Imagine that you’re in the process of seeing if you qualify an emotional support animal (ESA). You’re excited about the benefits an ESA can provide but also overwhelmed by all of the options online offering ESA letters.
You find a company that you’re not certain about but you pull the trigger anyway. They offer instant approval for ESA documents at a bargain rate. You plan your trip, pay for a flight or submit a request for ESA accommodation to your landlord. All is well until you show up to the airport only to find that your ESA letter is not legitimate. Or on moving day your landlord rejects your ESA documentation because it can’t be verified.
You’ve been scammed, now what?
You’re now embarrassed and frustrated because you just wasted time and money on bogus ESA documents. The airline won’t let your ESA board the flight or your landlord now doesn’t believe that you really need an ESA. You don’t know what to do next and the company that sold you the dubious ESA documents won’t return your emails.
What are your next steps? Read this article to learn about 7 common red flags you should be on the lookout for to avoid being ripped off by a fraudulent ESA service. If you are ready to work with a real and licensed mental health professional to see if you may qualify for a legitimate ESA letter, you can click on the link below and we will be happy to help you.
Avoid becoming a victim of an ESA scam by educating yourself regarding ESA rules
The team at ESADoctors all too often sees clients who turn to us after being scammed into buying fake ESA documentation from other places. We pride ourselves on being advocates for ESA owners and people suffering from mental illness. ESA Doctors is passionate about ESA rights and believe in the power of ESAs to help people in profound ways. We are heartbroken when we see individuals in need get taken advantage of by greedy online scammers.
- What is an Emotional Support Animal and why are they needed?
- What is an ESA letter and why do I need one?
- How to spot an online ESA letter scam
- Are ESA letters obtained online valid?
- Who can I trust online to connect me to a real LMHP?
What is an Emotional Support Animal and why are they needed?
If you are interested in qualifying for a legitimate ESA letter, you should first be aware of some general information regarding ESAs. An ESA is an animal companion that provides support through companionship and can help ease symptoms of mental health conditions. Although all pets offer an emotional connection with their owner, to be legally considered an ESA the animal needs to be recommended by a licensed healthcare professional or licensed mental health professional (LMHP). Owners of ESAs have special rights under two federal laws: the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.
Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers such as landlords, Co-Ops and HOAs must accommodate tenants with ESAs even if the building has a policy prohibiting pets. Housing providers are not permitted to charge fees or deposits for ESAs, and also cannot impose breed or weight restrictions. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs are permitted to fly in the airplane cabin with their owner free of charge.
What is an ESA letter and why do I need one?
Under federal rules and guidelines, housing providers and airlines can request documentation to validate an emotional support animal. That documentation comes in the form of a recommendation letter written by a licensed health care professional. There is no other way to legitimately qualify for an ESA which is why it is so important to have a proper ESA letter.
If you have a disability such as severe depression, anxiety, PTSD or a phobia, you may qualify for an ESA letter, but it is up to an LMHP to make that determination. A company cannot give you an ESA letter, only a licensed professional can.
To qualify for an ESA letter, you must work directly with a licensed healthcare professional. The therapist or other licensed professional will assess whether you have a mental or emotional disability that could benefit from the companionship of an ESA. If you qualify for an emotional support animal, the LMHP may write you an ESA letter.
Once you have an ESA letter, you can submit it to your landlord or airline to take advantage of the benefits conferred to ESA owners under federal law. An ESA owner with a valid ESA letter does not need a certificate, registration, ID or vest for their emotional support animal.
How to spot an online ESA letter scam
As the popularity of ESAs has increased, an unfortunate consequence has been a corresponding rise in scam websites promising fake documentation for payment. If you are looking for an ESA letter online, before you submit your order and send money to an online company make sure you look out for these seven red flags:
Time needed: 5 minutes.
How to spot and avoid an online ESA letter scam
- The Promise of Instant Turnaround
An ESA letter cannot just be magically issued to you. You must work with a healthcare professional that is licensed for your state. The LMHP will assess your condition and determine whether an ESA is appropriate for you.
