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What are the Benefits of an ESA Letter?

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If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, an emotional support animal (ESA) can be a highly impactful part of your treatment. Emotional support animals offer companionship and comfort in times of need. They can help calm anxious nerves, quieten panic attacks, and help individuals live a fuller life.

 

Emotional support animals are for those who suffer from a mental or emotional condition that is severe enough to impact their everyday lives. These conditions make it hard for a person to function normally, but these effects may be reduced or alleviated with the presence of an emotional support animal.

 

Only a doctor can prescribe an emotional support animal as part of a treatment plan. But if you experience severe stress, anxiety, or depression, or have been diagnosed with a more serious mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, then pursuing an ESA letter may be in your best interest.

 

And while many pets can technically fill the role of emotional support animals without a letter, you will need an ESA letter to officially recognize your animal as part of your treatment.

 

Here’s a closer look at the benefits of getting an official ESA letter from your doctor or healthcare provider and why the difference between pets and ESAs matters.

ESA Letter: A Definition

What exactly is an ESA letter? An ESA letter is similar to a doctor’s prescription, stating that your healthcare provider recommends an emotional support animal to treat your condition.

 

This letter is tailored to the individual patient and contains important details, such as your healthcare provider’s name, contact information, and license number, the fact that they have been treating you for a mental condition recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and that they recommend an emotional support animal to help you manage your symptoms.

 

The letter is an official document written and signed by a licensed healthcare provider. This is why not just anyone can qualify for an emotional support animal.

 

The letter does not usually specify a specific animal, species, or breed; rather, the letter’s contents are simply to inform interested parties (e.g., landlords, housing authorities, etc.) that you have been seen for a mental health condition and that an emotional support animal has been recommended to ease your condition.

What is the Purpose of an ESA Letter?

Why would a person need an ESA letter? The short answer: ESA letters are the only way to officially recognize your animal companion as an emotional support animal. Without it, interested parties (e.g. landlords, airline operators, hotel operators, etc.) may not provide you with adequate accommodations.

 

Because of this differentiation, an ESA letter serves a variety of purposes.

Housing Privileges

The main reason a person might want to receive an ESA letter is to gain better housing accommodations. Apartment complexes, rental houses, and duplexes may have strict no-pets policies that all tenants must abide by. But with an ESA letter, your animal companion is no longer considered a pet. It is a valuable part of your lifestyle and is seen as a “reasonable accommodation” for your disability, even though it is not technically a service animal.

 

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must allow your emotional support animal to live in your home with you, even if their policies don’t permit it for other tenants. What’s more, landlords may not legally charge you pet fees or deposits, nor can they impose unfair breed or species restrictions on your animal.

Travel Privileges

The other main role of an ESA letter is to help you potentially access better travel accommodations. Emotional support animals play a key role in helping those with mental or emotional conditions travel more freely. For example, people with a fear of flying may find it impossible to travel by air without their animal companion by their side.

 

Up until recently, the Air Carrier Access Act enforced all airline operators to allow emotional support animals to fly with their owners in the cabin, free of charge. In these cases, ESAs were treated similarly to service animals. However, the laws have recently changed and airlines are no longer held to this legal standard. Some airlines still do offer this service to their customers and having an ESA letter allows you to enjoy the full benefits.

 

In addition to air travel, many hotels and others in the travel and hospitality industry may also permit emotional support animals to stay with you. This is especially important if you are staying in a hotel that typically does not allow pets. However, keep in mind that hotels and other public spaces are not required by law to allow your emotional support animal. Rather, those that do so are providing a courtesy to you. Providing them with an ESA letter may help you to appeal to them and demonstrate your need to have your animal companion with you wherever you go.

Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Service Animals?

Emotional support animals are often confused as being service animals or therapy animals. Many people use the terms interchangeably, and therefore expect them to be treated the same in public spaces. While you might think your emotional support animal provides a valuable service to you, they are not technically considered service animals.

