Being one of the most progressive states in the country, New York supports the rights and privileges of emotional support animals. As with other states, New York requires individuals to obtain an ESA letter in order to enjoy the housing and travel benefits an emotional support animal is entitled to. The question is: how do you get an ESA letter in New York?
While ESAs are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, there are a lot of unique aspects of having an emotional support animal in New York that owners should prepare for.
We’ve created this guide for New York residents to help you understand the role of the ESA letter, how to get a legal ESA letter, and other things you should know about having an emotional support animal.
New York has a zero tolerance policy for discriminiation. That’s why the matter of emotional support animals has gotten so much recent attention in the Empire State. In fact, former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation into law that would prohibit housing providers from making decisions on tenants based on the presence of an emotional support animal.
This action aligns with the federal Fair Housing Law, which also states that persons with an emotional support animal cannot be denied housing for this reason, nor can they be charged additional pet fees or deposits for their ESA.
The law is clear: emotional support animals do not count as “pets” when it comes to fair housing. That said, though, there are some requirements that tenants must follow in order for their animal to be recognized as an emotional support animal.
The most important piece of the puzzle is ensuring that tenants have proper documentation — known as an ESA letter.
In New York, you can obtain an ESA letter from a healthcare provider if they decide that an emotional support animal would be an effective part of your overall treatment. They must determine you have a disability related to mental or emotional health and whose effects are improved with an ESA. In New York, a disability is defined as any condition that significantly limits a major daily activity. For example, a person suffering from PTSD may find it hard to live independently or or engage in social settings.
Also, in order for your ESA letter to be considered valid in New York, it must be issued and signed by a healthcare practitioner who is licensed to practice in New York. This is to help separate fake letters obtained from obscure online sources from authentic letters for people who actually need them. We’ll cover more on who can write an ESA letter in a later section.
Once you receive your letter, your only other obligation is to maintain a current copy. Typically, letters “expire” after one year from the date they’re issued. This means that in order to renew your letter, you will need to reconnect with your healthcare provider to see if they continue recommending an emotional support animal for your treatment.
On the landlord side of things, they may ask to see proof that you have been prescribed an emotional support animal. By law, they cannot deny your housing application because you have an emotional support animal. This is considered discrimination against disabled persons, but keep in mind your landlord may not be aware of this. The more informed you are of your rights, the better you can advocate for yourself.
You already know you need an ESA letter in New York and what it can do for you. But what exactly is an ESA letter, you might wonder?
An ESA letter acts a lot like a doctor’s prescription, except instead of taking it to your local pharmacy, you just hold onto it and provide it to your landlord or housing authority when necessary.
In the ESA letter, your healthcare provider will include their name, license number, state of jurisdiction, a signature, and the date the letter was issued. The letter will also be printed on official letterhead, which helps to curb the number of fake ESA letters online.
The content of the letter will include a recommendation for using an emotional support animal as part of a person’s mental health treatment. Rest assured that personal health information is limited in the letter to protect the patient’s privacy.
With this letter, you can apply for housing in New York in places that don’t typically allow pets or places that may have certain breed restrictions. What’s more, you cannot be charged additional pet fees or deposits that many housing complexes impose on their residents.
In New York, you may qualify for an emotional support animal if your healthcare provider determines you have a mental health condition or disability. Examples include, but may not be limited to:
The key in making the determination as to whether you qualify for an ESA letter hinges on how much your condition impacts daily living. If you have a moderate to severe condition that significantly limits one or more major life activities, you will likely qualify for an emotional support animal.
Obtaining an ESA letter is important because it serves as proof to your landlord or housing coordinator that your animal isn’t just a pet, but a necessary part of your life.
The standard rule is that anyone who wishes to obtain an ESA letter must do so by speaking to a healthcare provider registered in their state of residency. For example, if you live in New York, an ESA letter from someone registered in New Jersey might be deemed invalid.
That’s why many people wonder: Can I get an ESA letter online in New York?
The answer is yes!
Services like Therapy Pet connect you wtih a licensed mental healthcare professional in your state of residency who is authorized to write your ESA letter.
Online letters are as legitimate as though obtained in-person at a therapist’s office. The only difference is you will need to speak with a therapist or other professional online instead of in person.
You should understand that getting your ESA letter online does not excuse you from connecting with a mental health professional. You will need to speak to someone about your condition and they will determine if an ESA may help alleviate your symptoms. It’s not like you’re purchasing an instant download that you can start using right away. This is the clearest difference between a legitimate ESA letter and a scam website.
Talking to a professional is a very important step in the process because it focuses on you and your condition, not just your animal companion. The goal of an ESA letter is to help you live a higher quality of life by having your animal companion by your side no matter where you choose to live. It’s not just about skipping unfair pet fees or accessing more housing options. Your condition is very real, and you deserve the best chance at managing it properly.
The reason online ESA letters have become so popular in recent years is because of the convenience and privacy it offers to the people who need it most. Suffering from a mental disability can make getting treatment more difficult and poses many barriers. Many simply can’t go out in public without feeling nervous or scared. Others don’t feel comfortable about connecting with a counselor face to face. There’s still a very large stigma surrounding the need for mental health treatments, but online channels are helping to break these barriers and make help more accessible to all.
So, how do you get an ESA letter online in New York? At Therapy Pet, we break the process down into four simple steps:
To start, we offer a quick, five-minute assessment to see if you might qualify for an emotional support animal. This process is completely confidential and is completely free of charge.
We conduct this assessment to better understand your needs and see if we might be able to help. We don’t want you to waste your time or money if our services might not be of benefit to you.
Therapy Pets offers two types of ESA letters: one for travel and one for housing. You can choose the one you need, or request both.
