If you are one of the many folks affected by a mental or emotional condition, you may be significantly helped by the companionship of an Emotional Support Animal. An ESA can be any species of animal (though most commonly dogs and cats) that bring you comfort and relief from symptoms associated with many mental or emotional conditions, such as depression and severe anxiety.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Washington
To qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in Washington, you will need an ESA letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional licensed in Washington. It is highly recommended that you choose a provider that is familiar with ESA regulations. You may find a therapist in person or you can work with an LMHP online through ESA Doctors.
If you want to work with ESA Doctors, they will require you to fill out a questionnaire that will be shared with your mental health professional. The LMHP will be licensed to specifically help you if you are living in Washington and will contact you directly to complete their assessment.
If you decide to use an online ESA service, make sure that you are connected with an LMHP licensed in the State of Washington.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
Once you have been assessed and approved, you will be sent an ESA letter for immediate use through email and/or physical mail.
Summary of tips for qualifying for an ESA letter online in Washington:
- Use a reputable online ESA service such as ESA Doctors to connect you with a Washington licensed mental health professional.
- Complete the online questionnaire and connect with your LMHP.
- If you are approved, get your ESA letter for immediate use via email.
- Submit your ESA letter to your landlord to request reasonable accommodations.
Does Washington Require Special Training for Emotional Support Animals?
Unlike a service dog, an ESA does not need to be trained to perform specific tasks. However, having an ESA is not as simple as just taking a pet and calling it an emotional support animal. To legitimately qualify your pet as an ESA, you will need to obtain an ESA recommendation letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). If you have a valid ESA letter, landlords must accommodate your ESA even if you live in a “no-pets” building. Generally speaking, most states in the U.S. follow the same guidelines when it comes to ESA regulations — this article will explore the specific requirements for ESAs in Washington State.
Documentation for Your Emotional Support Animal
To obtain a “prescription” (or, more accurately, a recommendation letter) for an emotional support animal, you will need to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). Licensed mental health professionals can include psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, registered nurses, social workers, and doctors. If you are working with an LMHP in person, it can be helpful to call ahead of time to find about if the LMHP is familiar with ESAs and is knowledgeable about ESA letters.
An ESA letter from a licensed mental professional is the documentation needed for your pet to qualify as an Emotional Support Animal.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
A qualified therapist/LMHP can assess you for the following:
- Whether you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth or Fifth Edition (DSM IV and DSM V);
- Whether your disability substantially limits one or more major life activities; and
- Whether an emotional support animal would help alleviate one or more of the symptoms or effects of your mental or emotional disability.
Washington State ESA Housing Laws
The State of Washington adheres to the Fair Housing Act‘s (FHA) rules regarding emotional support animals in housing. The FHA is a federal law that allows emotional support animals to live with their owners in their homes, even if the building is subject to a “no-pets” policy.
The Fair Housing Act protects Emotional Support Animals from “no-pet” policies and pet deposits.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
If you have a valid ESA letter in the State of Washington the landlord or housing provider…:
- Must allow emotional support animals, even if there is a general “no-pets” policy.
- Cannot charge pet deposits or pet fees in connection with the ESA.
- Cannot place limitations on the size, weight, and breed of the emotional support animal.
Qualify for Your ESA Letter Online
Note that there are some circumstances where a landlord can validly deny an ESA. For example, if your ESA would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, a landlord could deny your request for reasonable accommodation. In addition, the Fair Housing Act exempts 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. Many landlords, however, will still grant accommodation for ESAs as a courtesy even if they are not legally obligated to do so. You should also note that although the landlord cannot charge deposits or fees, the tenant is still responsible for any damages caused by their ESA to the property.
What Conditions Are Recognized to Qualify for an ESA?
It is estimated that one in four people will suffer from some form of mental disability at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization also states that around 450 million people are already affected by mental or emotional disorders, placing these conditions among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
There are several conditions recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. They include:
- Panic Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Cognitive Disorders
- Gender Identity
- Anxiety Disorders
- Phobias and Fears
- Learning Disorders
What Does the ESA Letter Include?
A legitimate ESA letter must include the LMHP’s license and contact information. This is important so the landlord can confirm and verify the letter was written for you.
The letter will state that you have a mental or emotional condition and that an ESA would help alleviate symptoms of that condition. A legitimate ESA letter will be on the LMHP’s letterhead and signed by the LMHP. You should be wary of scam online providers who will “sell” you letters that are not issued by an LMHP, or from an LMHP that is not properly licensed for your state. Remember, a valid and legitimate ESA letter must come from a mental health professional that is licensed for your state.
Where Can My ESA Letter Be Used?
An ESA letter can be used to accommodate emotional support animals in “no-pets” apartments.
As previously discussed, once you have an Emotional Support Animal letter, you will be able to live with your ESA in buildings that have a “no pets” policy. Landlords are also prohibited from charging fees and deposits in connection with ESAs. However, tenants are still responsible for any damages caused by their ESA.
It is important to submit your ESA letter to your landlord as soon as possible. A landlord must respond in a reasonable time to your ESA request and must approve your ESA before your ESA moves into a no-pets building. Landlords are allowed to request documentation from an LMHP regarding your condition and need for an ESA. Still, they cannot ask for your medical records or specific information regarding your condition.
Emotional Support Animals in Washington State
If you live in the State of Washington and believe that an emotional support animal may help address the symptoms of your mental or emotional condition, you should seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. If you do not have a therapist currently, or your existing therapist or doctor is unfamiliar with emotional support animals, ESA Doctors can connect you to a mental health professional that is licensed in Washington. ESA Doctors has been helping clients since 2015 lead happier and healthier lives with the companionship of an Emotional Support Animal.
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