Sharing Comfort and Companionship
Our skilled emotional support dogs benefit veterans, offering therapeutic companionship and helping to restore a more active lifestyle. These affectionate dogs improve veterans’ physical, social, and emotional wellbeing and are provided at the recommendation of a medical professional.
Please understand that an emotional support dog has limited access rights but does not have the same public access rights as service dogs under the ADA laws.
Important things to know:
- A mental health professional must prescribe an emotional support animal (ESA).
- Emotional support dogs were formerly allowed on planes, however, airlines are no longer required to accommodate ESAs.
The main difference between an emotional support dog and a service dog is that a service dog is trained to perform tasks related to a disability. Our ESAs are well-behaved and trained in basic skills, while our service dogs are trained in advanced cues and skills.
What do I need to qualify for an emotional support dog?
Southeastern Guide Dogs is committed to providing you with exceptional customer service as you navigate our application process. The information below will provide you with a clear understanding of our application process and provide you with a checklist of the items that we will need to expedite your acceptance into our program.
In order to qualify for our Emotional Support Dog program, an applicant must:
- Be retired or inactive military, or approaching retirement within the next 3 months
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Reside in one of the 48 contiguous United States
- Have an official, written/typed letter from your current physician or mental health professional, specifically stating your need for an “Emotional Support Animal” (a sample letter from us can be provided directly to the physician if necessary)
- Have no felony convictions, history of violence, or protection orders
- Have no more than two dogs at the residence
The applicant must complete the Emotional Support Dog Application. This application includes:
- Personal information about the applicant
- Three (3) personal references
- Physician’s name and contact information
- Consent form
- HireRight consent form (criminal background authorization)
- Documentation of Military Service (DD-214 for retired or separated military or a memo from the Commanding Officer on letterhead for active-duty military)
In addition to the completion of the application, additional applicant screening will include a pre-admission phone interview and in-home evaluation with a Southeastern Guide Dogs staff member.
Upon receipt of the fully completed application, all supporting documentation, phone screening, and the in-home interview, our Admissions Department will evaluate your candidacy. Once accepted, you will be contacted by our staff to discuss the next steps. If your acceptance is denied, you will receive written notice of the decision within 2 weeks.
Once Southeastern Guide Dogs has identified a dog that may be a good match, we will contact you to schedule your training. Our training program will require three days of specialized instruction, which takes place in your community. During this time, you will work with our instructors to learn your dog’s basic cues and skills, and how to properly care for your dog. Upon completion of the training program, we will execute an adoption agreement that will transfer ownership of the dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs to you.
Southeastern Guide Dogs provides our dogs, training, and equipment to qualifying recipients free of charge. Once adopted, the maintenance and care of the dog and all associated medical expenses become the responsibility of the handler. We estimate this cost to be between $900 and $1,200 annually.
“Raven has brought me harmony and calmness, and I feel safe for the first time in a long time. She’s already improved my quality of life and I have hope for a better future.”
— Marine Veteran Patrick Whitley with service dog Raven | Lakeland, Florida
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Applying for Programs Q&A
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