Pet Prescription: An Overview and Guide for Primary Care Providers in the Certification of an Individual for an Emotional Support Animals


There is no cost to participate in this 45-minute on-demand course. Learners will be asked to complete an activity post-assessment with a passing score of 75%.

Before enrolling in this educational activity, you must log in or create an account. 

Once you register for the course, you will have 30 days from the enrollment date to complete the course. The date your access expires will be indicated in the Course Summary box on this webpage.

Target Audience

Healthcare professionals.


The purpose of this educational activity is to enhance the knowledge and confidence of medical providers choosing to certify patients requesting an emotional support animal. A greater understanding of what aspects are included in a patient's laws and certification process for an emotional support animal will assist providers when meeting the diverse needs of patients with qualifying mental health conditions.  

    Educational Need

    The use of emotional support animals is difficult to track as there is no direct oversight of their certification. According to the National Service Animal Registry, a private, voluntary, online registry program, between 2011 to 2018, the number of service animals in their registry grew from 2,000 to over 200,000. The 200,000 animals reported represent only a fraction of emotional support animals that have been certified. Another indication of the increasing prevalence of emotional support animals is an 84% increase in animal incidences on planes resulting in an amendment to the Air Carriers Access Act, providing airlines with more discretion on their policies surrounding emotional support animals (Delta 2019).

    Despite the increase in the therapeutic use of emotional support animals, there are no clear guidelines on the certification process or what comprises a thorough certification. As of 2017, 35.7%  of mental health providers did not feel confident about an individual's certification for an emotional support animal (Boness).


    1. Define an emotional support animal and how it differs from other service animals. 
    2. Discuss federal laws and regulations about emotional support animals.
    3. Recognize possible risks and benefits when certifying an individual for an emotional support animal.
    4. List the four components that comprise a thorough assessment when a patient requests an emotional support animal certification.


    Tucker Rients, PA-S2
    Physician Assistant Student, Des Moines University

    Academic Advisor

    Heather Opseth, PA-C
    Assistant Director, Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program

    Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

    Recording date: April 14, 2023
    Date of original release: April 22, 2023
    Most recent review/update: April 22, 2023
    Termination date: April 21, 2026

    Course summary
    Available credit: 
    • 0.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits
    • 0.75 AOA Category 2­B
    • 0.75 CE Contact Hour(s)
    Course opens: 
    Course expires: 

    Accreditation Statements

    • MD: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Iowa Medical Society (IMS). Des Moines University (DMU) is accredited by the IMS to provide continuing medical education for physicians. DMU designates this enduring materials activity for a maximum of 0.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™.  Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
    • DO: Des Moines University (DMU) is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) to provide osteopathic continuing medical education for physicians. DMU designates this activity for a maximum of 0.75 AOA Category 2-B credits and will report CME and specialty credits commensurate with the extent of the physician’s participation in this activity.
    • Other Healthcare Professionals: This enduring materials activity is designated for a maximum of 0.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™.

    Educational Grants

    No ineligible company provided financial support for this continuing education activity. 


    The planning committee member(s) and speaker(s) will disclose if any pharmaceuticals or medical procedures and devices discussed are investigational or unapproved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The determination of educational content and the selection of speakers is the responsibility of the activity director. 

    Relevant to the content of this educational activity, the following individual(s) have no conflict(s) with ineligible companies to disclose.

    • Heather Opseth, PA-C
    • Tucker Rients, PA-S2


    The information provided in this activity is for continuing education purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a healthcare provider relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient’s medical condition. The content of each presentation does not necessarily reflect the views of Des Moines University.

    Available Credit

    • 0.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits
    • 0.75 AOA Category 2­B
    • 0.75 CE Contact Hour(s)


    Please login or Create an Account to take this course.