Your pet may already be providing you with the affection, love, and support you need to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and other common challenges – so why should you ask your doctor for an official Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter? It’s not unusual for patients to assume that an ESA letter is not necessary if they already have a pet that can facilitate the compassionate care they need. However, it’s important to understand that an official Emotional Support Animal Letter from a licensed mental health professional or doctor is critical in protecting your rights and enabling you to continue managing your symptoms with the help of your ESA.
There are two primary situations in which an Emotional Support Animal Letter is not only useful but highly necessary:
When you’re searching for housing, an ESA letter will ensure that you and your emotional support animal are not unfairly discriminated against by landlords, property managers, and other housing staff. According to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate due to a disability, race, religion, national origin, color, sex, or familial status in situations of housing.
Anyone attempting to buy or rent a home, get a mortgage, or receive housing assistance is protected against discrimination resulting from any of these factors. Public and private housing are both subject to the FHA regulations, with only a few exceptions made for small, owner-occupied buildings, members-only club properties, religious housing, and single-family homes sold or rented without a licensed agent. With a registered emotional support animal, there are opportunities to avoid security deposits and save money.
If you have a mental or emotional disability that qualifies you for an emotional support animal, you are also protected by the FHA. However, you must have an official ESA Letter to effectively communicate and defend your right to an emotional support animal, even at properties with a “no pets” policy.
With an ESA Letter, a property owner or manager cannot prevent you from buying or renting a property due to your disability and ESA – they must make every attempt to make reasonable accommodation. Further, you cannot be required to pay additional fees or lose privileges because of your ESA. In these situations, an official ESA Letter is highly valuable and necessary to protect your rights.
An Emotional Support Animal Letter is valid for one year from the date of issue. After that, a licensed health professional can re-issue the letter for another year (and continue to renew it every year thereafter).
If you’re planning on asking your doctor for an emotional support animal, you may have one or more of the following questions on your mind:
For many people, determining whether or not they qualify for an emotional support animal can seem confusing. However, you may be surprised to discover that your emotional or mental challenges are included in the wide range of conditions that commonly receive doctors’ recommendations for ESA. While it will ultimately be up to a licensed professional to provide you with the official ESA “prescription,” here are just a few of the diagnosable conditions that can allow you to obtain an ESA:
<h2>How Do I Choose an Emotional Support Animal?</h2>
When a doctor provides you with an emotional support animal “prescription” or ESA Letter, the documentation is not necessarily attached to a specific animal. Rather, the ESA Letter simply provides your information and the professional recommendation for an ESA. Therefore, it is up to you to choose an emotional support animal that can suit your needs, if you don’t already have one.
While there are not currently specific organizations dedicated specifically to matching people with ESAs, there are a few key characteristics you can search for when considering different animals:
Once you select your ESA, you don’t need to complete any specific training program. Simply do your best to encourage good behavior through regular pet training, so that your ESA can fulfill their role effectively.
Yes. If you already have a pet that provides you with support, love, and affection, they can become your ESA. Because there is no training required for ESAs, your current pet can absolutely become one.
No. ESAs and service animals are different in a few ways: how they are trained, the role they fulfill, and how they are viewed in the eye of the law. Service animals undergo extensive training (up to 2 years & $15,000 in cost) and receive official certifications because they are expected to perform specific tasks and jobs for their handler. Also, businesses are prohibited from refusing the entry of service animals. However, ESAs do not complete any training courses and many of the same benefits are received in terms of rights.
No. Your ESA Letter is sufficient documentation, and there is no need to complete additional certifications. You may see websites claiming they will certify your ESA or register them in an official ESA database, but those claims are false.
No. There are no official vests or identification needed for emotional support animals. Your doctor will provide you with an ESA Letter that will be sufficient documentation, and you may choose to keep a copy on you when taking your ESA in public – though it’s not required.
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