 

Here’s why:

ESAs and Service Animals Fill Different Roles

By definition, a service animal has undergone intense training to be able to perform certain tasks for its handler. For example, a service dog might alert its diabetic owner of low blood sugar. It might fetch medications or other items for its owner. It could guide a blind person safely across a busy intersection or tell a deaf person if someone is at the front door.

 

In other words, service animals are workers. They are always “on duty” and aren’t the type of animals to stop and play fetch or be petted.

 

Emotional support animals serve a very different role. They are not trained to perform specific tasks (particularly life-saving ones, like service animals). Rather, their sole role is to provide companionship to their owner. They chase away feelings of loneliness, put smiles on faces, and love unconditionally.

ESAs and Service Animals Serve Different People

In addition to the purpose of an ESA and service animal, both types cater to different people with different needs.

 

Service animals are reserved for individuals who have a physical, mental, or intellectual disability. Many times, these disabilities are noticeable from the outside (e.g., a blind person, an amputee, etc.). These individuals need help performing daily living tasks, and service animals help to fill those gaps in care.

 

Emotional support animals are reserved for those who experience a mental or emotional condition. Oftentimes, these conditions are not easily detected on the surface. Examples include bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, extreme phobias, and dementia. And while many of us feel stressed or anxious from time to time, the difference lies in diagnosis. Only a licensed healthcare provider who is treating a patient for a mental disorder can officially recommend an emotional support animal as a treatment.

 

Granted, people with physical disabilities might experience anxiety or other mental conditions, too. Their service animal may also act as an emotional support animal to them. But an emotional support animal cannot also be a service animal.

Service Animals are Certified

Another differentiation is that service animals must undergo training and be certified to provide services to its owner. There are service dog agencies that connect service dogs to owners with disabilities, almost like a matchmaking service to ensure the owner’s needs can be met based on a dog’s specific training. Not all service dogs are trained to perform the same tasks.

 

For emotional support animals, there is no official certification process. Any dog or animal can be an emotional support animal as long as you have an ESA letter. Because ESA letters do not have to indicate a specific breed or species, you have more flexibility in choosing an animal that can address your needs.

 

Side note: When exploring options for receiving an ESA letter, be wary of websites and companies that claim they can “certify” your pet as an emotional support animal There is no certification process, no database of registered emotional support animals, and no documents that your pet needs to have. The ESA letter is for you, not your animal companion.

ESAs and Service Animals Have Different Breed and Species Restrictions

Because service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners, it’s clear that not every animal will fit the bill. How can you train a goldfish to retrieve the newspaper, anyway?

 

That’s why service animals are limited to certain breeds and species. Service dogs are by far the most popular, with breeds like golden retrievers, German shepherds, poodles, and Labrador retrievers being top choices. According to Adata.org, miniature horses, pigs, and monkeys may also be considered service animals. The main factor is whether the animal has been properly trained to serve its owner. Wild animals or animals that are not tamed and trained do not qualify as service animals.

 

Emotional support animals have a much broader definition. There are typically no breed or species restrictions since the main focus is on choosing an animal that provides comfort and companionship. Emotional support animals span a range of options, including but not limited to:

 

  • Pigs
  • Ducks
  • Monkeys
  • Peacocks
  • Rabbits
  • Snakes
  • Horses
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ferrets
  • Sugar gliders
  • Rats
  • Hedgehogs

 

This list isn’t meant to be complete, but it does demonstrate the variety of animals a person can choose from if they qualify for an ESA letter.

Service Animals are Granted More Legal Protections

Perhaps the most important differentiation between a service animal and an emotional support animal is the legal and privileges of each, particularly in public spaces. It’s important to understand this difference and set the right expectations for accommodations.

 

Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and can freely go wherever their owners go. They offer protection and perform life-saving tasks, which don’t allow them to be separated from their owners. Service animals are welcome in all public spaces, including restaurants, hotel rooms, retail stores, office buildings, parks, malls, airports, public transportation, and anywhere else their owner goes. Building owners, landlords, and managers must grant the service animal entry as a reasonable accommodation to the individual.

