Did you know emotional support animals enjoy special protections in Puerto Rico?
Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are owned by people with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Emotional support animals help alleviate symptoms of these mental health conditions by being present in their owners’ lives.
Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers must reasonably accommodate ESA owners. That means they have to let ESAs live with the tenant, even if the building bans pets.
Landlords also cannot charge any fees or deposits for ESAs. Furthermore, emotional support animals are exempt from size and breed restrictions. To qualify for an ESA in Puerto Rico, you need a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional. In this article, we’ll explain how you can qualify for an ESA letter online through ESA Doctors.
Living with an Emotional Support Animal in Puerto Rico
Are you currently living in Puerto Rico or considering moving to Puerto Rico with your emotional support animal? Great! Puerto Rico follows US Fair Housing laws and upholds ESA rules. As a person with an emotional support animal, you have the same housing rights that you would have on the mainland.
Landlords can get into trouble for violating a tenant’s right to live with an ESA. In one instance, a condominium association in Puerto Rico was sued and ordered to pay $20,000 in damages and a $16,000 civil penalty for denying a resident the ability to live with his emotional support animal.
The Fair Housing Act dictates that a person with a disability must reasonably be allowed to live with their support animal, regardless of the building, HOA, or Condo Association rules for pets.
In addition, landlords in Puerto Rico can’t charge any type of fee or deposit for an emotional support animal. In fact, if you previously paid a deposit, you may even be entitled to a refund.
To verify that your animal is an emotional support animal, housing providers in Puerto Rico are entitled to see that you have an ESA letter. In the next section, we’ll discuss what a legitimate ESA letter looks like in Puerto Rico and how you can get one.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Puerto Rico
If you are currently in Puerto Rico and need an ESA letter, you must get a letter from a local licensed mental health professional. Puerto Rico licensed mental health professionals can assist you face to face or online.
When selecting a licensed mental health professional, make sure to choose someone that understands ESAs and knows how to write effective ESA letters. Remember, your landlord will review your ESA letter, so you’ll want to ensure it’s done correctly.
A proper ESA letter for Puerto Rico must be signed by a licensed healthcare professional who has evaluated your mental health. The letter should state that you require an ESA for a mental health disability such as depression, severe anxiety, or PTSD.
You can obtain an ESA letter through a remote online provider. The best way to do that is through ESA Doctors. ESA Doctors will connect you to a healthcare professional licensed for Puerto Rico.
ESA Doctors works with professionals who specialize in emotional support animals and understand your concerns. The entire process is convenient and simple, without needing office appointments or visits! There’s no better way to get a legitimate ESA letter.
Who Qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal in Puerto Rico?
To qualify for an ESA in Puerto Rico, you must have a mental health disability that is helped by the presence of a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, fish, or other small, domesticated animal.
Some common conditions that ESA owners have are the following:
- Bi-Polar Disorder
To qualify as a disability, the mental health condition must “substantially limit one or more major life activities.” That means the condition substantially limits your ability to do things like work, socialize or sleep. A licensed healthcare professional can help determine whether you meet these criteria.
Flying to Puerto Rico with Your Emotional Support Animal
As a result of changes in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules, ESAs are no longer allowed to board flights for free. Emotional support animals are treated as normal pets by airlines.
Unfortunately, that means your ESA will be subject to pet fees and airline rules regarding size. Many ESAs can no longer board flights due to these rule changes.
The only type of assistance animal for mental health that can board flights free of charge to or from Puerto Rico is psychiatric service dogs (PSD). PSDs are not ESAs – they are service dogs trained to perform a job or task relating to their owner’s mental health disability.
That is the critical difference between an ESA and a PSD. ESAs do not require specialized training, but PSDs do. PSDs can perform tasks like retrieving medication, pawing or licking during moments of crisis, providing pressure therapy, or providing a safety buffer.
PSDs can board flights without any fee and are not subject to the same size restrictions as pets. To fly with a PSD, you must complete and submit the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form before boarding your flight. Many PSD owners will also first obtain a PSD letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
If you need a PSD letter from a Puerto Rico licensed professional, ESA Doctors can also help with that!
If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we can connect you with a licensed healthcare provider online.
Tips for Flying to Puerto Rico with your Animal
Microchip Your Animal
Although it is not a requirement for animals to be microchipped before entering Puerto Rico, it is highly recommended. This simple procedure is harmless to your animal and only takes minutes; however, it could mean the difference between finding your animal (should they become lost) or not.
If you decide not to microchip your animal, you will want to be sure it is wearing tags with your contact information clearly written on it.
Vaccinate Your Animal
Your animal must be vaccinated for rabies within six months of entering Puerto Rico. Be sure the vaccine is the one-year variety and not the three-year, as this vaccine is not acceptable.
Note: If your animal is a puppy or kitten under six months of age, it should not yet be vaccinated.
Some regions require a Rabies Titer Test; however, Puerto Rico is not one of those areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
“A rabies antibody titer is essentially an estimation of an immune response against rabies virus (either through exposure or vaccination). The RFFIT is one method which provides a laboratory measurement of the ability of an individual human or animal serum sample to neutralize rabies virus.”
Within 30 days of traveling to Puerto Rico, your veterinarian must fill out a Health Certificate for your animal. This tells the authorities that your animal is healthy (not carrying any infectious diseases) and fit to enter the country.
You should be aware that Puerto Rico has breed-specific legislation in place, which means certain dogs are not allowed into the region. Banned breeds for Puerto Rico include Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, and all crosses of these.
Returning to Puerto Rico with Your Animal
If you are returning to Puerto Rico after 30 days, your animal must meet the same requirements as if you were entering for the first time. This means you will need a health certificate from a veterinarian in the visiting region.
Animals that are not Dogs and Cats
If you have an animal that is not a dog or cat, some terms must be followed. Birds entering Puerto Rico will need to be quarantined for 30 days. However, birds that were obtained in the United States may enter Puerto Rico without quarantine. All birds will need a permit number and an endorsed health certificate issued right before travel and proof of negative test results for Avian influenza, Chlamydia psittaci, and Newcastle disease.
Other animals such as reptiles, rabbits, and small rodents will need a current health certificate and import permit to enter Puerto Rico.
If your animal is a turtle or a parrot, you should verify that it is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). You will also need to apply for additional permits if this is the case.
Finally, before traveling with your animal, be sure to double-check the latest rules from your place of departure and your destination. And your airline may also have specific guidelines for animal transportation.
Concluding Thoughts on Emotional Support Animals in Puerto Rico
If your pet provides invaluable help for your mental health condition, it may already be effectively serving as your emotional support animal. ESA Doctors can connect you to a licensed healthcare professional that can determine whether you qualify for an ESA letter.
With an ESA letter, you and your beloved animal will have special legal protections for housing. Don’t hesitate to protect your animal and get started on the process today!