- What is an emotional support animal (“ESA”)?
- How do I qualify for an emotional support animal?
- Do I need a certificate, registration, license, ID card or vest for my emotional support animal?
- Can an emotional support animal enter a grocery store, restaurant, hotel or other public space?
- Are emotional support animals a scam? Are online ESA companies such as ESA Doctors scamming their customers?
- What kind of animals can be an emotional support animal?
- Do ESAs need special training? Can my current pet be an emotional support animal?
- What laws protect emotional support animals?
- Can I qualify for more than one emotional support animal?
- What types of disabilities qualify for an ESA letter?
- What kind of therapist can write an ESA letter? Can my doctor prescribe an ESA for me?
- Who should I ask for my ESA letter?
- Is an ESA letter from an online therapist just as good as an ESA letter from a therapist seen in person?
- When does an ESA letter expire?
- Should I adopt my emotional support animal before or after I get an ESA letter?
- Do I need to submit a hardcopy of my ESA letter to the landlord or airline?
- What will the ESA letter contain? Will an ESA letter reveal details about my condition?
- Is an emotional support animal the same thing as a service animal?
- My landlord says our building doesn’t allow pets and my emotional support animal isn’t welcome, is that allowed?
- Can my landlord charge a fee or deposit for my emotional support animal?
- My emotional support animal caused some damage by accident and my landlord says I’m responsible for paying for the repairs, can they do that?
- If I already paid a deposit or fee for my pet which later qualified as an emotional support animal, am I entitled to a refund?
- When is a landlord able to deny a request for an emotional support animal?
- My landlord rejected my ESA request, now what?
- Do I first need my landlord’s permission before bringing home an emotional support animal?
- My landlord is not responding to my ESA request, how quickly do they have to get back to me?
- Are condo homeowners associations (HOAs) and co-ops also subject to Fair Housing rules regarding emotional support animals?
- My landlord lives in my building, does my emotional support animal still have the right to live with me?
- My landlord, co-op or HOA is denying my ESA request because the building doesn’t allow dogs over a certain weight, is that allowed?
- My landlord, co-op, or HOA is rejecting my ESA because it is a pitbull, is that allowed?
- Is my emotional support animal allowed at the pool, garden, rec room and other common areas of my building?
- Can my landlord charge an application fee for considering my emotional support animal?
- How do I let my landlord know I will be living with an emotional support animal?
- Do I have to be home all day with my ESA?
- Can I bring an emotional support animal into university housing?
- My landlord says my emotional support animal letter has to come from a doctor seen in person, is he right?
- I just moved to a new state, will my old ESA letter written by a therapist in my old state still work with my new landlord?
- My landlord wants to speak to my therapist, is that a violation of my privacy rights?
- My landlord is being really difficult about my emotional support animal and I believe they are violating my rights. I have tried reasoning with them at length but they are acting hostile, is there anything I can do?
- I live in Canada, can my emotional support animal live with me?
- I submitted my ESA letter and my landlord is requesting a certification, registration or identification card, what do I do now?
- Important Notice:
- Can my emotional support animal board the cabin with me on flights?
- I read that ESAs will longer be allowed on flights, is that true?
- My airline is requiring an additional form to be completed by my therapist, can you help me?
- Can I just pay the extra document fee instead of paying for both the ESA letter and completion of the airline form?
- How do I request to have my ESA join me on a flight?
- Do I need to pay a fee for my emotional support animal to fly with me?
- What type of animals are allowed to fly in the cabin as emotional support animals?
- How many ESAs can I bring aboard a flight?
- Can my airline disallow my dog because it is a certain breed, like a pitbull?
- Can an airline reject an emotional support animal because it is too heavy?
- Can emotional support animals board long flights?
- Can my emotional support animal board international flights?
- Does my emotional support animal have to be in a carrier during the flight? Can my ESA sit on the floor during the flight?
- What is a psychiatric service dog?
- What is the difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotionalsupport animal?
- What kind of conditions qualify for a psychiatric service dog?
- Is a psychiatric service dog or emotional support animal better for me?
- What is a psychiatric service dog (PSD) letter?
- Do I need a certificate, license, vest, harness or ID card for my psychiatric service dog?
- Does a psychiatric service animal have to be a dog?
- How do I fly with my psychiatric service dog?
- What kind of tasks do psychiatric service dogs perform?
- Does a psychiatric service dog have to be professionally trained?
- How can a third-party verify that my dog is a psychiatric service dog?
- When can someone deny entry to my psychiatric service dog?
- Is ESA Doctors a doctor’s office? Does it employ doctors?
- Is ESADoctors.com a legitimate website?
- How can I reach ESA Doctors? Do you have a phone number I can call?
- Does ESADoctors.com have client reviews?
- What is your refund policy?
- How does your money-back guarantee work?
- What is the Annual Renewal Subscription and do I need a new letter next year? How do I cancel?
- What is your shipping policy? What if I have damaged/lost my original letter. How can I get a new one?
- My airline/landlord has a separate document they need filled out. Can you help with this?
- Can your licensed healthcare professionals help with online third party ESA verification services?
- The airline/landlord has specific wording they are requiring in the letter. Can you make adjustments to my ESA letter?
- Can I upgrade my plan to include housing and/or travel?
- When will my payment be processed?
- What is ESA Shield? Is it a good idea for me?
