My name is Stephanie and I have an emotional support animal (ESA). My ESA’s name is Buddy. He loves long walks, kisses, and blueberries with his breakfast. Buddy has been a lifesaver. Although my struggle with severe and sometimes crippling anxiety is still an ongoing battle, my ESA has provided me with immeasurable support and allows me to live a happier, more active life. As someone who has been accompanied by an ESA for many years, I’m writing this article to share my experiences and answer some common questions people have about ESAs.
I know firsthand the struggle of dealing with a mental illness, and how frustrating it can feel to find the right resources to get help. I was confident an emotional support animal could benefit me, but I didn’t know where to start. For anyone else in a similar boat, I hope this post helps you better understand the ESA process.
Many people who are curious about ESAs also typically ask me how I qualified and what providers I recommend. There are many choices out there for ESA documentation and unfortunately, there are a lot of shady providers who will sell you fake documentation. It’s stressful enough trying to qualify for an ESA without having to worry about whether the ESA documents you receive are phony. In this post, I will explain why I and so many other people recommend ESADoctors.com so highly. I can wholeheartedly vouch that ESA Doctors is an ethical and legitimate service that actually cares about the wellbeing of their clients.
If after reading this article you have any additional questions, you can contact ESA Doctors directly at email@example.com. If you’re ready to see if you qualify for an ESA letter, you can get started at the link below.
An ESA letter is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional that establishes your need for an emotional support animal. The letter serves as the proof you need to demonstrate to your housing provider or airline that you actually need your ESA. It is also the only appropriate form of documentation your landlord or airline can request from you regarding your ESA.
Emotional support animals are governed by two federal laws: The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. The U.S. Department of Housing and U.S. Department of Transportation issue guidelines stating what should be in an ESA letter.
Under these rules, someone that wants to bring an emotional support animal into a no-pets building or on a flight must provide a letter from a licensed healthcare professional (sometimes referred to as a licensed mental health professional or “LMHP”). A licensed healthcare provider can be someone like a psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, social worker, counselor, or even your physician. If the LMHP determines after an assessment that you qualify for an ESA, they will give you a signed letter that is written on their official letterhead.
Once you have an ESA letter, you and your ESA have certain rights under federal law. Those rights include the ability to live with your ESA even in a no-pets building and exemptions from deposits and fees that would apply to normal pets. Breed and weight restrictions are also not allowed when it comes to validly documented emotional support animals.
Yes! ESADoctors.com is legitimate! In my experience, ESA Doctors is your best option to qualify for a verifiable ESA letter. ESA Doctors has been around for many years and they hold themselves to the highest ethical standard. I have worked with them for over 5 years and have recommended their service to friends and neighbors who were also happy with the help they received. What sets them apart is not only that they work with licensed professionals to issue ESA letters which actually work, but that they also treat you with empathy and kindness throughout the process.
I can personally vouch that ESA Doctors is a legitimate service and they actually care about the well-being of their clients. You don’t have to just take my word for it, you can see their fantastic reviews from other people here, which are verified and audited by an independent third party so you know they’re from actual clients.
Once you have a valid ESA letter, the next step can unfortunately sometimes be a bit challenging for some people – which is submitting the letter to their landlord, co-op, HOA, or airline. I was fortunate enough to have a landlord who was very understanding of my situation, but many residents live in buildings where their housing provider might be wary of animals. That is why it’s so important to ensure that your ESA documentation is legitimate and can be independently verified. That way you can submit your ESA letter to your landlord and airline with confidence, and not worry about whether you’ll get in trouble for sending in fake documentation.
The only way to get a legitimate ESA letter is through a licensed healthcare professional. ESA Doctors matches their clients directly with real licensed healthcare professionals to write ESA letters. If you qualify, your ESA letter will contain specific language required under law that confirms your animal companion is an emotional support animal. The licensed professionals that work with ESA Doctors are kind, compassionate and familiar with federal and state ESA laws so you can request ESA accommodation with confidence.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! An unfortunate aspect for emotional support animal owners is that they have to deal with a dual stigma: first, the stigma of seeking help for mental illness and second, the stigma associated with being accompanied by an emotional support animal.
My ESA is an essential part of my life. I would not be able to get through the day without Buddy, who has helped me live a much more productive and satisfying life. I know for many other ESA owners, their animal companion is as critical as any prescription medication or therapy session to deal with their mental or emotional disability.
Part of the stigma surrounding emotional support animals seems to stem from two sources:
1. The reporting of silly news stories surrounding ESAs by the media and
2. The ignorance surrounding the rules that govern ESAs.
We’ve all seen news stories of people trying to bring unusual animals like a peacock or monkey on a flight or in their home. The media frequently reports on these incidents which make for catchy headlines and fun television segments. In reality, however, nearly all emotional support animal owners go about their day with their dog or cat without creating any nuisance. Emotional support animal owners in my experience tend to be great owners who make sure their ESAs are well behaved at home and during travel. As someone who needs their ESA for anxiety, I take extra care to make sure my ESA doesn’t disturb my neighbors or create a scene in public.
