How to Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter in Jacksonville, FL

Emotional support animals can provide therapeutic benefits to those who suffer from a mental health disability. Not only do they offer companionship and love, but they also help reduce feelings of loneliness and increase one’s sense of self-worth.

Getting an ESA letter in Jacksonville is worthwhile because it will allow you to live with your ESA anywhere, even in rentals that don’t allow pets. You will also be exempt from paying pet deposits or pet fees. If your animal provides you with relief from your mental health disability, but you cannot afford to pay extra housing fees or are struggling to find housing that will accept your animal, then you should consider getting an ESA letter.

The process is simple. You only need to meet with a licensed mental health professional in Florida who will determine your need for an ESA. Then, if an ESA would be a worthwhile treatment for you, they will write you an ESA letter.

This article will detail everything you need to know about getting an ESA letter. We’ll highlight the differences between ESAs and service animals, explain the laws protecting ESAs and the rights ESAs have, and help you avoid scams. So keep reading to learn how to get an ESA letter in Jacksonville, Florida.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are prescribed to patients suffering from mental health disabilities and are used as a treatment and provide therapeutic benefits in some way. For example, emotional support animals can help reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

They also give some people focus or motivation since the animal must be cared for; because animals depend on their owners for care, owning an ESA can boost some people’s sense of self-worth.

In Jacksonville, emotional support animals are considered assistance animals, not pets, because they provide a medical benefit. However, this does not mean ESAs are service animals. Emotional support animals are not service animals and do not have the same rights as service animals.

Service animals must be dogs and must undergo rigorous training. On the other hand, an ESA can be any type of domesticated animal and does not have to be trained. Service animals are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but ESAs are not. This means that ESAs are also not welcome in public places. Throughout this article, we will go into more detail about the rights and privileges of ESAs.

Who Can Qualify for an ESA in Jacksonville?

If you have a mental health disability, you may qualify for an ESA. Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of mental health disabilities that qualify; potentially, any mental disability could. Whether or not you qualify will depend on the type of symptoms you have and their severity.

Some disabilities that commonly qualify include anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, chronic stress, autism disorder, and learning disabilities. To find out if you qualify, you must meet with a licensed mental healthcare professional in Florida. USSA can help connect you with a specialist who can help you determine your eligibility and even write you an ESA letter.

What Are the Benefits of Having an ESA Letter in Jacksonville?

If you’re hoping to live with your animal in an apartment, condo, or another type of rental, then an ESA letter could greatly benefit you for several reasons. First of all,  ESAs are exempt from breed restrictions imposed by a state, city, or landlord.

In Jacksonville, the list of restricted dog breeds can vary from one rental to another. Still, breeds that are often restricted include pit bulls, rottweilers, Akitas, chow chows, Doberman pinschers, presa canarios, cane corsos, great Danes, and German shepherds. Some properties even ban Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes.

However, if your dog is an ESA prescribed to you by a licensed mental health specialist, then you do not have to abide by such breed restrictions. You will also be protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Whether your ESA is a dog or a different type of animal, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide you with reasonable accommodation.

They must allow you to live with your ESA, even if the apartment has a no-pets policy. Furthermore, they cannot charge you any pet fees, pet rent, or pet deposits. So if the rental allows pets but has weight and size limits, your ESA is exempt from those limits.

How to Get an Emotional Support (ESA) Letter in Jacksonville

The process of getting an ESA letter is actually quite simple. All you have to do is consult with a mental health professional who is licensed in Florida. If your doctor feels you could benefit from an ESA, then they will write you an ESA letter.

Though the process is straightforward, there are, unfortunately, a lot of ESA letter scams, especially online. Scammers take advantage of the fact that there are trustworthy mental health care professionals who can offer a diagnosis after a video or phone consultation and sell fake ESA letters that are not legally binding.

A real ESA letter will always require a consultation and a diagnosis. The letter itself will be written by the mental healthcare professional who diagnoses you and must include their licensing information.

The ESA letter must also include the date it was issued to you and be signed by the professional who wrote it. Additionally, the letter should state your need for an ESA “prescription” due to a mental health condition and outline how the ESA can help reduce symptoms and help you live a fuller lifestyle.

