Imagine you have just discovered that your current or future pet may qualify as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). You are excited but also worried. You take a leap of faith and look to qualify for an ESA letter online. There are so many options and you are not sure who to trust, but you find a company offering instant approval and super low fees so you pull the trigger. You order from them and believe your pet is now an ESA and you plan your trip, pay for a flight or submit your application to a no-pet apartment. All is well until you show up at the airport only to find out that your ESA letter is not legitimate or your new landlord cannot get in contact with the person who was supposed to have written your ESA letter. You are denied access and stuck, no one at the company will get back to you… who do you turn to for help?
The team at ESA Doctors all too often sees clients who were scammed into buying fake ESA letters before coming to us. We want to fully educate people about ESA letters so no one is ever a victim.
We are 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. Before you order an ESA letter online, learn about the red flags you should be on the lookout for to avoid being taken advantage of by a fraudulent ESA letter service. We are here to help you so let us know if you have any questions in the comments below after reading this article.
What is an Emotional Support Animal and why are they needed?
Mental and emotional illnesses are on the rise and more people need help but are sometimes afraid to do so because of the stigma associated with these conditions. Fortunately, more and more people are realizing that mental illness is as real as physical illness. Drugs have been liberally prescribed in recent years, but studies now show these drugs are sometimes as effective as placebos and come with harsh side effects. As a result, people are prioritizing self-care and looking for alternative means of support. This an amazing step forward for anyone who suffers from a mental illness. We are at a crossroads for mental illness and social stigma reform, and ESAs, for better or worse, have fallen into this heated conversation’s cross-hair.
An ESA provides support through companionship and can help ease anxiety, depression, and certain phobias. Although all pets offer an emotional connection with their owner, to be legally considered an ESA, the pet needs to be recommended by a licensed mental health professional (“LMHP”).
What is an ESA letter and why you need one
To qualify for an ESA letter, you must work with a licensed mental health professional directly. The LMHP will assess you based on guidelines under the DSM-V. If you are assessed to have a disability based on the DSM-V, an LMHP may write you an ESA letter.
To be crystal clear here, a company cannot give you an ESA letter, only an LMHP can. If any company promises you an ESA letter directly for payment without working with an LMHP, you are being scammed.
The benefit of an ESA letter is that once you have one, you have rights under federal law to be accompanied by an ESA on flights and in your home. This is an amazing step forward with those who suffer from mental illness, as having an ESA allows them to more fully participate and function in society.
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 who was not well-versed in ESA regulations.
Through our technology platform, we have been helping people who need support for over 5 years by pairing them with licensed mental health professionals across the country. We believe that online support is a vital resource, particularly to those that do not have the means or ability to see a therapist in person.
Can a physician write an ESA letter?
A physician has the correct credentials to write an ESA letter. However, due to the nature of their practice and their specialty, it is unlikely a physician will be well versed in ESA regulations or have the time to complete the additional forms that are required from time to time by landlords and airlines.
Even if you are working with your therapist, we always recommend checking to see if they are familiar with Fair Housing and Air Carrier Access Act rules and regulations. The process can be tedious so not many therapists are willing to write ESA letters due to the time commitment.
If you find yourself in these situations, you may look to qualify for an ESA letter online.
How to spot an online ESA letter scam
As the popularity of ESAs rises, an unfortunate consequence has been a corresponding rise in scam websites promising ESA letters for payment. If you are looking for an ESA letter online, before you submit your order and send money, make sure you look out for these seven red flags.
- The Promise of Instant Turnaround: An ESA letter cannot just be magically issued to you. You must first be paired with an LMHP licensed to help you in your state and given an assessment.
- The Letter is Not Written by an LMHP or There is No Contact Information On the Letter: Your ESA letter will not be recognized if it is not written by a qualified LMHP, which may include a psychiatrist, psychologist, LMFT, social worker, and others. The LMHP should have their contact and license information on the letter, so that an airline or landlord can verify their credentials and that they wrote the letter.
- The LMHP is not Properly Licensed: Your LMHP must be licensed to practice in your state. ESA Doctors uses a carefully vetted network of licensed practitioners across the country.
- 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 qualified licensed mental health professionals is never bargain-basement cheap.
- There Is No Support: The ESA approval process does not just end with the ESA letter. Airlines and landlords can be reluctant to accommodate ESAs, even with a valid letter. They will also often demand additional documentation. ESA Doctors prides itself on its customer service and support and provides optional services to handle any additional document requests that may come in.
- The Site Claims It is a “Registry”: One common misconception about ESAs is that they need to be “registered”. That is not the case, there is no legal requirement to “register” an ESA.
- 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 in exchange for payment without any questions asked. If you completed a comprehensive questionnaire before you submitted an order, you may be all set, this is something to be aware of.
Who can you trust?
Working with your regular therapist is always the best choice. They are intimately familiar with your personal experience and may be able to provide you with the best support. If your therapist is not well versed in ESA regulations, you can contact ESA Doctors for support.
ESA Doctors will pair you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) who can assist you based on your state’s requirements and is an expert on Federal regulations regarding ESAs. You will work with the therapist or LMHP directly and if they believe you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, THEY will write you an ESA letter.
One of the ways online providers can scam you is by keeping an LMHP’s signature on file and sending you a letter themselves. If an airline or landlord 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 the airline and your landlord. To avoid this, it’s important to work with an LMHP directly so you know they have your back and can be verified by third parties. This is why it’s important to be wary of cheap rates and instant approval – companies that do this may be cutting corners by not pairing you with a real LMHP that can be contacted.
ESA Doctors’ Pricing – No increases in 5 years
ESA Doctors has been in business for more than half a decade, and we have not raised prices for services rendered in all of that time to keep our services as accessible as possible. We do not recommend trusting a site that offers cheap letters or instant approval – you could be stuck in a bad predicament when you try to present a fraudulent ESA letter to an airline or landlord. Imagine the horrible situation of not being able to fly on that long-planned vacation with your ESA, or having your landlord notify you that your ESA letter is invalid and that your ESA needs to vacate your apartment.
If you are ready to take the first steps to see if you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal but have some questions, feel free to email us here.
If you prefer to self-study, below are articles you may find helpful.
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