In addition, much of the general public seems to be unaware that emotional support animals are regulated by federal and state laws, as well as overseen by government agencies. Many people are under the mistaken impression that people are faking the need for an ESA without the involvement of a licensed professional or documented proof. You can’t simply show up to a flight claiming you have an emotional support animal or move into a no-pets building with your ESA without proper paperwork. The airline or landlord will have the right to demand documentation for your ESA, and that documentation comes in the form of an ESA letter from a licensed professional.
There may be a small number of people who are actually faking their need for an ESA. In addition, there are companies out there that offer sketchy ESA documents. That is no reason however to unfairly judge most ESA owners who honestly need their ESA. That’s also why it’s important to use a reliable source like ESA Doctors if you’re looking to qualify for an ESA online, so you have the proper paperwork to prove your ESA is legitimate.
What is the Air Carrier Access Act?
The Air Carrier Access Act allows you to travel in the cabin of the airplane with your ESA. You are not required to pay an additional fee for your ESA. You should be aware though that you will not be allowed to sit in the emergency exit rows and you must have full control over your ESA at all times. Airlines are allowed to deny transport to an animal if it poses a threat to the health or safety of others.
The Department of Transportation has stated that emotional support dogs cannot be denied from being on board a plane solely because it is a certain breed. However, some airlines have persisted in the practice of disallowing certain breeds of dogs. You should check with the airline you plan to fly on to see what their rules are before buying a ticket to your destination. The DOT also does not allow weight bans, but does allow airlines to determine “whether the animal is too large or too heavy to be accommodated in the cabin….” Pursuant to these guidelines, an ESA may be disallowed from the cabin if it is too large or too heavy to be comfortably accommodated in the aircraft.
In 2019, the Department of Travel issued updated guidance on the Air Carrier Access Act for flying with an Emotional Support Animal. The new update provides ESA owners with more clarity on the rules that pertain to their ESA. I highly recommend that all ESA owners planning to travel read up on these rules and also check with their specific airline to see what policies they have in regard to ESAs. Airlines will vary in how they handle ESA requests, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead of your trip.
What are Fair Housing Laws?
The Fair Housing Act protects ESA owners from housing discrimination. ESA owners are not required to pay a pet fee or a separate pet deposit and are exempt from pet exclusion rules (meaning you can bring an ESA home even if you live in “no-pet” buildings). Landlords are also not permitted to reject your ESA solely because it is a certain breed or weight. That prevents unfair prejudice against emotional support animals who are harmless but draw attention because they are a breed that is commonly stereotyped.
It’s important to be aware that a landlord cannot ask you to disclose sensitive medical information regarding your disability. There are also some types of housing that are exempt from FHA requirements, most notably owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. A landlord can also reject an ESA if they have determined it poses a threat to other tenants or accommodation of the ESA would create an “undue financial burden” for the landlord.
I am ready to qualify for an ESA and I want to do it the right way
Most ESA owners do not go through the trouble of seeking help from a licensed healthcare professional just to avoid fees or skirt rules. It takes bravery, time, and effort to find a licensed professional to help with a mental illness. In addition, a reputable licensed healthcare professional will not issue an ESA letter with their signature on it unless they truly believe the client would benefit from an emotional support animal. For people concerned about fake ESAs, they should be aware that there are rules and regulations in place that provide guardrails against fraud.
How do I contact ESA Doctors to work with an LMHP and qualify for an ESA Letter?
- Enter your information at ESADoctors.com – You will start by completing the ESA Questionnaire and submitting your order (travel, housing, or both).
- Review your order confirmation – You will then receive an email confirming your order has been received. You may contact ESA Doctors at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. The ESA support team is there to help you at every step of the ESA accommodation process.
- Work with your LMHP directly – In the next few business days, an LMHP will be in touch with you directly via email or phone. Each LMHP has their own policy so look out for their message.
What if I do not want to pay for housing and travel fees, but I do not actually need an ESA?
Okay, this is NOT a common question but it is important for us to talk about it. In order to be approved for an ESA, you must have an actual need for one. ESA Doctors is a legitimate company and the licensed professionals they work with take ESA rules seriously. It is important that you only contact ESA Doctors if you genuinely need help. LMHPs abide by rules of professional conduct and will only recommend an ESA if they feel that in their judgment an ESA would alleviate symptoms relating to a mental or emotional disability.
The following are some common conditions that qualify as a disability for purposes of ESA rules:
If you believe you are suffering from a mental or emotional disability or have been previously diagnosed with a condition, you may be a good candidate for an emotional support animal. ESA Doctors can help link you to a licensed provider who can help evaluate your situation. The LMHP you work with will make a professional determination about whether an ESA is right for you.
Start your questionnaire now to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency or feel you might hurt yourself or someone else, you should call 911 or go straight to an emergency room. You can also reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You should never be afraid to reach out and ask for help – there are people that care about you and medical professionals that can offer assistance.