- Will my answers to the ESA questionnaire be kept confidential?
General Information about ESAs
An emotional support animal, or ESA, is an animal companion that provides comfort and support to someone suffering from a mental or emotional disability such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or a phobia. Emotional support animals and their owners have certain protections under federal and state laws. Landlords, Co-Ops, HOAs, and other housing providers must allow tenants to live with their ESAs free of charge, even if the building has a policy banning pets. Airlines must allow passengers to fly with their ESAs in the aircraft cabin free of charge.
To have a valid emotional support animal, you must be in possession of a recommendation letter from a licensed health care professional (sometimes also referred to as a “licensed mental health professional” or “LMHP”). The ESA letter will establish that you have a disability and that an emotional support animal alleviates symptoms of that disability. Under federal law, this is the only legitimate way to qualify an animal companion as an emotional support animal.
A valid ESA letter is the only documentation you need in order to qualify an emotional support animal. Landlords and airlines cannot ask for a certificate, registration, license or ID, or insist that your ESA wear a vest. These items do not confer any legal status on emotional support animals. Some ESA owners use such items as tools to signal that their animal companion is an ESA, but they are not mandatory and do not function in lieu of an ESA letter as valid forms of proof for an ESA. There is also no need to register your ESA in a database or registry.
No, ESAs do not have an automatic legal right to be in grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels that prohibit animals. ESA owners have the legal right to be accompanied by their animal companion in their home and on flights pursuant to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. Only ADA service animals trained to perform tasks (such as seeing-eye dogs for the blind) have public access rights in places like grocery stores and restaurants. Some establishments such as hotels are not obligated by law to accommodate ESAs but will do so anyway as a courtesy. It is best to check with the hotel or other businesses to see if they have a policy regarding emotional support animals.
No, ESAs are not a scam. Regrettably, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding on the internet when it comes to emotional support animals that puts an undeserved cloud over legitimate ESA owners and service companies. Contrary to some myths, there is a developed regulatory framework surrounding emotional support animals in the United States. ESAs are protected by federal laws and government agencies which enforce those laws. There are specific legal requirements that ESA owners must adhere to in order to obtain accommodation under law for their animal companion. Legitimate owners of emotional support animals must have documentation in the form of a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare provider. Housing providers and airlines have the right to demand an ESA letter from the tenant or passenger before accommodating an ESA request.
There are also many legitimate emotional support animal services online such as ESADoctors.com. You should proceed with caution with any website that promises that their certification, registration, license or ID will immediately qualify your pet as an emotional support animal. Websites that are not scams will instead connect you to a healthcare professional who is licensed for your state. That professional will conduct an independent assessment of whether an ESA is right for you and issue an ESA letter only if they determine that you qualify. Legitimate ESA companies online cannot guarantee to instantly qualify an emotional support animal, since that determination must come from an independent licensed professional after evaluating the client.
People use a wide variety of animals to serve as their ESA. The most common ESAs are dogs and cats. Under Fair Housing rules, an ESA can be a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodents, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes. Airlines are required to accommodate dogs, cats, and miniature horses, and can deny boarding for “unusual” animals such as ferrets, rodents, spiders, snakes, and other reptiles.
ESAs do not require any special training. They are different from service animals which are trained to perform specific tasks for the disabled (for example, seeing eye dogs for the blind). ESAs provide support and comfort for mental illnesses and other conditions through their companionship. Although ESAs do not require any specific training, it is recommended that they have basic obedience training and are able to behave well in public settings. Your current pet could be an ideal emotional support animal, and may already even be serving that purpose.
Emotional support animals have rights under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. The U.S. Department of Housing creates guidelines with respect to ESAs in housing, and the U.S. Department of Transportation creates guidelines with respect to ESAs and air travel. These rules protect people suffering from mental or emotional disabilities who have emotional support animals from discrimination. There are also various State laws that protect emotional support animals.
Yes, it is not uncommon for someone to need more than one emotional support animal. You will need an ESA letter that specifies your need for more than one ESA. Each ESA must be covered by valid documentation (multiple recommendations can be contained in one letter). The licensed healthcare professional must determine that you would benefit from more than one emotional support animal. It’s important that if you own multiple ESAs they can all be safely and humanely accommodated in your residence. For air travel, ESA owners should be aware that airlines can limit ESAs to one per passenger.
It is up to the licensed healthcare professional to determine whether you have a disability that qualifies for an emotional support animal. Common disabilities include things like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. For purposes of Fair Housing rules, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. For purposes of the Air Carrier Access Act, the mental or emotional disability should be one that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
An ESA letter must be written by a licensed healthcare professional or licensed mental health professional (LMHP) which includes professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical social workers, licensed counselors and other licensed professionals. An ESA letter is technically not a “prescription”. It is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional. Physicians have the ability to write ESA letters, but most ESA letters are not from physicians.
The best person to inquire about whether an ESA is right for you is your existing mental health provider. If you do not have a therapist or are having trouble finding one, ESA Doctors can help connect you to a professional that is licensed for your state. Many people use online therapists for their ESA needs for various reasons. If you are having trouble finding a therapist, paying for a therapist due to limited income, scheduling a visit due to work, family or school obligations, or have phobias or anxieties about seeing a therapist in person, then using an online provider may be a great solution for you.
