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How to Ask a Doctor for an Emotional Support Animal Letter

Why Do I Need an ESA Letter?

Your pet may already be providing you with the affection, love, and support you need to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and other common challenges – so why should you ask your doctor for an official Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter? It’s not unusual for patients to assume that an ESA letter is not necessary if they already have a pet that can facilitate the compassionate care they need. However, it’s important to understand that an official Emotional Support Animal Letter from a licensed mental health professional or doctor is critical in protecting your rights and enabling you to continue managing your symptoms with the help of your ESA. There are two primary situations in which an Emotional Support Animal Letter is not only useful but highly necessary:

Fair Housing Act Emotional Support Animals

When you’re searching for housing, an ESA letter will ensure that you and your emotional support animal are not unfairly discriminated against by landlords, property managers, and other housing staff. According to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate due to a disability, race, religion, national origin, color, sex, or familial status in situations of housing. Anyone attempting to buy or rent a home, get a mortgage, or receive housing assistance is protected against discrimination resulting from any of these factors. Public and private housing are both subject to the FHA regulations, with only a few exceptions made for small, owner-occupied buildings, members-only club properties, religious housing, and single-family homes sold or rented without a licensed agent. With a registered emotional support animal, there are opportunities to avoid security deposits and save money. If you have a mental or emotional disability that qualifies you for an emotional support animal, you are also protected by the FHA. However, you must have an official ESA Letter to effectively communicate and defend your right to an emotional support animal, even at properties with a “no pets” policy. With an ESA Letter, a property owner or manager cannot prevent you from buying or renting a property due to your disability and ESA – they must make every attempt to make reasonable accommodation. Further, you cannot be required to pay additional fees or lose privileges because of your ESA. In these situations, an official ESA Letter is highly valuable and necessary to protect your rights.

Emotional Support Animal Letter for Flying

When you’re planning to travel by airplane with your emotional support animal, you will be required to provide the airline with a copy of your ESA Letter. Without the proper documentation, most airlines will require you to place your pet in the cargo hold of the plane. However, because of the guidelines outlined in the Air Carrier Access Act, you cannot be discriminated against because of your disability. Simply provide your ESA Letter and any additional information needed, and the airline will allow your emotional support animal to sit with you in the main cabin. It is important to know that there are a few restrictions on ESA air travel, including the types of animals permitted as well as specific regulations for foreign travel. With your pet being registered an emotional support animal, there are opportunities to save hundreds of dollars by avoiding the cost of booking a flight for your pet. Depending on the size of the pet, you may also be able to bring the pet to the seat with you.

How Long Does an ESA Letter Last?

An Emotional Support Animal Letter is valid for one year from the date of issue. After that, a licensed health professional can re-issue the letter for another year (and continue to renew it every year thereafter).

FAQs About Emotional Support Animals

If you’re planning on asking your doctor for an emotional support animal, you may have one or more of the following questions on your mind:

Do I Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

For many people, determining whether or not they qualify for an emotional support animal can seem confusing. However, you may be surprised to discover that your emotional or mental challenges are included in the wide range of conditions that commonly receive doctors’ recommendations for ESA. While it will ultimately be up to a licensed professional to provide you with the official ESA “prescription,” here are just a few of the diagnosable conditions that can allow you to obtain an ESA:
  • Anxiety or panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Phobias
  • Mood disorders

<h2>How Do I Choose an Emotional Support Animal?</h2>
When a doctor provides you with an emotional support animal “prescription” or ESA Letter, the documentation is not necessarily attached to a specific animal. Rather, the ESA Letter simply provides your information and the professional recommendation for an ESA. Therefore, it is up to you to choose an emotional support animal that can suit your needs, if you don’t already have one.

While there are not currently specific organizations dedicated specifically to matching people with ESAs, there are a few key characteristics you can search for when considering different animals:

  • First and foremost, your ESA should be able to provide you with the comfort and affection that effectively helps your condition. Choose a pet that you feel a connection with and are able to bond well with for the best results. Keep in mind that most ESA’s are cats or dogs, but other pets are eligible. Many airlines limit the type of pet to only dogs.
  • Your ESA should be relatively well-trained and able to behave positively in public, including around people and other animals.
  • While there is no specific limitation on the type of animal that can be an ESA, it’s important to know that certain animals may face limitations in housing and air travel. For example, large animals such as horses or llama are far more likely to be refused by a landlord. The FHA regulations allow property owners to deny ESA requests in the event the animal is simply too large or difficult to accommodate. Also, airlines are not permitted to allow spiders, reptiles, rodents, or sugar gliders in the main cabin, so those ESAs cannot travel by air.

Once you select your ESA, you don’t need to complete any specific training program. Simply do your best to encourage good behavior through regular pet training, so that your ESA can fulfill their role effectively.

Can My Pet Become an Emotional Support Animal?

Yes. If you already have a pet that provides you with support, love, and affection, they can become your ESA. Because there is no training required for ESAs, your current pet can absolutely become one.

Is an Emotional Support Animal the Same as a Service Animal?

No. ESAs and service animals are different in a few ways: how they are trained, the role they fulfill, and how they are viewed in the eye of the law. Service animals undergo extensive training (up to 2 years & $15,000 in cost) and receive official certifications because they are expected to perform specific tasks and jobs for their handler. Also, businesses are prohibited from refusing the entry of service animals. However, ESAs do not complete any training courses and many of the same benefits are received in terms of rights.

Will I Need to Register My Emotional Support Animal?

No. Your ESA Letter is sufficient documentation, and there is no need to complete additional certifications. You may see websites claiming they will certify your ESA or register them in an official ESA database, but those claims are false.

 

Do I Need to Purchase a Vest or ID for My Emotional Support Animal?

No. There are no official vests or identification needed for emotional support animals. Your doctor will provide you with an ESA Letter that will be sufficient documentation, and you may choose to keep a copy on you when taking your ESA in public – though it’s not required.

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