Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are ideal for people in grief. They offer a constant, comforting presence in the face of debilitating mental illness like as autism, depression, anxiety, PTSD or bi-polar. An emotional support animal can help their owners/handlers with all these illness symptoms just by being available to them. An ESA can be any domesticated animal, including dogs, cats, teacup pigs, fish, and even horses.
An emotional support animal letter, also known as an ESA prescription is a document that confirms your mental/emotional illness and states that you derive therapeutic benefits from the ESA. This letter is prescribed by your doctor or a mental health professional, and covers the following points:
Emotional Support Animal letters retain their validity 12 months after they are obtained from the doctor/health professional. You should be aware of doctors or sites that advertise “lifetime” ESA letters because those can set you up for trouble in the future. No prescription from any doctor lasts forever, and same goes for an ESA prescription. Just like you must renew prescriptions for medicine, emotional support animal letters must also be renewed. When the time has come for you to renew your ESA letter, you will need to ask the same doctor to write you a new letter.
The importance of getting your ESA letter cannot be stressed enough. As per the Air Carriers Access Act and Fair Housing Amendment, you are required to have a valid letter from a licensed doctor or mental health expert that shows a need for your emotional support animal to accompany you. This letter must have a date on it, and it will be only valid for one year.
When you travel with your ESA on a plane, the date on your prescription letter is the first thing the airlines will usually check out. If the letter is past the validity date, you will surely be asked to pay a “pet fee,” and you may even be asked to store your pet in the luggage compartment under the plane. This is only if you are lucky enough to be allowed on the plane in the first place. In most instances, you may be compelled to leave your emotional support animal behind or leave the flight altogether.
When you are renting a place with a landlord, your landlord has a right to ask you for a new letter every year for your animal. If you fail to provide that letter, your animal is no longer considered as an ESA, and your property manager or landlord can deny access to having your emotional support animal with you at your home.
In conclusion, without a valid ESA letter in either a residence or on a plane, your emotional support animal is not considered a legal ESA. A lot of owners overlook the importance of a valid prescription letter and end up facing the embarrassment and all the hassle, so make sure you are not one of those people.