 

This isn’t true for emotional support animals, however. While landlords must allow emotional support animals to live with their owners even if pets are not allowed, that’s about where the legal accommodations end. Store managers, hotel operators, and airlines are not required by law to grant your ESA entry into public spaces. Those that do so are providing reasonable accommodation of their own free will. Those that do not will not face any legal repercussions.

 

This is a tough differentiation to make for some individuals. Many feel their rights are being violated when their emotional support animal cannot travel with them or go into public spaces. There’s a lot of misinformation online that says this is a right of emotional support animals, but this simply isn’t true. Knowing the difference ahead of time can save you time, frustration, and embarrassment, as well as help you plan ahead for different accommodations when you can’t bring your emotional support animal with you.

The Benefits of an ESA Letter

Before we jumped into the benefits of an ESA letter, we wanted to help you set the right expectations for what your emotional support animal can and can’t do. Many people erroneously believe that once they have an ESA letter, they can treat their pet like a service animal and circumvent certain rules and policies.

 

Now that you know this isn’t the case and that there’s a lot more to it, we can better discuss the ways that an ESA letter can benefit you.

Housing Benefits

As mentioned earlier, one of the main advantages of an ESA letter is the protections outlined under the Fair Housing Act. Accepting an emotional support animal is considered a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Landlords must legally comply or face potential legal fines and hardships.

 

Here’s why a person might want to consider an ESA letter for housing purposes:

Pet Housing Restrictions Don’t Apply to ESAs (Usually)

If you own your home, an ESA letter won’t provide much value since you have full decision-making power over your pets. But if you are a renter, you will likely need an ESA letter at some point.

 

Having an animal companion often means having limited options for housing. Many rental homes and apartment complexes simply don’t allow tenants to keep pets. (And for those who do allow pets, they might charge an extra monthly fee or a pet deposit to accommodate the damage and mess to the unit and the surrounding property.)

 

The good news: landlords must make exceptions for emotional support animals. This is your right when you have an ESA letter. Denying your housing application on the basis of having an animal is a violation of your rights and can be subject to legal action.

 

What’s more, landlords cannot deny your housing application based on the type of animal or breed you use as an emotional support animal. Many HOAs, apartment complexes, and management companies may restrict breeds for the average tenant, such as dog breeds that are known to be aggressive or exotic animals. In many cases, these rules will not apply to you if you have an ESA letter.

 

One caveat to mention is that there are limited circumstances in which a landlord or HOA might be able to deny your emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation. They have a duty to their tenants to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on the property. If your emotional support animal acts aggressively toward another person, becomes destructive, or creates a nuisance situation, your accommodation might no longer be considered “reasonable.”

 

This is why selecting the right emotional support animal is so important. This should not be taken as a free invitation to buy dangerous animals with the belief that it is your right to do so. If your animal companion were to attack another person or cause damage to someone else’s property, you could be held liable.

 

It’s best practice to choose a safe breed or species that is inherently well-behaved and low maintenance. The more “normal” your animal appears on the surface, the more likely others will be in accommodating your needs when they aren’t legally obligated to do so.

Pet Fees and Deposits Can Be Avoided

For people without a mental or emotional health condition, having a pet is a choice. But for those who suffer from a serious condition, an animal companion is a much-needed part of their daily routine. They depend on an animal to function and live a more normal life. Facing unfair pet fees might not be in their budget, nor should they have to pay extra just because their treatment is an animal instead of a medication.

 

By law, landlords cannot charge tenants a pet fee or deposit for their emotional support animal. However, in order to enjoy this accommodation, your landlord may ask to see your ESA letter. This is the only way for them to determine without a doubt that your animal is part of your treatment and not just a pet.

Manage Feelings of Loneliness

An emotional support animal’s primary role is companionship. Whether you live alone in your home or go long periods each day by yourself, your animal companion can help you feel less lonely and more connected to the world around you.

