, and you’ll always have someone to quickly answer any questions. Training your service dog online is also significantly less expensive; a traditionally trained service dog may cost up to $40,000, while a self-trained service dog may only cost several hundred dollars.
To qualify legally as a service animal, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they must be specifically and individually trained to perform tasks or work that mitigate the symptoms of a disability, either mental or physical. Also according to the ADA, a service dog must be either a dog or a miniature horse, though some states may offer more flexibility in animal selection.
There is no size limit for a service animal, and they are exempt from weight (and breed) restrictions that may be set by a landlord. Keep in mind, though, that service animals are still subject to zoning laws.
As long as your licensed mental health care provider says you would benefit from multiple service animals, you may have multiple service animals, providing it is allowed under local zoning laws.
Typically speaking, a service dog can go anywhere in public with their handler that their handler is allowed to go. There are a few exemptions, for health reasons; for instance, a service dog cannot go into a restaurant’s kitchen or a hospital’s operating room. In general, though, if you are allowed in a public space, your service dog is allowed as well, even if they may not provide you any aid while you are there.
According to the Air Carriers Act, service dogs must be allowed in the cabin with their handler during a flight. You also may not be charged an additional fee for flying with your service dog. Keep in mind, some airlines require your service dog to be able to fit in the space by your feet or on your lap during the flight.
Yes, since service dogs are federally protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are valid in all 50 states. Some states may offer additional rights to service dogs, but none can offer less than is offered at the federal level.
You can absolutely train your own service dog. There are many online courses that will help you through every stage of the process, some of which even include live dog trainer support, so you can get some of the benefits of in-person training without the additional hassles or costs.
Unless a service animal cannot perform their required task while leashed, or their handler cannot use a leash due to their disability, then they must obey local leash laws. If a leash isn’t used, then the service dog must be well-controlled by their handler through another method, such as voice control.
Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, all service animals, emotional support animals, and assistance animals must be allowed to live in house regardless of “no pet” policies, or breed or weight restrictions, and their handler cannot be charged pet rent or a pet security deposit fee.
Legally, your service animal does not require a vest or any other kind of identifying marker. However, to avoid hassles or confrontation, many handlers choose to have their dog wear a vest to make it clear that they are a service dog and are therefore allowed in public spaces.
A service dog must be trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate the symptoms of a disability. An emotional support animal has no training requirements (short of being non-aggressive and well-controlled) and does not need to perform specific tasks for their handler. Instead, they can help their handler simply by their presence and affection.