Yes, many licensed therapists, including the ones that work with ESA Doctors, offer their services remotely without the need for an office visit. Remote therapists are a vital resource for people that are having a hard time finding a therapist in person, paying for a therapist or scheduling a visit because of a busy schedule. Some people have anxieties or phobias about discussing their problems face to face with someone and prefer to interact with a therapist remotely. As long as the provider is a licensed healthcare provider that is familiar with your mental health issue or emotional disability, they can write an ESA recommendation for you. The U.S. Department of Housing has also acknowledged in its guidance that therapists can provide services remotely online.
An ESA letter for air travel expires in one year and must be renewed annually. The Air Carrier Access Act permits airlines to request ESA letters that are no more than a year old. For housing purposes, ESA letters technically do not have an expiration date under Fair Housing rules. However, some landlords will demand a more recently dated letter if the tenant submits an ESA letter that was issued a long time ago. In addition, if you need your licensed healthcare professional to submit a form or provide verification, they may not be able to do so unless there is a recent ESA recommendation letter on file for you. We recommend renewing your ESA letter annually so you don’t run into any issues travelling or living with your ESA.
Some people have an existing pet that they qualify as an emotional support animal. Others obtain an ESA letter and then adopt their ESA. There is no right answer, both situations are very common and permitted.
No, a hardcopy of the ESA letter is not required. The licensed professionals that work with ESA Doctors will provide a digital copy of your ESA letter if you qualify, which you can then use immediately. You do not need an original copy with a wet ink signature. A proper ESA letter will contain the licensed mental health professional’s contact and license information, which a third party can use to verify the authenticity of the letter. If you would still like an original copy for any reason, we can accommodate your request for an extra fee.
An ESA letter will establish that you have a disability for purposes of the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act. A disability that qualifies for an ESA can be a condition such as severe depression, anxiety, phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder. The ESA letter will recommend an ESA to help alleviate symptoms of your mental or emotional disability. Housing providers and airlines are not permitted to demand that you disclose details about your specific diagnosis or the severity of your condition. Nor can they request your medical records or insist that a medical examination be conducted. You have a right to privacy when it comes to sensitive information about your mental and emotional health.
A valid ESA letter will be signed and dated by a licensed professional. The letter should also contain the professional’s license and contact information so that third parties can verify the authenticity of the letter and that the professional is actively licensed in their field.
Emotional support animals are not the same thing as service animals. Service animals are specifically trained to assist their handlers with a disability (for example guide dogs for the blind). Service animals have legal rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals have greater public access rights than ESAs. For example, service animals are generally allowed to go wherever members of the public are allowed (bars, restaurants, stores, etc.).
ESAs on the other hand have rights in two places: in residential buildings and on planes. ESAs are given legal rights under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act and various state laws. Unlike service dogs, ESAs do not need any special training. They are intended to provide mental and emotional comfort to their owners through their companionship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding Emotional Support Animals and Housing
Almost all housing providers are subject to federal Fair Housing rules regarding emotional support animals. Under Fair Housing rules, emotional support animals are not considered pets. ESAs are assistance animals that help tenants who are suffering from a mental or emotional disability. That means a building’s normal policies regarding pets do not apply to an emotional support animal. Housing providers must accommodate ESAs even if the building normally prohibits pets. Fair Housing rules were designed so housing providers could not unfairly discriminate against emotional support animal owners.
There are some limited circumstances where a landlord can legitimately deny an ESA, such as if they have determined the ESA is a safety or health risk to others. In addition, owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent are also exempt from ESA rules.
Landlords are never permitted to charge fees, surcharges or deposits in connection with ESAs. Even if the building you live in charges fees or security deposits for all pets, an ESA is exempt because ESAs are not considered pets under federal Fair Housing rules. The lack of a security deposit does not mean however that a landlord does not have the right to collect for damages caused by an ESA. If an ESA causes damage to the property, the landlord can charge the tenant for such damage and deduct expenses from any general security deposit the tenant may have paid. Landlords are also not permitted to charge application fees when considering an ESA request.
ESA owners are always responsible for the actions of their emotional support animals. Even though a landlord can’t charge fees or deposits for an ESA, they can charge a tenant if the ESA causes property damage. Landlords can also deduct costs for any such damages from a general security deposit they may have collected from the tenant.
In situations where a tenant’s pet later qualifies as an emotional support animal, and they had previously paid a special deposit or fee for their pet, they would be entitled to a refund of that deposit or fee. Note however for fees the waiver would only apply for the time the animal companion was considered an ESA. For example, if you were paying a monthly fee for your pet, you would no longer pay that fee going forward but would not be entitled to a refund for past months when the animal was validly categorized as a regular pet.
Landlords do have the right to reject your request to live with an emotional support animal under certain limited circumstances. The housing provider can reject an emotional support animal if they determine that the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others. Note that the housing provider must actually make an individualized assessment of the particular animal. They cannot rely on stereotypes regarding the animal. For example, they cannot reject an emotional support pitbull solely because they believe such animals are dangerous without any evidence the particular ESA in question is actually dangerous.
A housing provider may also reject an emotional support animal if the accommodation would cause an “undue financial and administrative burden” on the housing provider’s operations. One example of this would be if the housing provider’s insurance would be cancelled, or substantially increase in cost, because of the presence of a certain type of animal. Landlords relying on this exemption should substantiate their claims and also consider whether alternative insurance coverage is available.