 

When you rent your home, an ESA letter ensures your pet can live with you under your roof and provide these feelings of comfort. Without an ESA letter, your landlord may only allow your pet to live outside, which may impact their ability to calm and comfort you when you most need it.

ESAs May Help You Live Independently

For many individuals, an emotional support animal helps them feel more confident. They can better navigate social situations. They gain clarity of mind by reducing the overpowering feelings of stress and anxiety.

 

These are things that most of us take for granted. We might not think twice about getting out of bed each morning, preparing meals, and doing household chores. But for those with a mental condition, these tasks can be quite arduous. They may feel hopeless and helpless, making them less inclined to take care of themselves.

 

The emotional benefits a support animal can bring are invaluable to the right people. They foster feelings of happiness, comfort, and hope. As a result, having an emotional support animal may help some individuals to lead a normal, more independent lifestyle.

 

These benefits can be enjoyed without barriers when you have an official ESA letter. Because landlords must accommodate a reasonable request to have your animal companion live with you, you can take the next step in improving your life without pet restrictions slowing you down.

Travel Benefits

Before changes were made to the Air Carrier Access Act, individuals with ESA letters could enjoy more benefits when traveling with an animal. But even though the legal obligations for companies have changed, those with an ESA letter may still be able to gain accommodations for their support animals.

 

The best practice is to never assume that you can bring your emotional support animal with you when you travel. This takes careful planning since accommodations are made differently by different companies and airline operators. Always be upfront about your needs and requests, and be ready to provide your ESA letter with documentation.

 

With this in mind, here are some ways in which you can use your ESA letter while traveling.

Access More Travel Options with ESA Access

If you depend on an animal for emotional support but you do not have an ESA letter, your travel options might be more limited. For example, hotels might consider your animal a pet without documentation. In this case, you will be limited to choosing a hotel that allows pets, which might mean sacrificing on price, location, and travel dates. The same goes for other aspects of your trip, including air travel, public transportation, and activities.

 

However, an ESA letter might help you receive better accommodations. While airlines and other public spaces aren’t required to accommodate emotional support animals, many of them do it anyway. An ESA letter separates your emotional support animal from an average pet. They serve a special purpose and therefore might be welcomed in more places.

ESA Letters Give You a Reliable Travel Buddy

When your emotional support animal is able to travel with you, you can enjoy having a buddy along for the journey. This is a great way to make lasting memories together while also being able to step outside of your comfort zone, comfortably.

 

Without an ESA letter, your animal may have to be boarded in the cargo space of a plane instead of sitting beside you in the cabin. You might also be charged a cargo or pet fee, increasing the cost of your trip. If this happens, your animal can’t be beside you to offer support when you need it.

Pet Cargo Fees and Travel Restrictions May Be Avoided

While it’s no guarantee that your animal will be able to fly beside you or go on all of your adventures abroad, you can increase your chances by doing some research ahead of time. When you find an airline that will accommodate you and your animal, you may also be able to save money in the process.

 

Flying a pet is not cheap, which is one reason why many people seek ESA letters. They can potentially avoid pet cargo fees when flying if their animal can enjoy similar onboard privileges as service animals.

Gain Confidence While Traveling

Perhaps the most important benefit to the individual while traveling is the simple act of traveling itself. For many, travel is out of the question because they just can’t do it on their own. They’re terrified of flying, or they have trouble breathing in tight, enclosed spaces. They fear panic attacks or episodes of extreme anxiety. They don’t want to take a chance of experiencing something like this so far away from home.

 

With an emotional support animal, travel is back on the table. It becomes a real possibility for those who fear going places alone. They can start reaching their life’s goals, see places they’ve never seen, and experience more of what life has to offer.

Health Benefits

At Therapy Pet, we know the relief our customers feel when they receive their ESA letters in the mail. They see it as a new lease on life, an opportunity to break down barriers related to travel and housing so they can regain a higher quality of life.