- The Letter is Not Written by A Licensed Professional or there is No Contact Information in the Letter
Your ESA letter will not be recognized if it is not written by a qualified licensed healthcare professional, which includes professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, LMFTs, social workers, registered nurses, physicians assistants, counselors and others. The licensed professional should have their contact and license information in the letter so that an airline or landlord can verify the letter and confirm their credentials.
- The LMHP is not Properly Licensed
Your LMHP must be licensed to practice in your state. ESA Doctors matches you with professionals that are licensed for your state.
- The Promise of Cheap Rates
As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is – the help of actual licensed mental health professionals is never bargain-basement cheap.
- There Is No Client Support
The ESA approval process does not just end with the ESA letter. Airlines and landlords can sometimes be reluctant to accommodate ESAs, even with a valid letter. They may also demand additional information and documentation. ESA Doctors prides itself on its customer support and provides optional services to handle any additional document requests that may come in.
- The Site Claims It is a “Registry” or Offering a “Certification
One common misconception about ESAs is that they need to be “registered”. That is not true, there is no legal requirement to register an ESA. A registration number will not validate your emotional support animal. Furthermore, there is no official certification program that properly qualifies emotional support animals. Registrations and certifications are not sufficient forms of documentation to prove your animal companion is an ESA. You must have an ESA letter.
- The Site Issues a Letter with No Assessment
In order to qualify for an ESA letter, you must first be assessed by an LMHP. You should be very suspicious of any internet provider that issues you a letter or certificate in exchange for payment without any questions asked. A legitimate company cannot guarantee you will get an ESA letter because it is up to an LMHP to determine whether one is right for you.
Are ESA letters obtained online valid?
One common question we hear is whether an ESA letter obtained through an online LMHP is as valid as one obtained from an LMHP seen in person. The answer is yes, LMHPs are allowed to provide ESA services remotely but you should make sure the online LMHP is licensed for your state. The U.S. Department of Housing has in fact acknowledged that licensed professionals can provide remote online services in relation to ESA recommendations. Remote services from therapist are becoming an increasingly popular and convenient way to find professional help.
If you obtain an ESA letter from a licensed professional online, you should also make sure the LMHP is actually familiar with your condition. Another way online providers can scam you is by keeping an LMHP’s signature on file and sending you a letter themselves. If your landlord or airline calls to verify the letter, they may find out your ESA letter is not legitimate. If this happens, it will be difficult for you to submit a second letter as you may have lost all credibility with your landlord or airline. It is critical to work with an LMHP directly so you know they have your back and will be available for third party verifications.
ESA Doctors will always connect you directly to a licensed professional that is knowledgeable about ESAs.
Steps to Qualify for an ESA letter
- Identify if you would benefit from an ESA
- Work with a licensed healthcare professional
- Communicate to them your experiences
- Get your ESA letter digitally delivered
- Utilize your ESA letter for your housing or travel
Who can I trust online to connect me to a real LMHP?
Before you choose any online service, make sure you do your research and ensure they are adhering to appropriate guidelines for ESA letters. Avoid a horrible situation where your landlord notifies you that your ESA letter is invalid or where you can’t fly to that long-planned vacation with your ESA.
ESA Doctors was established in 2014 because we found that too many people did not have access to a therapist or were working with a therapist that was unfamiliar with the benefits of ESAs and ESA regulations. Through our technology platform, we have been helping people who need support for over 5 years. The LMHPs we work with offer their services remotely, allowing you to get help conveniently from the comforts of your home.
We believe that online support is a vital resource, particularly to those that have health risk or do not have the financial means to see a therapist in person. They may be too busy to schedule in person meetings due to work, family or school obligations, or have anxieties about discussing their issues face to face with a therapist.
If you have questions regarding the ESA process, we would love to help –email us here. You may post your question in the comments below and someone from our support team will get back to you.
Get the love and support you deserve.