It’s not uncommon for landlords to initially reject an ESA request from a tenant. Some landlords are simply unaware of what Fair Housing rules regarding ESAs actually require. Other landlords will sometimes confuse emotional support animals with service dogs. It’s important to have a constructive, but friendly dialogue with your landlord. The Department of Housing’s guidance states that landlords should engage in a good-faith interactive process with tenants to resolve ESA issues. It may be helpful for you to point out the relevant housing rules to your landlord if they are denying your ESA without merit. Many times landlords are simply just unaware of their obligations under Fair Housing rules and will acquiesce once they are confronted with the facts.
In rare situations where a landlord is completely uncooperative even after multiple attempts to amicably resolve the situation, tenants do have the right to file a complaint directly with HUD. That should always however be a last resort option. Housing providers should be aware that many landlords have been sued by the government for the failure to comply with emotional support animal housing rules.
We recommend clearing your emotional support animal with your housing provider prior to bringing your ESA home, particularly if you live in a no-pets building. You must request accommodation from your landlord for your ESA and submit your ESA letter. The landlord must get back to you promptly and, if they are rejecting your ESA request, must give you valid reasons for denial. If your ESA is already living with you because it was a pet that later qualified as an ESA, then you would submit your ESA letter to your landlord as soon as possible.
If you inform your landlord of your ESA after bringing home your ESA in violation of building rules, under HUD guidance the landlord must still consider your request. However, that timing could upset your landlord and work against your favor. The bottomline: it’s always best to be honest and transparent about your ESA. Remember, a tenant’s right to an ESA is protected by federal and sometimes state law.
Landlords must reply to ESA requests “promptly”, and within 10 days of receiving the tenant’s request for accommodation. Landlords cannot just stonewall tenants who submit requests for their emotional support animal. The Department of Housing encourages landlords to engage in a good-faith interactive process with tenants regarding ESA requests. That means that landlords should have constructive dialogue with tenants to address any concerns regarding a tenant’s emotional support animal.
Yes, HOAs and co-ops are subject to Fair Housing requirements and must also reasonably accommodate valid ESAs.
Maybe. The Fair Housing act applies to most types of housing. There are however some exceptions. The following types of housing do not have to comply with the Fair Housing Act’s rules regarding emotional support animals: 1. owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, 2. single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, 3. housing operated by religious organizations, and 4. private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
Note that although certain landlords are not legally obligated to accommodate emotional support animals, some will do so anyway as a courtesy. It’s best to check with your landlord to see what their policy is regarding ESAs.
Under Fair Housing rules categorical breed restrictions are not allowed. Housing providers can’t deny a tenant’s ESA request solely because the ESA is a certain breed. The housing provider can however turn away the ESA if they have good reason to believe the particular animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or has caused property damage. They would need to determine the animal is a threat based on actual evidence, and not just stereotypes about the particular breed in question.
Under Fair Housing rules categorical breed restrictions are not allowed. Housing providers can’t deny a tenant’s ESA request solely because the ESA is a certain breed. The housing provider can however turn away the ESA if they have good reason to believe the particular animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or has caused property damage. They would need to determine the animal is a threat based on actual evidence, and not just stereotypes about the particular breed in question.
Housing providers must allow tenants to be accompanied by their emotional support animal “in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.” That may include places such as a recreation room, a community garden, a pool area or a courtyard.
Landlords are not allowed to charge tenants or prospective tenants any type of fee in connection with the consideration of an ESA request. That includes fees for applications.
You can request accommodation for your ESA verbally or in writing. There is no special language needed when making this request, but it can be helpful to inform the landlord that you are seeking reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal pursuant to Fair Housing rules. We recommend submitting the request in writing so you have a record of when your request was made. You should also submit your ESA letter to your landlord when making this request. Your landlord has the right to request documentation for your ESA, and the only legitimate form of ESA documentation is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
There is no rule that requires ESA owners to be with their emotional support animals all day. Most ESA owners do not have their ESA with them at all times during the day. Like any other animal companion, your ESA should be properly attended to and depending on the type of ESA may be able to be left at home for short periods of time. ESA owners like all pet owners are responsible for feeding, maintaining, providing veterinary care for, and controlling their assistance animal. ESA owners can enlist the help of friends, family, volunteers and service providers (such as dog-walkers) to help them care for their animal.
University housing such as dorms and university sponsored apartments are subject to Fair Housing rules and its provisions regarding emotional support animals. However, universities are known to be more stringent about ESA accommodation than typical landlords. Many of our clients have successfully used their ESA letters for college housing, but some have also faced an uphill battle dealing with difficult administrations. We will be available to provide support but cannot guarantee outcomes regarding whether a housing provider accepts your ESA or not. Our recommendation is to check with your school to see what their specific policy is regarding ESAs.
Under HUD guidelines, a licensed healthcare professional can issue an ESA letter. Most ESA letters are generally not from physicians, although a physician is capable of writing an ESA letter. Examples of licensed professionals given by HUD include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. In addition, tenants are allowed to use licensed providers that work remotely through online services. It is not necessary to have an ESA letter from a therapist who evaluated you at an in-person session.
Generally, housing providers in these situations will understand that tenants who have recently moved from another state will have an out of state ESA letter. The important thing is that you were evaluated by a therapist who was licensed for your state at the time of the evaluation. There is no requirement under Fair Housing rules that an ESA letter be issued in the same state where the tenant is requesting accommodation from their landlord.
