Are you interested in having a legitimate emotional support animal? ESA Doctors was founded in 2015 with a mission to support ESA owners and spread truthful information about ESA rights. In recent years public awareness of ESAs has grown, and unfortunately, so has the number of dodgy online ESA services looking to make a quick buck.

There are a lot of misconceptions around emotional support animals. ESA Doctors is here to break down the relevant info in a digestible, streamlined fashion.

In this article:

  1. What qualifies as an emotional support animal?
  2. How do I get an ESA letter?
  3. Benefits of qualifying online
  4. Avoid online ESA scams
  5. What a legit letter should have
  6. Your rights as an ESA owner
  7. How to start the process

What qualifies as an emotional support animal?

Dogs and other animals can improve mental health in people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. - ESA Doctors
Studies show that dogs and other animals can improve mental health.

There is a lot of confusing and flat-out false information about ESAs out there. Some of the most common myths about ESAs are the following:

“You need to register or certify an ESA and have an ID card.”
An ESA letter is the only documentation that can qualify a pet as an ESA.  

“ESAs are out of control, they should have laws that govern them!”
ESAs are actually a creation of laws – there are already many federal and state rules that regulate ESAs and protect the rights of owners.

“Anyone can just pretend their pet is an ESA.”
It’s not easy to pass off a normal pet as an ESA with a savvy landlord – they are entitled under law to see proof that an animal is an ESA.

“You can’t qualify for an ESA online.”
While it’s true that there are many ESA scams online to be wary of, it is possible to successfully obtain a legitimate ESA letter online.

“No one really needs an ESA, people should just toughen up!”
ESAs play a key role in the mental and emotional well-being of their owners. There are countless real-life examples of ESAs allowing people with mental health issues to live positive and fulfilling lives that were previously unthinkable. 

ESA key facts: 

  • Emotional support animals are recognized under federal and state housing laws
  • They help people with conditions such as depression, panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses
  • Individuals who need emotional support animals are granted federal and state-specific rights
    • i.e., landlords cannot refuse to accommodate ESA owners due to a “no pets” policy

Which animals can be ESAs?

  • Emotional support animals are usually dogs and cats, but they can be any animal that provides comfort during times of sadness, anxiety, or emotional stress.
  • Emotional support animals do not need specialized training. They provide comfort for mental and emotional distress just through their mere presence.

What separates a pet from an emotional support animal is whether the owner has an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. Under federal and state laws, the only way to qualify for an emotional support animal is to obtain an ESA letter that meets specific requirements.

How do I get an ESA letter?

If you already have a mental health professional such as a therapist, counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse, physician’s assistant, or doctor, that is the best person to talk to regarding your interest in an emotional support animal.

A simple alternative: For many people, however, visiting a healthcare provider is unaffordable or impractical. Some people have a healthcare provider, but one that is unfamiliar with ESAs and unable to help them qualify for one.

You can obtain a legitimate and effective ESA letter online, but you have to be careful about selecting the right provider. In the next section, we’ll provide information on how to qualify for a legitimate ESA letter online and how to spot fake ESA documentation.

How to qualify for an ESA online:

  1. Recognize your need for an ESA

  2. Connect with a licensed healthcare professional

  3. Communicate your need for an ESA

  4. Request an ESA letter from your LHCP

Three easy steps to get an ESA Letter with ESA Doctors

Click here to get started on qualifying for your ESA letter.

Benefits of qualifying for an ESA letter online

With telehealth services, you are allowed to get your ESA letter online.  Seeing a therapist in person is NOT required to qualify for an ESA. - ESA Doctors
Seeing a therapist in person is not required to qualify for an ESA – you can do it all remotely.

As the world moves increasingly in the direction of internet-based solutions for activities that were once carried out in person, health-related services are no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps further accelerated the move towards being able to find therapist services online. More and more people are turning to web-based offerings to address their mental health needs.

Qualifying online can be a great option if one of these situations apply to you:

  1. You don’t have a therapist and are not sure who to turn to.
  2. You have a therapist, but they are unfamiliar with ESAs and don’t know how to recommend one.
  3. You have a schedule that makes it difficult to attend in-person meetings.
  4. You’re uninsured or don’t have the means to pay for expensive in-person meetings.
  5. You have anxieties about discussing your mental health with someone face-to-face.
  6. You have mobility issues that make it hard to leave home.

Federal rules specifically allow for tenants to obtain ESA letters from remote, online therapists. Various state laws have also explicitly approved of online therapists for ESA documentation. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that not all online sources are created equal. The U.S. Department of Housing confirmed the use of legitimate online professionals is acceptable, but also rightfully warns people from sites online that sell questionable ESA credentials.

In the next sections, we’ll discuss some common ESA scams to watch out for, and explain what constitutes a legitimate ESA letter.

How to avoid online ESA scams

If you are looking to obtain an emotional support animal letter online, watch out for companies that promise instant approvals, low-cost letters, registrations, certifications, or ESA letters that don’t expire. In many instances, these documents may not be legally enforceable, and they could be a scam.