Other information in the ESA letter may be things like your animal’s information (though this is not necessary), your own information, and any other details the mental health professional deems important. Now that you know what to expect from an ESA letter, you’ll be better able to avoid scams.

How to Get an Emotional Support Letter (ESA) in Jacksonville With U.S. Service Animals

USSA can connect you with a licensed mental health professional in Florida who can help determine your need for an ESA. If you qualify, they will even write you an ESA letter. Our service is completely risk-free: if you don’t qualify for an ESA letter, you don’t pay. Here’s a step-by-step look at USSA’s simple process for getting an ESA letter.

Step 1: Contact Us

Contact us to set up a risk-free consultation with a licensed mental health care professional in Florida. You can submit your information online here or by calling us at (985) 570-5388. If you need your ESA letter fast, we can set up a consultation and possibly get you the letter within 24 hours of contact for an extra fee.

Step 2: Consultation

Attend a consultation with a licensed mental health care professional. We offer both phone and video consultations. You will discuss your disability and find out if you qualify for an ESA letter.

Step 3: Get Your ESA Letter

You will be sent your ESA letter immediately via email if you qualify. You can then print it out and use it right away.
Fountains in front of downtown Jacksonville skyline

What Are the Laws About ESAs in Jacksonville?

As previously mentioned, ESAs are protected by the Fair Housing Act, which is a federal law ensuring that those with disabilities can live with their ESAs regardless of any restrictions put in place by a landlord.

Sometimes, states have their own laws that offer extra protection or guidelines for ESAs. For example, in 2020, Florida passed a law governing ESAs, but the law is not much different from the FHA. Essentially, the purpose of the law was to reduce the number of fraudulent ESAs being brought into rental units.

The law introduced legal consequences for any person dishonestly claiming to have a disability for which they need an ESA. The law also included repercussions for healthcare providers handing out ESA letters without personal knowledge of the patient’s disability. At the same time, the law reiterated the FHA’s requirements that landlords make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who need an ESA.

Can I Fly With an ESA in Jacksonville?

Unfortunately, you cannot fly with an ESA in Jacksonville, Florida. In the past, ESAs were protected by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which stated that airlines could not turn away service animals or ESAs. However, the law was changed in 2020 and went into effect in January 2021.

ESAs are no longer protected by the Air Carrier Access Act and thus cannot be taken into an airplane cabin unless the airline expressly allows it, which is uncommon. However, some airlines allow animals to be taken into the cabin as carry-ons.

As a carry-on, the animal must travel in a pet carrier and must be small enough to fit under the seat or in the passenger’s foot space. Animals that are too big to be taken as carry-ons are transported in the cargo hold.

Since you cannot fly with your ESA, you may be wondering if there are other types of transportation you can take advantage of. Unfortunately, the answer is no. No laws in Jacksonville allow ESAs to accompany you on other types of public transportation, so you will not be able to take your ESA with you on a bus or train.

Can I Live With an ESA in Jacksonville?

You can live with your ESA in Jacksonville as long as you have an ESA letter. The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. This includes allowing their ESAs to live with them even if the rental property has a no-pets policy. Reasonable accommodations also include waiving pet rent, pet deposits, and pet fees. ESAs are exempt from restrictions on size or weight, as well.

However, to take advantage of the FHA’s protections, you must submit a request to the landlord. The request can take the form of a written letter where you state that you have a disability and you need to live with your ESA. How much you disclose about your disability is up to you.

Florida law prevents landlords from requesting private information such as access to medical records. They can ask for proof of your disability, but an ESA letter is legally acceptable as proof.

Can I Bring My ESA to Work With Me in Jacksonville?

Unfortunately, you cannot bring your ESA to work with you in Jacksonville. No federal or state laws give ESAs the right to accompany you to work; this means that the decision is left to employers. Some employers may be willing to allow ESAs on the premises, but it is not the norm.