Under Fair Housing rules, landlords are not permitted to request detailed information about a tenant’s condition. They cannot request medical records or insist on a medical examination. Your therapist is also bound by obligations of confidentiality and generally cannot reveal details about your condition beyond what is stated in their ESA letter. However, your landlord does have the ability to confirm your therapist wrote your letter for you. A valid ESA letter should have the therapist’s license information which the landlord can verify on your State’s website for licensed professionals. A valid ESA letter will also contain contact information for your therapist which your landlord can use for confirmatory purposes.
If you have a landlord who is blatantly disregarding your right to be accompanied by an emotional support animal and they have failed to engage in constructive dialogue with you regarding your ESA, you can file a complaint directly with HUD. It is not uncommon for landlords to get in trouble with government agencies for discriminatory practices against the disabled. This should however be a measure of last resort. We always recommend and encourage having an open and friendly dialogue with your landlord about your ESA needs. Most landlords are reasonable and will comply with their Fair Housing obligations.
Canada does not have a legal framework for emotional support animals similar to one in the United States. In the U.S., ESA rules are enshrined in federal law and apply to every State. Various States in the U.S. also have laws that protect ESAs. Many landlords in Canada however will accommodate emotional support animals as a courtesy if you have an ESA letter. There may also be local rules that pertain to emotional support animals. We can help connect you to a therapist licensed to work in Canada to help you assess whether an ESA is right for you.
The only way to qualify an ESA is by possessing an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. Landlords cannot request certificates, registrations or ID cards as a condition to accommodate an emotional support animal. In fact, such items do not confer any legal status on ESAs. Some landlords are confused about this issue and are under the mistaken impression that there is an officially sanctioned certification or registration process for ESAs when there is not.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding ESAS and Air Travel
New rules approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow airlines to no longer recognize emotional support animals. Some of the FAQs below pertain to prior ESA rules and procedures which may no longer be applicable. Please check with your airline to see what their current policies are before booking any flight.
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued new rules for ESAs on flights that went into effect on January 11, 2021. As a result of these new rules, airlines are no longer legally obligated to accept emotional support animals. However, there are still airlines that will accept emotional support animals with proper documentation. For a list of airlines that are still accepting ESAs, please click on this link. It’s important to check with your airline before your flight to see what their current policy is for ESAs.
For airlines that accept ESAs, to fly with an emotional support animal the passenger generally needs a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter establishes the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (such as depression or anxiety) and that the ESA is needed as an accommodation for air travel and/or activity at the passenger’s destination. An ESA letter must be signed and dated by the licensed professional and contain their licensing information.
It is incorrect to say that ESAs have been banned – the DOT’s new rules just allow airlines to choose to stop recognizing ESAs if they desire. Some airlines will still accommodate ESAs as a courtesy on a voluntary basis. You can see which airlines are still accepting ESAs by clicking this link. It is important to check with your airline to see if they are still recognizing emotional support animals before you plan your flight.
If you were approved for an ESA letter by one of the licensed healthcare professionals we work with, we can process your airline form request under our extra document service for an additional fee. Your airline may also require your veterinarian to complete a form attesting to your ESA’s health. We recommend submitting all extra document requests for airline forms as soon as possible. You should request that your therapist complete the airline form as far in advance of your departure date as possible.
No, any airline forms must be completed by a licensed professional who has evaluated you and recommended an emotional support animal. The completion of airline forms is based on the recommendation the therapist provides in your ESA letter. If you have a current ESA letter on file with the licensed professional, they will be able to complete airline forms for you as an extra document service.
You should always contact the airline you are flying with at least 48 hours in advance to let them know you are requesting accommodation for your emotional support animal. We recommend reaching out to your airline as soon as you book. The airline will let you know what their specific policy is regarding ESAs. They may also have you complete additional forms that require the input of your healthcare provider or veterinarian. It’s never a good idea to inform the airline at the last minute or not inform the airline until you are at the gate!
Airlines that have programs to accommodate ESAs will not charge any fees for your ESA to board. If the airline does not have an ESA program, your ESA will be treated as a normal pet subject to the airline’s fees and other restrictions for pets.
Under prior DOT guidelines, airlines were required to accommodate ESAs that are dogs, cats or miniature horses. Under the DOT’s prior guidelines, airlines were allowed to reject “unusual” animals, which include snakes, other reptiles, rodents, spiders and ferrets.
Most airlines will limit emotional support animals to one per passenger. You should check with your airline to see what their specific policy is.
Some airlines have policies that prohibit specific breeds. We recommend checking with the airline you are flying on to see what their particular rules and restrictions are.
Airlines will deny ESAs if they believe the animal is too large or heavy to travel in the cabin. We recommend asking your airline before you book whether the weight or size of your emotional support animal will prevent them from boarding the flight.
Some airlines will not allow ESAs to board long flights, or may require proof that the ESA will not relieve itself on the flight or can do so in a sanitary way. You should check with your airline before booking a long flight to see what restrictions they have regarding ESAs.
You should be aware that other countries may have their own rules regarding emotional support animals and the entry of animals through customs. You should research your departure and destination countries in advance to make sure you will not have any issues with your emotional support animal on the flight and while going through customs.
