Emotional support animals, or ESAs, provide comfort and support to people with mental and emotional health issues. ESA owners have special legal protections under federal and state laws. Some people believe that you must have a doctor’s note to have an emotional support animal. That is not entirely accurate.
In order to have an emotional support animal, you need a signed ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. An ESA letter can be from a doctor or registered nurse, but they are most commonly from mental health professionals such as psychologists, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and others. An ESA letter can also be issued by a therapist who works remotely and offers their services online.
In this post, we’ll discuss how you can get an ESA letter and what legal rights you have once you are an ESA owner.
What Are the Legal Rights of an ESA?
Owners of emotional support animals are protected under federal housing laws. As an ESA owner, you have the right to live with your emotional support animal even in “no pets” policy buildings. The landlord, co-op, HOA, building manager, or other housing providers must provide reasonable accommodation for your emotional support animal.
There are only a few exceptions to this. For example, you can be denied accommodation of your ESA if your emotional support animal is being destructive or causing danger or threat to the other tenants. An ESA also has to be an appropriate animal. The U.S. Department of Housing permits small domesticated pets to be emotional support animals, such as dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, and turtles.
Emotional support animals get other special treatment as well. They are not considered pets but rather assistance animals for the disabled, so they are exempt from many building policies that apply to pets. For example, housing providers can never charge a fee or deposit for an emotional support animal, even though they may charge tenants with regular pets.
Emotional support animals are also exempt from size, weight, and breed restrictions. With an ESA letter, you can live with your ESA free from discrimination and exempt from limiting restrictions your landlord may place on normal pets.
How Do I Get an ESA Doctor’s Note?
An “ESA doctor’s note” is really an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. The person writing your ESA letter has to be a licensed professional familiar with your mental health. An ESA letter can be from a doctor or registered nurse, but most ESA letters are from licensed mental health professionals like therapists and social workers.
To see if you qualify for an ESA, the licensed healthcare professional will evaluate whether you have a mental or emotional disability. That means having a condition like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or ADHD that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities. If the healthcare professional believes that you meet this standard and that the presence of an animal could help relieve your suffering, they can make a recommendation for an emotional support animal.
An ESA letter or doctor’s note for an ESA should contain the following:
- An opinion of whether you meet the applicable standard of having a mental or emotional health disability.
- A recommendation for an emotional support animal.
- The licensed healthcare professional’s signature and license number.
The letter should also be dated and contain the healthcare provider’s contact information. An ESA letter will also typically be on the licensed healthcare professional’s letterhead. Once you have an ESA letter, you can submit it to your landlord and inform them that you require an emotional support animal. Unless the landlord can claim a valid exemption, they must provide reasonable accommodation.
Note that landlords are not allowed to make intrusive inquiries about your condition or your medical history. You have a right to confidentiality when it comes to sensitive details about your mental health. An ESA letter will usually only contain general information regarding your mental and emotional health-related need for an emotional support animal.
What if I don’t have access to a mental health professional?
If you are unable to find or connect with a mental health professional, you can work with one online to see if you qualify for ESA. Please note that ESA registration or certification is not necessary to qualify your ESA—all you need is an ESA letter or doctor’s note.
Be aware of illegitimate online ESA letter sites that award useless ESA letters to anyone and everyone. You can find yourself in an awkward and embarrassing situation if you submit a fraudulent ESA letter to your landlord. It pays to make sure that you have an ESA letter that you can use with confidence.
ESA Doctors is the best choice if you want to see if you qualify for an ESA letter online. ESA Doctors has glowing reviews from loyal clients and is also fully accredited by the BBB. We will pair you with a healthcare professional licensed for your state familiar with emotional support animals. If you qualify, the healthcare professional will issue a verifiable ESA letter that you can share with your housing provider.
Start your questionnaire now to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal.
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