 

But we also believe that travel and housing privileges come secondary to the health benefits an emotional support animal can provide. When individuals with mental health conditions can receive proper treatments, they can regain a sense of self-worth. They start feeling better, which can encourage more healthy behaviors. The health benefits are not to be ignored or treated as an afterthought.

Feel More Grounded to Reality

Emotional support animals can make their owners feel more connected to the world around them. Maybe they fear going out in public, or even outside due to trauma. Or maybe they experience frequent panic attacks that can send their world into a tailspin.

 

Whatever the cause, an emotional support animal’s presence can help a person feel more grounded. Simply having someone to hold onto during a time of need can ease troubled nerves and make you feel calm again. Your ESA might decrease the length of an episode so that you can feel better faster and keep moving forward.

Access a Non-Prescription Treatment Option

For many with mental or emotional health conditions, your doctor may have already recommended multiple types of treatment. For example, some options include the use of prescription medications. Medications may treat a variety of conditions, even if they don’t “cure” you.

 

Some providers may recommend therapy, where you speak with a counselor or other licensed professional. Talking about an issue can help gain clarity around the problem and teach you techniques and behaviors to manage your feelings.

 

Emotional support animals continue to be a preferred treatment for many reasons. For starters, there are no medical side effects that come from using an emotional support animal, unlike medications. This can also be a lower-cost option, depending on whether your other treatment options are covered by insurance (or if you have insurance).

 

While talking with a therapist can be beneficial, your therapist might not always be available to speak when you need a listening ear. But since you live with your emotional support animal, you can take advantage of their presence anytime you need them.

Enjoy Less Stress and Anxiety

Science has long known that pets reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Their presence can promote feelings of calmness. They’re always willing to listen, even if they can’t offer advice or respond to your feelings. Simply having someone to talk to can lessen feelings of stress and boost your self-confidence.

Add Structure to Your Day

Just like you, pets require daily care, too. They need to be fed, walked, and played with. Having an emotional support animal can help you bring structure and routine to your day. This can make you feel more focused and grounded, and it leaves less time for you to notice any feelings of stress or anxiety.

Live a Higher Quality of Life

Because your emotional support animal requires daily care, it encourages you to become more active. Being active can promote a happier, healthier life. It might get you out of the house more often and allow you to enjoy more activities, events, and the company of others. The new opportunities and experiences that an emotional support animal can create for you are invaluable.

Additional Benefits of an ESA Letter

There are a few other benefits of getting an ESA letter that don’t fit into any specific category. But there’s worth mentioning, nonetheless.

You Might be Able to Bring Your ESA to Work

Animals in the workplace? For many, this is only a reality if you work in a pet store, a zoo, or a circus. But for those with a valid ESA letter, your employer might allow you to bring your emotional support animal to work.

 

Individuals who qualify for an emotional support animal do so because their healthcare provider determines they have a disability. Employers cannot discriminate someone because of a disability and instead should be willing to make a reasonable accommodation. Depending on the location of your workplace, the nature of the work you perform, the work environment, and other factors, bringing your emotional support animal to work might be an option.

ESAs Help People of Any Age

Fact: you do not have to meet any certain age requirements to receive an ESA letter. Emotional support animals benefit individuals of all ages, ranging from children and teens to college students to adults and even elderly individuals.

 

That’s because mental and emotional conditions affect people of all ages, too. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or condition, chances are you may qualify for an emotional support animal. Age is usually not a factor in a healthcare provider’s decision.

ESAs Improve a Variety of Mental and Emotional Conditions

There is no one size fits all when it comes to recommending an emotional support animal as a treatment option. ESAs are explored to help with a variety of conditions and diagnoses, including but not limited to:

 

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Extreme phobias and fears
  • Victims of trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

 

This list is not meant to be complete, but it does give you an idea of the range of conditions in which an emotional support animal might be appropriate. The benefits of an ESA as they relate to your condition are discussed on a case by case basis with a licensed healthcare provider. Share your symptoms and conditions with your healthcare provider to learn whether an emotional support animal might be right for you.