Generally, ESAs are allowed to sit on the floor or, if they are small, in your lap. However, airlines are allowed to impose reasonable and appropriate restrictions to control the movement of ESAs during the flight. These restrictions may include keeping your animal inside a carrier, having the animal stay at your feet, or requiring the animal be on a tether or leash. How exactly your ESA is allowed to travel will depend on the size of the ESA, the right of other passengers to have their own space and the ability of the ESA to provide needed support during the flight. Your ESA cannot disrupt service (sitting or moving in the aisle or barking) and they are not allowed in exit rows.
General Information about Psychiatric Service Dogs
A psychiatric service dog (or PSD) is a type of service dog that has been individuallytrained to perform tasks relating to a handler’s mental, emotional or learning disability. Psychiatric service dogs have the same rights as other types of service dogs which assist handlers with physical disabilities. Service dogs have special access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. They are allowed to accompany their owners in the home, onflights and in places where members of the public are generally allowed to go.
A psychiatric service dog is not the same thing as an ESA. The primary difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal is that a PSD must be fully trained to perform tasks relating to a disability. A PSD in training does not yet qualify as a service dog. In contrast, ESAs are not required to have any specialized training. ESAs primarily provide comfort to their owners just through their presence and companionship. An ESA also requires a letter of recommendationfrom a licensed healthcare professional.
PSDs and ESAs also differ in terms of their access rights. ESAs have the right to live with their owners free of charge (even in buildings that prohibit pets) under federal Fair Housing laws and various state laws. PSDs have greater access rights under theADA and ACAA – they can board flights as well as places generally open to the public like stores.
The other major difference between ESAs and PSDs is that an ESA can be a wide range of animals but a psychiatric service animal can only be a dog.
In order to qualify for a PSD, the handler must have a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. That can include things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, learning disorders and autism. A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to determine whether you have a qualifying condition.
If your animal provides comfort for your mental or emotional health issues just by being present and does not perform any specialized tasks to assist with your disability, it is more likely an ESA. A PSD by definition must be individually trained toperform at least one task relating to a mental disability. If the dog is not trained to perform a task in relation to the disability, it is not a PSD but may be an ESA. In addition, if your animal is not a dog, then it cannot qualify as a psychiatric service animal but may qualify as an ESA.
A PSD letter is a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional that can help you determine whether you have a qualifying condition for a psychiatric service dog. It’s important to note that a PSD letter does not certify or verify that your animal is a psychiatric service dog, it only addresses whether you have a psychiatricor emotional disability. Representing that a dog is a fully trained PSD is a responsibility that ultimately falls on the handler. A PSD letter is intended to help someone understand whether they may have a qualifying disability and provides peace of mind. Unlike an ESA letter, it does not need to be submitted to the landlord, airline or another third-party for accommodation of the assistance animal.
No, a third party cannot ask for documentation such as a license, certificate, PSD letter or ID card to prove a dog is a psychiatric service dog before allowing it entry. Other accessories like vests and harnesses are also not required. You have probablyseen these items used in public however by owners of service dogs. Many service dog owners use these items to help signal to the public that their dogs are on duty, but they are not mandated by the ADA. ADA guidance specifically states that you donot need certification or registration documents for a service dog, and that these documents do not convey any rights under the ADA.
Under ACAA guidance from the Department of Transportation, airlines are allowed to look for indicators such as harnesses, ID cards, tags and vests to help determine whether a dog is a service animal. However, these items solely by themselves are not enough to qualify a dog as a service dog. They are just one factor airline staff can weigh in determining whether a passenger has a valid service dog.
Unlike emotional support animals which can be a wide range of animals, only dogs can serve as psychiatric service animals.
Under new rules that went into effect in January of 2021, PSDs can board the cabin free of charge as long as the handler submits the Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to boarding the flight. The form requires the handler to self-certify that their animal is a trained psychiatric service dog. It also requires information regarding the dog’s trainer (which can be the handler) andveterinarian. Only the handler is required to sign the form.
PSDs perform an incredible variety of tasks for their handlers. There are far too many to list here, but these tasks include things like:
• Helping to ground and reorient a handler that is experiencing an anxiety or panic attack.
• Interrupting OCD and self-destructive behaviors.
• Reminding the handler to take their medication.
• Using tactile/pressure stimulation to calm a handler.
• Retrieving medications for the handler to take.
• Preventing the handler from oversleeping and helping to maintain a healthy routine.
The ADA allows for service animals to be trained by the handler or through a professional. If the handler is confident and capable of training their psychiatric service dog, they are allowed to do so. It is not necessary to use any organization orprofessional trainer, although those alternatives may be useful for owners who are not experienced in training dogs.
If you are at a public establishment, third parties can verify your dog is a PSD by asking two questions: 1. is the dog a service dog required because of a disability? and 2. what work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?
As a PSD owner, you do not have to provide details about your disability. Third parties also cannot ask you to demonstrate the task your PSD has been trained to perform.
If you plan to fly with your PSD, you will need to submit the DOT’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to boarding the flight. The form requires the passenger toself-certify that they have a psychiatric service dog that has been appropriately trained to perform tasks and behave in public settings.
A PSD can be denied entry if it is behaving in a way that poses a threat to the healthor safety of others. A PSD can also be denied if it is not under the control of the handler. For example, a PSD can be prohibited from boarding a flight if it is out of control, barking or growling repeatedly at other passengers or animals, biting, jumping on or causing injury to others, or urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area. A fully trained PSD should be capable of behaving in many kinds of publicsettings and should always be under the control of their handler.
