If you are one of the 61.5 million Americans who suffer from an emotional or mental disability, you can easily qualify for an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). An ESA is a domesticated animal (typically cats and dogs) that alleviate symptoms of an emotional disability by providing unconditional love and constant companionship to their owners/handlers. Unlike majority of assistance animals, like service dogs, ESAs are not required to have any special type of experience or training.
How to qualify for an emotional support animal?
To qualify for an ESA, you must have an emotional/mental disability that is certified by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, or other mental health specialists. Some landlords and property managers also accept confirmation filled out by a family doctor, but it is still a good idea to get the correct authority to write the letter for you.
Components of your ESA letter
Your letter must consist of a few important details that will inform the readers and recipient’s that you are:
- A current patient of the verifying mental health expert
- You’re under the same mental health expert’s treatment and care of your disability, which is explained in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) of Mental Disorders Version IV or V.
- Significantly restricted in carrying out or participating in at least one of daily activities as a result of your disability.
- Being prescribed an emotional support animal as a crucial part of the whole treatment of your present mental condition.
The letter must be dated or later than 12 months from your departure date.
Which emotional disorders will qualify you for an ESA?
- Learning disorders
- Sexual disorder
- Mental retardation
- Attention deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Tic disorders
- Gender identity crisis
- Cognitive disorders
- Substance abuse disorders (this can include drugs and/or alcohol, among others)
- Bipolar disorder
- Motor skills disorder
Why is an ESA letter important?
An ESA letter is usually referred by landlords, airlines staff, and or anyone else requiring confirmation about your mental disability. An ESA letter can provide you:
- Recognition that you are indeed a patient under a licensed mental health professional’s care for an emotional or mental disability.
- Confirmation that your emotional disability limits you from performing day-to-day tasks efficiently and also impacts your mental health adversely.
- Prescription for an ESA as a mandatory reinforcement for your emotional disability.
The letter especially comes in handy when:
- Renting a home– Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, owners have the right to live with their ESA even if the residence or building doesn’t have pet-friendly policies. Building managers or landlords are mandated by law to not decline your emotional support animal. However, you are accountable to show an up-to-date letter from a health professional prescribing you an ESA.
- During air travel– Under the Air Carrier Access Act, individuals have the permission to bring their emotional support animals on airplanes while travelling. Again, a letter of prescription is needed that is not more than 12 months old. Another important factor will be your ESA’s behavior. All emotional support animals are expected to be well behaved in public places so to prevent any problems.
- Visiting places that allow only ESAs– Some public places, such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls only allow emotional support animals and not regular pets. In such a scenario, you will need an authentic ESA letter conforming that your pet is indeed an emotional support animal to gain access to the public place.