Misconceptions about Emotional Support Animals

As you explore the potential for getting an emotional support animal, you should realize there are a lot of myths and misinformation circulating online. It’s becoming harder to separate fact from fiction, especially as existing laws on ESAs continue to evolve.

 

Some of the most common misconceptions we encounter from our customers here at Therapy Pets include the following.

Emotional Support Animals Do Not Need Special Gear

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find companies selling everything from emotional support dog vests to special name tags to harnesses and more. These items aim to make a more official appearance, and people buy them hoping they can avoid questions about their animal when going into public spaces.

 

But there are a couple of problems with buying “special gear” for an ESA. For starters, it’s completely unnecessary. Service animals require gear and their handlers rely on it so that people do not try to pet the animal while it’s working. But since your ESA is not a service animal, you do not need to waste money on vests and tags.

 

And second, using a vest and other “official” looking gear can come off as misleading and fraudulent. These items are not required, but using them anyway can make it look like you are trying to commit fraud and trick others just to make things more convenient for yourself.

 

You can certainly purchase ESA kits for your dog or another animal if that is your preference. But you should do so mindfully. Understand how these items make your animal appear to others and know they are not perfect solutions for allowing your animal into public spaces where they might not otherwise be allowed.

Not All Individuals with Mental Disabilities are Eligible for ESAs

It’s erroneously believed that all individuals with a mental disability will automatically qualify for an emotional support animal. But this isn’t always the case.

 

Your mental health practitioner will make the determination as to whether or not an ESA might be in your best interest. Sometimes, your provider may require multiple sessions with you before making this decision. They will also decide if you need an ESA letter for housing, travel, or both.

ESAs May Be Allowed in the Workplace

It’s true that ESAs are not guaranteed entry into public places, unlike service animals who are able to access the same places as their owner. However, U.S. employment laws state that an employer cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities and must be able to provide reasonable accommodations.

 

In certain cases, you may be able to bring your emotional support animal to work with you as part of a reasonable accommodation. For example, if you have a golden retriever and work in an office, then there may be very few reasons why an employer might not be able to accommodate this request.

 

However, if you have an emotional support peacock and work on an assembly line, then an employer may be less likely to accommodate your request due to the nature of the work environment and the animal itself. Assembly lines can be dangerous places and may increase the risk of an injury to you, your animal, or those around you.

 

When it comes to workplace accommodations, you must consider the big picture and not just baseline definitions and regulations.

Will an ESA Letter Always Be Enough?

If you have ever seen an ESA letter in person, you might have noticed that it contains very limited information related to your health conditions. So, it’s valid to wonder, will an ESA letter always be enough?

 

The answer depends on how you’re asking this question.

For Housing: Yes!

When it comes to housing, an ESA letter is all you need to prove to your landlord or HOA that your emotional support animal isn’t just a pet. By law, they are obligated to make a reasonable accommodation for your disability by allowing your animal to live with you under the same roof. You should not have to provide any additional information in order to exercise your rights.

 

However, there may be an exception to this. If your ESA letter is more than a year old, then your landlord may request a more recent copy. There is some confusion over whether ESA letters expire or not. Housing laws don’t offer any insight into this question. Your landlord cannot pry into your sensitive medical details, but they can reach out to your healthcare provider to confirm whether they did in fact recommend an emotional support animal as part of your treatment. Your provider may not feel comfortable saying yes to this question if they have not treated you in over a year.

 

The best practice is to always maintain a current copy in your state of residency. If your ESA is more than a year old, renew it. If your ESA letter is issued by a practitioner in a state you no longer reside in, renew it.

 

You can renew your ESA letter simply by reconnecting with a licensed healthcare professional and updating them on your current situation. Talk about how your condition and symptoms have improved with the help of your animal companion and your preference for continuing with your current treatment.

For Travel: No!

The companies and operators you encounter when traveling may or may not be willing to offer accommodations to emotional support animals. They are not legally required to do so because your animal is not a service animal and therefore does not enjoy the same legal protections.