Questions about ESA Doctors
No, ESA Doctors is not a medical clinic or health care provider and is not engaged in the practice of medicine or any health care profession. ESA Doctors does not provide medical advice or opinions under any circumstance. ESA Doctors does not employ any of the professionals it works with. ESA Doctors works with a range of licensed professionals who are familiar with the benefits of ESAs.
ESA Doctors is a company that utilizes technology to help connect clients with licensed health care professionals who, when they deem it to be appropriate and necessary for the client in their independent judgment, can issue an ESA letter.
ESA Doctors has been a leading provider of legitimate online ESA services since 2015. There are many reasons ESA Doctors is a widely trusted and reputable source for ESA letters: 1. ESA Doctors only works with licensed healthcare professionals. Under federal guidelines for housing and air travel, legitimate ESA documentation can only come from a licensed professional. 2. The professionals that we work with are licensed for your state and are familiar with rules regarding ESA accommodation. 3. ESA Doctors does not sell certifications, registrations or licenses which by themselves do not confer any legal benefits for an emotional support animal. 4. ESA Doctors is an advocate for ESA owners and their rights. ESA Doctors believe that ESAs are a vital means of assistance for individuals suffering from mental and emotional disabilities. We take care to engage with every client with understanding and kindness because we know that anyone who reaches out to us is fighting a difficult battle and deserves empathy and compassion.
You can reach out to our support team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns. We do not offer phone support. We focus on providing fast and high-quality responses by email, and our support team is comprised of dedicated, knowledgeable and caring individuals all located here in the US. We do not outsource our customer support to call centers or bots, and our team members are like family.
We love to help our customers answer questions and found that going 100% digital allows us to help more people and keep your fees reasonable. We have not raised our fees in 5 years and work hard to keep our overhead costs low.
In addition, the licensed professional you are connected to will provide you with their contact information and you will be able to reach out to them directly.
We are not as active about collecting reviews as other companies because we believe seeking help for a mental illness or emotional disability is an extremely personal decision and private. We do not believe in pushing clients to share their experiences. It’s also important to us that any reviews we display are verified to be from actual clients. You can see reviews for our services here:
These are reviews from actual, verified clients who have not been compensated or pressured to leave positive feedback for us.
Questions About the Order Process
We have a strict cancellation policy to ensure the licensed healthcare professionals we work with are effectively allocating their support to those who need their help. Once your order is placed, there is a $39 cancellation fee if a refund is requested within 24 hours. After 24 hours, or once you have signed the LMHP’s consent form, even if you are within the 24-hour window, your order is non-refundable and final. If an exception is made at our sole discretion outside this window for extenuating circumstances, a $55 cancellation fee will apply.
All PRIORITY Digital Delivery orders are non-refundable, as these orders are processed immediately and given priority attention by your LMHP. Once your order is placed, an LMHP will reach out to you with a consent form. If you opted for PRIORITY Digital Delivery service, it is your responsibility to reply to your LMHP with your consent within 24 hours. Once your LMHP has received your consent form and if they recommend an ESA, you will receive a digital copy of your letter shortly thereafter and typically within 1-2 business days. If an exception is made at our sole discretion for extenuating circumstances and your priority order is canceled, the PRIORITY delivery fee will be forfeited and a $55 cancellation fee will be applied. If you do not provide your LMHP with your consent forms within 24 hours, you will not be issued a refund for the expedited delivery fee under any circumstance.
For subscription renewal clients, once you submit your renewal questionnaire your renewal is non-refundable. Before you submit your renewal questionnaire, your subscription renewal is refundable.
Please note that it is ultimately up to the landlord or airline to accommodate your ESA request. Unfortunately, some landlords and airline agents are averse to ESAs or unaware of ESA rules and will unjustly deny your federally protected right to be accompanied by an ESA. We will provide support to help you navigate any issues that may arise, but we cannot offer refunds for events outside of our control, i.e. if your landlord or airline rejects your ESA request in violation of your rights. We also cannot offer refunds if your landlord or airline denies your ESA pursuant to a valid reason under the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act – for example, if your ESA poses a threat to the health and safety of others or has damaged property. We also cannot issue refunds for regulatory changes that affect ESAs or for airlines that change their policies regarding ESAs.
If you are unsure about your order please reach out to us first with any questions before placing an order, as we have limited resources available to support clients who really need our help.
Our 100% money-back guarantee applies if your licensed mental health professional determines after an assessment that you do not qualify for an ESA letter. We are proud to work with LMHPs with integrity and some clients will not qualify for an ESA letter. To avoid conflicts of interest, your LMHP’s compensation is not based on whether or not you qualify for an ESA Letter. We understand that seeking the help of a mental health professional can be difficult, both personally and financially. We want to ensure that everyone that reaches out to one of the LMHPs we work with gets the help they need, and if your LMHP is unable to recommend an ESA, we will return your money at our expense so you can seek help in other ways.
Under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules, airlines can demand that ESA documentation be dated within at least a year. Landlords will also often require that very dated ESA letters be updated. For these reasons, it is recommended that ESA owners renew annually so their licensed mental health professional can re-evaluate their need for an ESA and reissue an updated letter.
