Millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world struggle with emotional issues which affects their day-to-day lives. Whether it is related to PTSD, depression, anxiety, OCD, phobias, or other issues, there is a significant concern that the number of people struggling with mental health and wellness is on the rise.
There are many treatments available for people who struggle with mental health, and one of the most popular treatments these days is using an emotional support animal. These loveable, furry friends are there to listen without judgment, cuddle when loneliness feels imminent, and bring spirits back up when they are low. However, ESA-letter scams are on the rise, so how can you ensure that you qualify and go through the proper process?
Here we have compiled a guide for those seeking ESA letters for their own or for a loved one’s mental health disorder. ESA letters are required for certain housing, flying on a plane with an animal, and several other necessaries. There are reputable sites you can give you a legitimate ESA Letter. To learn more about the process of obtaining a legal and valid emotional support animal letter, read on.
What the Process of Getting an ESA Letter Looks Like
You may be wondering if you need to jump through a lot of loopholes if it costs a fortune, and how to avoid scams. The process is actually quite simple and you can start it right now on our website.
Matching You With A LMHP
Our ESA Letters are legitimate because the process to get one involves a consultation with a licensed mental health professional in your state. The registration starts with asking you some personal details, like your name, your pets name, and logistics information. The great thing about registration with us is that it is 100% risk-free. If you are for some reason denied an ESA letter, you will not be charged. Essentially our ESA letter service boils down to these steps:
- Call to see if you qualify for a free consultation or just to ask us a question about the process.
- A doctor in our network may be able to prescribe an emotional support animal with only one phone call
- You don’t pay anything unless the mental health professional approves you
- There’s absolutely no risk to you, so give us a call!
Receiving Your Letter
Once your consultation is over and you have been approved for an ESA, you will receive your Doctor Letter for Airline Travel and Housing immediately via email for print and use. Now you can use your letter to fly and live with your animal without worry!
Does Your Pet Need Training
Some animals are trained to pick up on a person’s mental health symptoms and some are naturally more in-tune with their owners’ emotions. Whatever the case, your animal is not required to be trained in order to become an emotional support animal.
While certain animals are more common and can be trained for specific emotional support, such as dogs or cats, any domesticated animal can work as an ESA. Furthermore, ESA animals do not need to be registered anywhere in particular. Once you have the ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, you can choose your support animal as you wish and use the ESA letter as needed.
The most common emotional support animals are dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits, but there are some unique ones out there as well, such as pigs or hedgehogs. Choose an emotional support animal which truly calms you and benefits your lifestyle.
Avoid many of the online scams by thoroughly researching the company and also carefully reading the wording. Several of these scammers have been found operating out of other countries or without actual authority to provide an ESA letter, which leads to many complications when traveling or moving to a new apartment complex. Use websites which are legitimate.
What Does an ESA Letter Say?
An ESA letter is written by a practicing Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP), and must include their license number, type, and the date it was issued. Furthermore, it needs to contain the date the ESA letter was issued and the signature of the LMHP who issued the ESA letter.
The ESA letter states that you have a mental condition which qualifies for an Emotional Support Animal “prescription”. It often explains that the animal is necessary for you to live a full lifestyle and specifically helps with symptoms caused by a diagnosed mental condition you have.
Sometimes, the ESA letter may list the specific animal/breed you chose as your animal, although this is not necessary. It will contain your name and any details the LMHP thinks are valid, and it will contain their recommendation that you use an ESA in treatment for your mental disorder so that you can function fully and feel comfortable.
This is a valid professional perspective and will help apartment complexes, airports, etc. to see that your animal serves a purpose.
Benefits of an ESA Letter
You may wonder if acquiring an ESA letter is necessary or worth it. Many people are going through “shortcut” methods to try and get this needed mental health recommendation, and they often end up losing money to a scam.
Today, more and more people are seeking ESA letters simply so they can travel on airplanes with their pet dog, or so they can get a cat in a college apartment which otherwise wouldn’t allow animals on the premises. Unfortunately, this is making it difficult for those who actually need emotional support animals to ease anxiety, depression, PTSD, and many other disorders.
If you really need a furry friend to calm you down and treat your mental illness, what are the benefits of an ESA letter? Here are some of the main ones:
- Travel: Having a legitimate ESA letter will allow your panic and nerves to be calmed as you are traveling, as you may hold your adorable and therapeutic beagle on the airplane, in airports, on boats, trains, and various buses which otherwise wouldn’t allow pets.
- Rentals: Many apartments and rental units may not allow animals on the premises or will require a huge fee for keeping a pet. If you have an ESA letter, some of these fees may be waived (depending on the rental company), and you may also be allowed to keep your beloved and soothing animal in areas in which they are not permitted.
- Stores: Certain stores are not too happy about animals walking through their buildings, and if you feel frustrated or uncomfortable due to your mental condition when you are in public places, you may be allowed to walk with your ESA by showing a valid ESA letter.
Besides these more practical purposes, another benefit of having an ESA letter is the knowledge that your little furry friend is serving a purpose calming your nerves and soothing mental health conditions which otherwise may cause daily frustration and lag.
Who Qualifies for an ESA Letter
Requirements for receiving an ESA letter are becoming increasingly more strict as certain groups of people are abusing the mental health aspect of these letters and are using them instead as excuses to carry animals on planes for travel convenience.
You may be wondering who qualifies today for an ESA letter? Persons who have diagnosed mental disorders have sought treatment through medications and therapy or counseling, and whose specific symptoms are treated by the presence of an animal may qualify for an ESA letter, as long as their LMHP professionally recommends it.
