Many people at some point experience severe psychological or emotional difficulty in their life. In fact, by some estimates, 1 in 5 Americans may suffer from a mental illness. Emotional support animals (ESA) help people who are suffering live productive and happy lives by providing unconditional support and companionship. Many people use ESAs in conjunction with therapy, medication, holistic treatments and other resources to relieve symptoms of their depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobia or other illness.
Federal law recognizes the importance of ESAs. Owners of emotional support animals are given certain legal protections which enable them to live with their ESAs (even in no-pet buildings). Some airlines will also accommodate ESA owners as a courtesy. ESA owners are exempt from having to pay fees and deposits to housing providers and participating airlines in order to be accompanied by their ESA.
If you are interested in qualifying for an emotional support animal, the first and most important thing you should know is that the only way to properly qualify your animal companion as an ESA is by obtaining a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
Some people ask whether they can obtain an ESA letter from their physician. The answer is yes, you can. It may be worth exploring with your doctor whether an ESA is right for you. However, you should be aware that while doctors technically can issue ESA letters, most ESA letters are not from physicians. Doctors are also often reluctant or unwilling to provide ESA letters because they are not familiar with the patient’s mental health or are unaware of what ESAs are and what they entail. A better option is to seek the help of a mental health professional that is familiar with the benefits of ESAs and ESA laws.
There are many misconceptions about what ESAs are, the process to qualify them, whether you need to get an ESA registration or certification and what rights ESA owners have. In this article, we will try to clear up some of the confusion and explore how to properly qualify for an emotional support animal.
If you are interested in having a licensed healthcare professional that specializes in ESAs determine if you qualify for an ESA letter online, you can get started at the link below.
Why do You Need a Doctor or Therapist to “Prescribe” or Recommend an Emotional Support Animal?
Federal rules and guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing provide clear answers to this question. Under Fair Housing rules, a valid emotional support animal letter must come from a licensed health care professional (sometimes also referred to as a “licensed mental health professional”). Licensed health care professionals include psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, licensed counselors, and other licensed professionals responsible for mental health.
If you get your letter from an unlicensed individual or a company claiming to sell instant ESA letters, you might as well flush it down the drain because airlines, landlords, co-ops and HOAs will not recognize the letter as valid. You will also lose credibility with the airline or housing provider which could make it more difficult to get accommodation later on.
At this point, you may be asking questions like what if I don’t have a therapist? Or what if I can’t visit a professional in person for financial or other reasons? We will address qualifying for an ESA letter remotely later in this article and give you some ideas on how you can get the help you need.
Be careful where you get your ESA documents from!
As mentioned before, there is a lot of misinformation out there about how to correctly get documentation for an emotional support animal. It is important to have valid documentation. Without it, you can’t take advantage of the benefits ESA owners enjoy under Fair Housing rules.
You must get your ESA letter from the right source. Otherwise, your landlord could potentially evict your animal companion and impose hefty fees, deposits and fines for having a pet in your apartment or home.
Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous companies and websites out there that try to take advantage of people looking to qualify for an ESA. A cottage industry has developed selling questionable advice and products to unwitting consumers. There are websites for example that sell things like certifications, registrations, licenses or ID cards claiming that they will automatically qualify your pet as an ESA. These products alone will not properly qualify an animal companion as an ESA, and a landlord or airline does not have to accept them as valid forms of proof.
We can’t stress this enough to potential ESA owners: the only way to qualify for an ESA is by obtaining a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional. We will discuss in the next sections what is in a legitimate ESA letter and how you can obtain a letter from a licensed professional online in a convenient, confidential and cost-effective way.
Elements of a Legitimate ESA Letter
Knowing what an emotional support animal letter contains is another way to make sure your letter will work.
This is what your ESA letter needs to have:
- Mental health professional’s letterhead and signature, as well as the date of issuance
- Mental health professional’s license type, the date the license was issued, license number, and the state that issued the license
- Confirmation that an emotional support animal is a vital part of your life
- “Prescription” (although not technically a prescription, it is sometimes referred to as an ESA prescription) or recommendation for an ESA
- Details about your pet (type, breed, name, etc.) are not required but may be included
Asking a Therapist or Doctor for an Emotional Support Animal Letter
As we have discussed, only a licensed professional can provide a valid “prescription” or recommendation for an emotional support animal (note that while some people refer to them as “prescriptions”, ESA letters are technically not prescriptions – they are recommendation letters).
If you’re already seeing someone to address your mental illness, great! It is wonderful that you are getting attention for your condition and we applaud anyone who takes the step of reaching out for help. You can ask your therapist about whether an ESA may be right for you. If your therapist is a licensed professional, such as a licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse or licensed counselor, they are capable of writing an ESA letter if they feel you would benefit by having one.
Some people find it difficult to work up the courage to ask their healthcare provider about whether an emotional support animal is right for them. They may feel embarrassed bringing up the subject or fear that they will be rejected or judged. While it’s true that your request may be rejected, it can’t hurt to raise a potential solution that may help with your condition.
It’s also true that many therapists and doctors just aren’t knowledgeable about emotional support animals and ESA laws. Many licensed healthcare professionals will not agree to issue an ESA letter even if they feel you might benefit from one simply because it is unfamiliar territory for them.