Combo Plan clients are eligible for a discounted renewal. The discounted renewal rate for 2021 is $99. Please note however that if you change your state of residency, you will no longer be eligible for the discounted renewal rate for your Combo Plan letter. A healthcare professional licensed in your new State will re-evaluate you for your updated ESA letter. Travel and Housing Plan clients are not entitled to a discounted renewal fee and must pay the full amount. You may order an annual renewal subscription to ensure you are automatically covered. Opting for automatic renewal takes the hassle and worry out of having to keep track of when their last evaluation was completed and wondering whether your ESA letter is expiring. You can cancel your annual renewal subscription anytime before your renewal date and before you complete a renewal questionnaire. To cancel your annual renewal subscription, simply email us at email@example.com with the subject: “Cancel Renewal” and let us know that you would like to cancel.
Your ESA letter will be delivered in digital format. You can email this to your landlord or airline, or present them with a printout. It is not necessary to have an original copy of the letter. However, if you would still like a letter with the LMHP’s signature in ink, we can process this as an “optional document”. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to process this request. Shipping is only available to clients within the US. If you are outside the US and opted in for shipping, please contact the support team for a refund of the shipping fee.
Absolutely, we are happy to help out with separate forms and other special requests. We offer Extra Document Service to those who are approved for an ESA letter through an LMHP working with ESA Doctors. When you are checking out, you can opt-in for the “optional document service”. Once you have submitted your order, please reply to the confirmation email with your extra document. When we send your questionnaire to your therapist, we will send the extra document as well so that your LMHP may review both at the same time.
The standard extra document fee ($49.95) is subject to change based on the complexity of the request. The fee is per document or per special request. If you find out you require this service at a later time, we will do our best but there is a chance your LMHP may not be able to assist you. We recommend that you contact your landlord and airline right away and within 2 weeks of receiving your letter. Since we pair you with an actual LMHP, they may not be able to assist you at a later time with an extra document or special request if they are on leave or attending to a personal matter. In the event that you submit an extra document request and your LMHP is unable to assist you, we may be able to offer you early renewal and pair you with another LMHP.
Yes! If your landlord is using a third party online portal to evaluate and verify your ESA request, the licensed healthcare professionals we work with can help. They are knowledgeable about these types of verification requests and the process involved. There is an additional $25 fee for digital third party verification requests to compensate the healthcare professional for their time in completing the verification process and attending to any follow-up.
The LMHPs we work with craft their letters in order to meet relevant ESA rules. Some airlines and landlords may request additional information be included in the letter. These requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have a request for specific language in your letter, we would be happy to share the request to your LMHP. It is at their discretion to make any adjustments to your letter. If the adjustments are approved, we can bill this as a special request ($49.95). The fee is subject to change based on the complexity of the request.
Please note that your LMHP is making a recommendation for an emotional support animal, but they do not recommend a specific animal as your ESA. Your LMHP is also not in a position to verify information about your ESA such as its temperament, breed and health. ESA letters generally do not include descriptions regarding the specific ESA you own.
When you submit your order, please pick your plan carefully. If your request to upgrade a travel or housing plan to a combo plan is made within 60 days of your initial order, we will do our best to accommodate your request. When possible, you can upgrade your plan by paying the difference between the plan you selected and the upgraded plan ($30-$40). Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and changes are not always possible.
Please take care to select the right plan during checkout. If your request is outside the 60-day window from when you initially submitted your order, you will be required to order a new combo plan. You may email us at email@example.com with upgrade requests. If your request for an upgrade is granted, you will be eligible for the discounted renewal rate the following year which is a perk available to all combo plan purchasers.
Your payment will be processed immediately at the time you submit your order. Once your order and payment have been submitted, you will only be eligible for a refund under the conditions outlined in our return policy. If you are uncertain that you need our support, please wait to submit your order and reach out to us with any questions. If for any reason we are not able to connect you with an LMHP, you will be refunded. All payment information is kept secure.
ESA Shield is an optional add-on service that gives you unlimited, priority email support from our best ESA experts with years of experience to help you deal with difficult landlords, along with a 100% fee refund guarantee. It is very common for landlords to reject the initial request for an ESA, but the vast majority of our clients are able to respond and successfully receive accommodation for their ESA. However, in some instances, even after some back and forth a landlord will violate your rights under the Fair Housing Act and unfairly deny your request. If this happens to you and you have purchased ESA Shield, you will be refunded the cost of your housing or combo plan.
This plan may be right for you if you know that your landlord is difficult about special accommodations or pets and would like additional support or peace of mind.
ESA Shield is subject to some important terms and conditions, which you should read here. The most important requirement for your fee refund is that your ESA document or response submission were rejected at least twice with our support (note that some back and forth is common even with reasonable landlords) and you have written proof that your landlord has denied your request in violation of your rights under the FHA. ESA Shield is valid from the date of your ESA letter and expires in 30 days. In most cases, the ESA approval process with landlords will take a few days and should be resolved well before ESA Shield expires.
ESA Shield is not available for clients who live in university, campus or dormitory housing. ESA Shield is also not for use in conjunction with air travel.
Yes, your questionnaire will be kept confidential. Your answers will be shared with your licensed mental health professional who is also under obligations of confidentiality. We understand that seeking help for a mental illness is a private decision, and that your answers to the questionnaire are highly sensitive. We take care to make sure all of that information stays safe. We never sell confidential client information to third parties.
Do you have a question that wasn’t answered in this FAQ? Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help you.