Those individuals may have one or more of the following mental health disorders:
- Agoraphobia or other phobias
- Socially-induced high stress or anxiety (above average)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Grieving over a large loss
- Other Less Common Mental and Emotional Disorders
An individual is qualified as determined by a licensed mental health professional who has determined that the patient’s mental health will be benefited through the companionship of an emotional support animal. Some of those expected symptom alleviations may lead to:
- Less stress and lower blood pressure
- Fewer panic attacks or anxiety-related symptoms
- Increased function in regular daily tasks
- Better sleep quality
- Increased ability to spend time around other people
- Feeling of security in places patients would otherwise find uncomfortable
- Motivation and sense of purpose, as well as general wellbeing.
What Laws Protect a Person with an ESA?
Each business has the choice to either permit or deny animals in their place of work (such as Petsmart). While some of them are very understanding of ESA needs and are willing to work with individuals to support their mental health needs, there will be times when you come across more difficult companies which will require an ESA letter and also will research how those letters protect your ESA rights.
In light of that, it’s a good idea to understand how your ESA is protected by law. Understanding where your ESA letter comes in handy and how you are legally covered in some situations can be a key point in making changes to a stress-free ESA lifestyle.
There are two main laws which protect a person with an ESA: the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.
Air Carrier Access Act: Travel
This act was passed in 1986 and generally states that no person boarding a plane or going through any airlines in the U.S. should be discriminated against for any disability. They also should not be required to pay an extra fee, call in advance (unless specific preparations need to be made to meet disability-related needs), or travel with a companion.
As far as emotional support animals go, this law means that no extra fee can be charged for traveling on a plane with your ESA, you should not have to call them in advance (unless the animal is particularly big or needs specific accommodations), and you should not have to be moved to a certain area on the airplane unless it serves an actual purpose.
It’s a good idea to contact the airline ahead of time to make sure you have the proper documentation for traveling with an ESA animal, but otherwise, the ACAA is covering your emotional support animal needs on airplanes.
Fair Housing Act: Housing
Many apartments and rental buildings are not a fan of animals in their units, so it’s no surprise that many have made no-pet rules as a result. However, having an ESA animal is protected by the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968.
This act was passed to protect individuals or families with disabilities and allows them to find housing without having to pay hefty fees or search for new homes regularly. This act also states that landlords are required to make “reasonable” accommodations for those with disabilities.
This means that if you’re trying to pass a horse off as an ESA, your landlord does not need to allow you to build a stable on their property. Actually, they don’t need to allow a horse or any other unreasonable animal to live there.
As another note, this “unreasonable” condition helps those who have animal allergies from being housed with animals. If someone requests you as a roommate and you have a cat allergy while they have an ESA which is a cat, your landlord shouldn’t try to stick you in the same place or make you move so the cat can take precedence.
Whatever the conditions, ESA animals are supported in housing as the FHA recognizes their purposes and protects them by law.
How Often Do ESA Letters Need to Be Renewed?
ESA letters are valid for one year and need to be renewed on an annual basis. This means that if you rent long-term, your landlord legally has the right to ask to see you renewed ESA letter every year. It also means that airlines can deny passage if your ESA letter is not up-to-date.
What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal?
In the world of certified animals and what they offer, as well as what laws are associated with them, it’s easy to get confused between definitions such as “emotional support animal” and “service animal”.
Here are the definitions and how they differ:
Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
An emotional support animal offers soothing benefits for psychological, mental, or emotional disorders and can be considered necessary for those suffering from legitimate and diagnosable disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other non-physical impairments.
A service animal is trained and qualified for the job of assisting its owner in a substantial way, such as for seeing, walking, guiding, or even alerting others to an issue such as seizure or diabetic issues. They can also serve those on the autistic spectrum and who have allergies (they can detect certain allergies and help owners avoid them).
An ESA is suitable for someone who has moderate to severe social anxiety, or for those who suffer from PTSD and need a companion to help them in their moments of need. A service animal would be better fitted to helping an older individual who may have vision impairments or who cannot hear.
Whatever the emotional support animal or service animal is doing for their owners, both are meant to be more “prescribed” than picked. Deciding which is necessary is often left to the licensed mental health professionals or others licensed to recommend service animals. You can find more information about this at US Service Animals.
Who Can “Prescribe” an Emotional Support Animal?
While you may be regularly taking a medication for a mental health condition, and you may even be attending therapy or counseling on a regular basis, you probably aren’t sure if your doctor is authorized to write you an ESA letter.
The fact is, many family doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for certain mental disorders, but they are not able to write a valid ESA letter. However, you could ask your doctor or chosen medical professional about any LMHP (licensed mental health professional or practitioner) nearby who they would recommend.
Generally, LMHP’s are attained by therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists. Look for practitioners in your area and research their credentials, including whether or not they are licensed medical health practitioners. There are websites where you can be linked with local mental health practitioners who may evaluate you for an ESA.
Avoiding ESA Letter Scams
Right now there is a growing mess of online scammers and dishonest businesses attempting to pass for licensed professionals who can offer ESA letters quickly, on the cheap, or without having to consult with a therapist. Beware of these scams and follow these three principles:
Make sure the LMHP is licensed
Some scam companies go to the next level and write an “ESA letter” up for you. It might look legitimate and there might be a name and signature on the document, but before you pay for this ESA letter (or anything connected to this company) make sure the mental health professional they’re probably mentioning is actually legitimate. This can be done through a quick Google or Linkedin search.
All of our mental health professionals are licensed in your home state. We want to make sure that you do not have any problems so we take the legitimacy of our operation extremely seriously.
Check if they’re credited on Better Business Bureau
Since so many scammers are out there, BBB was created to identify the legit companies among the frauds. One of the best ways to check if you’re reading a scam or not is by popping the name of the company into the Better Business Bureau website and seeing what it has to say.