What to Watch Out for When Evaluating ESA Provider Online

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Here are a few things to watch out for when evaluating ESA providers online:

  1. Instant ESA letter approvals are not legitimate because it takes time for real licensed healthcare professionals to evaluate whether an ESA is right for you. Instant approvals may be from ESA letter mills that don’t use actual therapists or have therapist/doctor signatures on file. This means the therapist that “signed” your letter has probably never even seen your letter.
  2. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Bargain basement-priced ESA letters do not make sense because a real licensed healthcare professional must evaluate your condition and write an ESA letter for you. The cost of a qualified licensed professional’s time does not come cheap.
  3. Emotional support animals do not need to be registered, so be cautious of sites that promise ESA status by adding your pet to a registry.
  4. A vest or ID card will not transform your pet into an ESA, and you should be very skeptical of any site that claims otherwise. As we’ve discussed, the only way to properly qualify for an ESA is with a letter from a licensed professional.
  5. Check to see what past clients have said about the company. Make sure the reviews come from a site that verifies the reviews are authentic. You should also check the company’s BBB (Better Business Bureau) accreditation status.

What to look for in a legitimate ESA letter

Not all ESA letters are the same. An ESA letter has to conform to the specific requirements of federal and state rules regarding emotional support animals.

  • Your ESA letter should be on the licensed healthcare professional’s official letterhead with their licensing and direct contact information.
  • Make sure that the professional’s license is in good standing and up to date. You can check on your therapist’s licensing by searching your state’s professional licensing database.

An ESA letter has to come from a real licensed mental health professional. You should be able to contact this professional in case you need additional forms or documents that may require their input or signature. A landlord may also want to contact the author of the ESA letter to verify it was written for you. You can run into a troubling situation if you use a questionable ESA provider that is unresponsive.

The ESA letter should establish that you have a condition that meets the criteria outlined in the U.S. Department of Housing’s guidelines. The letter will recommend an emotional support animal to help deal with the symptoms of that condition. Remember, ESA registration papers are not required and are not recognized by landlords. 

Your rights as the owner of an emotional support animal

An ESA letter allows you and your emotional support animal to live and travel without paying additional pet fees. - ESA Doctors
An ESA letter gives you and your ESA the right to live together without having to pay pet fees.

An ESA letter gives you the right to live with your ESA. Once you have your ESA letter, you can present it to your housing provider and request accommodation of your emotional support animal. 

“No pets” policies do not apply. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must reasonably accommodate tenants who have a valid emotional support animal. The Fair Housing Act protects owners of emotional support animals from discrimination. Under Fair Housing rules, ESAs are not considered pets and must be allowed even in buildings that prohibit animals. 

No fees, no deposits. Landlords may not discriminate against legitimate ESA owners, and they may not charge additional fees or pet deposits for an ESA, even though such fees and deposits may apply to normal pets. Landlords also cannot apply breed or weight restrictions to emotional support animals. Even if the building has a policy restricting the size or breed of regular pets, that policy cannot be applied to emotional support animals. 

ESAs no longer accepted on flights. You may have also heard that emotional support animals are allowed in the cabin of airplanes. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) changed its regulations for emotional support animals in 2021, and as a result, U.S. airlines no longer accept ESAs on flights

Psychiatric service dogs (PSD) ≠ ESA. Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs), however, are still allowed to board flights free of charge and are also exempt from many of the airline policies that apply to pets. The DOT confirmed that service dogs can still board flights as long as owners submit a special form in advance. 

An ESA can become a PSD. If you have an ESA that is trained (or in the process of being trained) to perform a task relating to your mental health disability, it may be able to eventually qualify as a psychiatric service dog. A PSD is a type of service dog for people with the same mental and emotional health issues that ESA owners have (like depression, anxiety, and PTSD). However, the major difference is that PSDs must be trained to perform tasks relating to a disability.

You can apply for a PSD letter if you need a psychiatric service dog. If you’re interested in qualifying for a psychiatric service dog, a PSD letter from a licensed healthcare professional instead of an ESA letter might be right for you. ESA Doctors can connect you to a licensed healthcare professional that specializes in PSD letters. 

If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we are happy to connect you with a licensed healthcare provider.

PSD Letter - Get Started - ESA Doctors
Get Started. Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter Now.

In short…

An emotional support animal can be life-changing for people suffering from mental health issues. A pet can only qualify as an ESA if you have a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional. You can obtain a letter from a professional who offers their services online, but it’s important to choose a provider that can write a legitimate ESA letter.

ESA Doctors can help connect you to a licensed professional specializing in ESAs and offers their services remotely. The licensed professional can assess whether an ESA is right for you and issue an ESA letter that you can confidently present to your landlord.

If you are ready to get started on qualifying for a legitimate ESA letter online, you can start by clicking the link below.

Get Your Legitimate ESA Letter Online

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