For those employers that do allow ESAs, they may have rules about the animals’ behavior. For example, they may require that the ESA is calm and not disruptive, that it is clean, and that it can relieve itself in a sanitary manner. If you want to take your ESA to work in Jacksonville, you will have to speak with your employer.

What Exceptions Are There to ESA Laws in Jacksonville?

Though the FHA protects ESAs and their owners, there are always going to be some exceptions. If your emotional support animal is aggressive and has hurt or may hurt others, then you may be denied rights.

The following are situations in which it is legal for a landlord to deny housing to you or your ESA:

  1. It would cause them a financial burden.
  2. Your ESA poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others even when measures to eliminate or reduce such a threat are in place.
  3. Your request would alter the nature of the landlord’s operations in a fundamental way.
  4. Your request would significantly damage others’ property regardless of any measures put in place to reduce or eliminate such a prospect.

You should also note that federal law does not include any provisions for temporary lodgings such as hotels or Airbnbs. If a hotel is not pet-friendly, you cannot stay there with your ESA.

Where Can You Take Your ESA in Jacksonville?

The only rights that ESAs are legally guaranteed are those of housing. As such, ESAs are not allowed to accompany you to public places like restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, or other businesses. The only places you can bring your ESA are places that specifically advertise themselves as pet-friendly, such as pet stores.

This may be disheartening, but there are still places in Jacksonville where you may be able to bring your ESA. If your ESA is a dog, there are many dog-friendly parks, such as the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, as well as dog-friendly patios outside of restaurants, such as the one at Bistro Aix.

You can even take your dog to visit historical places such as the Kingsley Plantation or Fort Caroline National Memorial, though the dog must be on a leash at all times and cannot go inside buildings. Other types of animals may be welcome at any of these sites as long as they are well-behaved and under your control, but you’ll want to call ahead. Furthermore, if your ESA is a prey animal (like a rabbit), you may think twice about taking it to any popular spots with dog owners.
Woman cuddles a brown and white cat

Important Facts About ESAs in Jacksonville

There is a lot of important information to know about ESAs in Jacksonville, Florida. We’ve gathered together the most important facts to help you quickly and easily understand your rights and avoid scams.

  • ESAs help reduce the symptoms of mental disabilities by providing comfort, motivation, focus, and a sense of self-worth. For your pet to be legally deemed an ESA, you must be diagnosed with a mental disability and receive an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.
  • ESAs do not have to be dogs. They can be any animal that is domesticated.
  • ESAs are not service animals; they are not allowed in public places or in airplane cabins. Unlike service animals, ESAs are not required to be trained.
  • ESAs must be non-aggressive, non-destructive, and generally well-behaved. Landlords can deny accommodations to ESAs that pose a threat to the personal safety or property of others.
  • An ESA letter is required to receive housing benefits. ESA letters are only legally binding when written by a licensed mental health professional in Florida. The state of Florida requires healthcare providers to have personal knowledge of their patient’s disability to write them an ESA letter. Letters written by providers without personal knowledge of the patient’s disability are deemed fraudulent.
  • ESA registrations and certificates are not the same as an ESA letter. They are not legally binding and cannot be given to landlords in Jacksonville as proof of your need for an ESA. Additionally, these registrations and certificates will not gain you the rights provided by the FHA.
  • ESAs are exempt from breed restrictions, size restrictions and weight limits, pet rent, pet fees, and pet security deposits. These exemptions apply to housing accommodations and state and city laws restricting breeds.

Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter in Jacksonville Today

Emotional support animals can provide comfort to those suffering from mental disabilities such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. They help reduce feelings of loneliness and can even improve one’s sense of self-worth.

With an ESA letter, you won’t have to worry about whether or not your housing situation will allow you to have a pet because ESAs are not considered pets. Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, ESAs are exempt from no-pets policies and other pet restrictions. So you cannot be charged a pet fee, pet deposit, or pet rent if you have an ESA letter. You are also exempt from breed restrictions if your ESA is a dog.

If you have a mental health disability and feel that you could benefit from an ESA, USSA can help. Schedule your risk-free consultation with a licensed mental health professional in Florida today and find out if you qualify for an ESA letter.