If you don’t have a healthcare professional that is familiar with ESAs or you’re unwilling to broach the subject of ESAs with a therapist or doctor you currently have a relationship with, using an online platform to connect with a therapist that specializes in ESAs can be a great choice. ESA Doctors works with licensed professionals who understand emotional support animals and have experience writing ESA letters that work. The professionals that work with ESA Doctors are compassionate, understanding and judgment-free when it comes to mental health and the need for an emotional support animal.
Can I Work With a Therapist Online?
Seeking help in person from a licensed therapist is always a great option. However, many people suffering from a mental illness may be uncertain about where to look for one and can be overwhelmed by the search process.
Others have difficulty seeing a therapist in person for various reasons. Some people are just too busy to schedule appointments because of working a full-time job, taking care of family or because they have a busy class schedule at school. Others simply cannot afford the cost of seeing a therapist, especially those who are uninsured. There are also people who have anxieties or phobias about seeing someone in person and discussing details about their personal history and mental condition. The recent pandemic also forced many people to look for alternatives to meeting with a therapist in person.
For people in these categories, obtaining an ESA letter through an online provider can be a great option.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter Online
We have stated this several times now, but we can’t emphasize it enough:
The only person who can “prescribe” or recommend a recognized emotional support animal is a licensed healthcare professional.
Fortunately, for people without a therapist or who have trouble seeing a professional in person, many licensed professionals work remotely and provide services online. Obtaining an ESA letter from a therapist that works remotely is just as valid as getting a letter from a therapist in a more traditional setting. Remote therapists provide an invaluable service for people who can’t see a therapist in person, and HUD recognizes that online providers can issue valid ESA letters. Regardless of whether you see a therapist in person or online, it is always important to make sure they are licensed for your state.
There are many websites that sell things like certificates, registrations, IDs, and licenses. However, there is no official registry for ESAs and you will be turned away by landlords and airlines if you only show registration papers you purchased. There is also no such thing as an official certification or license for an ESA, and IDs and vests alone will also not properly qualify an emotional support animal. However, some ESA owners like to use these ID cards, certifications and accessories to identify their animal as their emotional support animal.
How Can You Recognize Reliable and Legitimate ESA Websites?
ESA Doctors operates as a platform that efficiently connects you to a real licensed mental health professional that works remotely to offer legitimate services.
Make sure that the website you work with doesn’t just simply sell you an ESA letter or provide unreliable registrations, certificates, licenses, or vests. Instead, they should offer to connect you with a licensed provider that will use their professional judgment to independently determine whether to approve you for an emotional support animal letter.
ESA Doctors connects you with a licensed healthcare professional to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal. The LHCP licensed for your state will review your answers and contact you directly. This a cost-effective, efficient and modern process for seeing whether an emotional support animal is right for you with the help of a licensed professional.
If the licensed professional determines that an ESA is right for you, they will issue a recommendation letter, or ESA letter, for you on their letterhead. Once you have this letter, you can present it to your housing provider or airline and request accommodation for your emotional support animal.
Any website that offers instant approval and does not offer to connect you with a licensed health professional is not a valid source for ESA letters.
Red Flags for Fake ESA Letters
Qualifying for an ESA letter is a process, below are a few things you should look out for if you are looking to get an ESA letter online.
- ESA Registration/Certification Services – Emotional support animals are not required to be registered. There is no governing body that registers emotional support animals. Airlines and landlords will deny your “registered ESA” if you do not have a legitimate ESA letter. Similarly, there is no official certification or licensing process for ESAs.
- Instant Approval – A licensed therapist must evaluate your need for an ESA. You cannot be instantly approved for an ESA letter. It takes time to approve each individual by a licensed mental health professional. A legitimate service also cannot guarantee that you will be approved since each licensed professional will make their own determination about whether you qualify for not.
- Avoid Dirt Cheap Letters – A legitimate ESA letter is written by a licensed mental health professional. Using an online provider can be cheaper than seeing a therapist in person, but a licensed professional does not offer services for dirt cheap. If you find a service offering bargain-basement letters without the involvement of a licensed professional it is not legitimate.
The Benefits you Get with an Emotional Support Animal Letter
Under federal housing rules, emotional support animals are not considered regular pets. Emotional support animals have certain rights that regular pets don’t have.
An ESA letter allows your animal companion to live in a building that generally doesn’t allow pets. Tenants with emotional support animals do not need to pay any fees or deposits in connection with their ESA. Landlords also cannot restrict an ESA solely because it is a certain breed or weight. Some airlines will also allow ESAs to board flights in the cabin, free of charge, if you present a valid ESA letter.
If you are looking to qualify for an ESA but do not have a therapist or are having difficulty finding one or seeing one in person, ESA Doctors can help connect you to someone licensed for your state that works remotely. Just click on the link below to get started.
Emotional support animals have certain rights that regular pets don’t have.
A legitimate emotional support animal letter can ensure that your animal companion can fly with you on an airplane at no additional cost. In addition, the letter allows your animal companion to live in a housing facility that generally doesn’t allow pets. Tenants with emotional support animals do not need to pay any fees or deposits in connection with their ESA. Landlords also cannot restrict an ESA solely because it is a certain breed or weight.
If you are looking to see if you qualify for an ESA but do not have a therapist or are having difficulty finding one or seeing one in person, ESA Doctors can help connect you to someone licensed for your state that works remotely. Just click on the link below to get started.
Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter Online
Get the Love and Support you deserve.