The main benefit of a housing ESA letter is for you to choose housing that isn’t based on pet policies. Your emotional support animal will be welcome wherever you are, even if regular pets are not permitted. This letter may also save you money by not having to pay additional pet deposits or fees that many living spaces impose on their residents.
With travel ESA letters, there might be times when your pet can fly with you or stay in hotels where regular pets are not permitted. Until recently, the Air Carrier Access Act permitted emotional support animals to fly with their owners free of charge in the cabin. However, the rules have changed and airlines are no longer obligated to offer this service. Some still do as a courtesy to their passengers, but decisions are made on a case by case basis. Having an ESA travel letter may help you appeal to airlines and other travel and hospitality providers should the need arise, but there are no guarantees.
Therapy Pet takes the time and guesswork out of finding a licensed New York health professional. Through our service, we connect you directly with an LMHP, where you can chat remotely without having to leave your home. This is your chance to talk about the details of your ESA letter, why you might need one, and whether they recommend an emotional support animal for your condition.
This session is by no means a guarantee for an ESA letter. Your mental health professional makes the final decision, and in some cases, it might not be the right treatment for you. Be as thorough and honest about your condition as possible so your provider can make a fair and accurate assessment.
When you’re approved for your ESA letter, you can receive it in as little as 72 hours with expedited options. The reason you can’t simply download and print your letter is because it legally needs to bear the healthcare provider’s letterhead and signature. Every letter is custom to the individual, not just a template that can be reused again and again. This is yet another way you can separate a legitimate ESA letter from an illegal scam.
Your ESA letter will be shipped directly to your door. Once you receive it, keep it somewhere safe so you can provide it whenever necessary.
The state of New York requires that ESA letters be issued by a healthcare professional who specializes in mental and emotional health. Examples may include:
Each letter must contain the signature of the healthcare provider, their license number, their official letterhead, and contact details. The letter should also state that you suffer from a mental impairment that is improved with an emotional support animal.
As mentioned previously, your healthcare provider must be licensed to practice in the state of New York. If you recently resided in a different state and had an ESA letter and moved to New York, you may need to get an updated letter from a local mental health professional. If you are using a service like Therapy Pet, rest assured we will connect you with a local provider so that your letter will be valid.
The truth is that any animal can technically be an emotional support animal, even if you don’t have a letter to show for it. If the animal brings you comfort in times of need and helps you live a better life, then it can be considered an emotional support animal. So why should you consider getting an ESA letter in the first place?
Let’s look at some of the biggest benefits:
Because property prices are so high in New York, renting is almost always cheaper than buying. However, for tenants who have emotional support animals, finding a rental that fits your needs and also allows pets can be a Herculean task. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into getting an official ESA letter.
Apartments and complexes that don’t allow pets cannot deny your emotional support animal if you have an ESA letter. This helps you expand your housing opportunities, giving you a better chance to find a rental in your price range and preferred location.
Some rental units and buildings that do allow pets may have breed and species restrictions. For example, some dog breeds like Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls, might not be permitted for the average tenant. But landlords cannot impose breed restrictions on someone who has an ESA letter.
To be clear, your ESA letter is not for a specific animal or breed. It does not explicitly name or recommend an animal, so you can declare any animal as your emotional support animal. If you do have a breed or species that landlords do not allow, you are still entitled to accommodations provided the animal does not cause disruptions, damage, undue hardship to the landlord, or pose a safety risk to others.
Many landlords that allow tenants to keep pets charge additional fees for the damage that pets are likely to cause to a rental unit. However, if you have an ESA letter, your landlord cannot impose pet fees on you. Allowing emotional support animals to be treated differently than pets is considered a “reasonable accommodation.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit of going through the process of receiving an ESA letter is the advantage to a person’s mental health treatment. The process requires you to speak to a professional, which in itself can provide big value to those suffering from a mental condition. For many, this is a first step toward getting the help they need. No matter the outcome of your conversation, taking charge of your mental health can help you to live a higher quality of life. And if you do receive an ESA letter, you can continue to benefit from your animal’s daily presence.
Getting approved for an ESA letter can be a life-changing experience. However, before you jump in with both feet, we suggest considering all sides of the coin.
First, understand that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. This is true in New York and any other state you live in or visit. Having an ESA letter does not entitle you to take your animal companion into public spaces where pets typically aren’t allowed. It does not grant you any special privileges other than when it comes to housing (and sometimes travel).
Also, it is not advisable to try to pass off your emotional support animal as a service animal. Many ESA letter providers try to make ESAs look more “legit” by selling vests, document holders, and other accessories. In some cases, you might be able to put a vest on your dog and fool a store clerk, for example. But the reality is that some states have made passing off a support animal as a service animal a punishable offense. Doing this also reduces the legitimacy of emotional support animals as a whole, making life harder for people who really need them.
Before you decide you want an emotional support animal in New York, consider whether it is truly in your best interest or if it might cause additional hardships. For example, are you able to afford an emotional support animal (e.g., food, veterinary care, etc.)? Can you provide the animal with enough attention throughout the day and night? If you work 12-hour shifts, this might not be the best idea for you. Are you able to properly care for the animal? If you are physically disabled, it might be difficult to care for yourself and an animal.
These are real considerations you need to take into account before bringing an animal home. It’s only for your own benefit.
Once you receive your ESA letter, you can start using it to look for housing. If you are already situated in a rental, talk with your landlord about bringing home an emotional support animal. Giving them a heads up is a nice courtesy, plus it allows you to provide them with a copy of your letter so they don’t mistakenly charge you a pet fee.
By law, landlords are required to respond promptly to any ESA requests. What’s more, they cannot ask you to provide sensitive information about your condition. Your ESA letter should be all you need to submit your housing application and create a happy home for you and your emotional support animal.
Ready to get your ESA letter in New York? Start here with Therapy Pet.