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Emotional Support Animals: What Psychiatrists Need to Know

Available: March 1, 2024 - March 1, 2027


This course is free to members for the month of March (2024). On April 1, 2024, the course will be available for purchase.



Psychiatrists may be asked to write a letter supporting a patient’s request for an emotional support animal (ESA). Laws regulating ESAs vary across federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Because this is an evolving area of law, it is essential for psychiatrists to stay up to date with laws in their jurisdictions. This panel discussion will provide an overview of the clinical, ethical, and legal considerations that a psychiatrist should take into account when asked to write an ESA letter for a patient. Dr. Menon will describe the relevant federal and state laws, comparing and contrasting laws regulating ESAs to those regulating service animals. Dr. Ridout will explore the evidence base for the use of ESAs. Dr. Nesbit will review the process of conducting an ESA evaluation and pertinent ethical considerations, including the psychiatrist’s secondary ethical obligation to public health, as well as potential ethical concerns regarding role conflict. Dr. Dike will discuss liability-related concerns by reviewing relevant cases and strategies to reduce liability.


Recorded webinar, non-interactive, self-paced distance learning activity.

This presentation was recorded at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting 2023.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify relevant federal and state laws related to ESAs
  • Understand the current literature supporting the use of ESAs
  • Describe the steps to completing an ESA evaluation
  • Appreciate the relevant ethical considerations when deciding whether to write an ESA letter for a patient
  • Recognize the potential liability a psychiatrist may face when writing an ESA letter, and how to reduce this risk

Target Audience

Medical Students, Residents/Fellows, Psychiatrists

Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 1.50 hours
Begin Date: March 1, 2024
End Date: March 1, 2027

How to Earn Credit

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™ or a certificate of participation may do so by completing all sections of the course including the evaluation. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians) or certificate of participation (non-physicians) showing the event date and hours earned.

Continuing Education Credit

In support of improving patient care, the American Psychiatric Association is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.


The APA designates this enduring activity for a maximum of 1.50 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures

The American Psychiatric Association adheres to the ACCME’s Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Medical Education. Any individuals in a position to control the content of a CME activity — including faculty, planners, reviewers or others — are required to disclose all relevant financial relationships with ineligible entities (commercial interests). All relevant conflicts of interest have been mitigated prior to the commencement of the activity.

Program Presenters

  • Ariana Nesbit, MD, MVE. Has no financial relationships to disclose. 
  • Meera Menon, MD. Has no financial relationships to disclose. 
  • Charles Dike, MD. Has no financial relationships to disclose. 
  • Kathryn Ridout, MD. Has no financial relationships to disclose. 

Program Planners

  • Vishal Madaan, MD, Chief of Education and Deputy Medical Director, APA. Has no financial relationships to disclose. 

Accessibility for Participants with Disabilities

The American Psychiatric Association is committed to ensuring accessibility of its website to people with disabilities. If you have trouble accessing any of APA’s online resources, please contact us at 202-559-3900 for assistance.

Technical Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using any of the following:

  • The latest and 2nd latest public versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari
  • Internet Explorer 11+

This Web site requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration:

  • Browser: Google Chrome (latest and 2nd latest version), Safari (latest and 2nd latest version), Internet Explorer 11.0+, Firefox (latest and 2nd latest version), or Microsoft Edge (latest and 2nd latest version)
  • Operating System: Windows versions 8.1+, Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) +, Android (latest and 2nd latest version), or iOS/iPad OS (latest and 2nd latest version)
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements:

  • Windows PC: Windows 8.1 or higher; 1 GB (for 32-bit)/2 GB (for 64-bit) or higher RAM; Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content
  • Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.5 or higher with latest updates installed; Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor; 512 MB or higher RAM; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

For assistance: Contact for questions about this activity | Contact for technical assistance

Availability: On-Demand
Expires on Mar 01, 2027
Cost: Member: $18.75
Non-Member: $37.50
Medical Student: $18.75
Resident Fellow Member: $18.75
Credit Offered:
1.5 CME Credits
1.5 COP Credits
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