 

While an ESA letter may help your case, it should not be considered a guarantee. However, if a travel partner is willing to accommodate your request, then your letter should be all you need. You should not be asked for personal medical details about your condition or other sensitive information.

 

For questions and information on what needs to be included in an ESA letter, read our new blog post: What Needs to Be Included in an ESA letter.

Who Does an ESA Letter Help?

ESA letters are designed to help anyone who suffers from a mental or emotional condition AND whose symptoms are improved with the animal’s presence. They’re not intended for the average pet owner, nor are they recommended for anyone whose condition is not improved with an emotional support animal.

 

ESA letters help in a few different ways:

 

For starters, it offers legal rights and privileges to the owner of the emotional support animal. This is especially important when it comes to applying for housing. With an ESA letter, landlords cannot reject your housing application on the basis that you have an animal, even if pets are not allowed for other tenants.

 

Your ESA letter might also make travel easier and more accessible. While there is no guarantee that your emotional support animal can fly with you or stay in your hotel room with you, an ESA letter can help you support your request. It demonstrates that your animal isn’t an average pet, but rather an important part of your treatment. Hotel and airline operators might be more willing to accommodate you on their own accord if you can prove that your animal provides emotional support.

 

ESA letters also help your landlord and other interested parties who might require proof of your emotional support animal. They will know without a doubt that your animal is for emotional support and can therefore decide how to properly accommodate you and avoid potential legal hurdles.

 

It’s worth noting that you don’t need an official ESA letter to benefit from an emotional support animal. Your animal is a big help to you, and the presence of a letter won’t change that. Rather, the letter simply serves to make it official to other people. If for some reason you are unable to obtain an ESA letter, that doesn’t automatically invalidate your animal as helping you cope. It simply means it’s not a prescribed part of your treatment. Keep leaning on your animal companion if it makes you feel better.

When Emotional Support Animals Might Not Be the Best Treatment

We’ve talked at length about the benefits of emotional support animals. But we would also be doing you a disservice if we didn’t also mention the potential disadvantages of ESAs. While emotional support animals may offer a range of health and wellness benefits, they are not always the best treatment options.

Too Much Maintenance

One reason for this is because emotional support animals require care, just like any other animal. They depend on a steady, healthy diet. They may also need vet care, including vaccination shots, check-ups, surgeries, spay or neuter, and treatments for conditions like allergies. For a person who is not in a financial position to be able to purchase an animal and take proper care of it, your animal might end up causing you more stress and financial hardship than they alleviate.

Not Enough Time

The same holds true with the amount of companionship you’re able to provide. While you need your animal to be your best friend, they need you just as much. They depend on you for exercise. They thrive on your attention. If they live indoors, they also rely on you to keep them clean and clean up after their messes. Animals that don’t get proper attention often act out, and can sometimes become destructive. If you work long hours or are traveling a lot and can’t take your animal companion with you, then it might be best to not have an emotional support animal at all.

Not Enough Legal Rights

We mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating: your emotional support animal is NOT a service animal. For some individuals, this is a downside they were not initially expecting. Emotional support animals have very few legal protections and therefore may not be able to make the impact you were hoping for. For example, if you want an emotional support animal because you are scared to fly alone but your airline won’t allow your animal to sit with you, then your ESA can’t live up to your expectations.

Too Many Unknowns

Last but not least, there is always the risk of the unknown. You might purchase an animal with the best of intentions. But what happens when you and your animal don’t hit it off together? What if they are harder to train than you thought? What if they were to cause damage to your property or show aggression toward another person? What if your work or living situation changes?

 

There is so much to life that we don’t know, and some things cannot be planned for. When life surprises us, we must be able to come up with the best way to move forward. That can be hard when an animal is involved, especially if the animal has become your very best friend.

 

These are very difficult considerations to make, especially if you feel that you truly will benefit from an emotional support animal. But not considering them would be detrimental to you and the animal. Be as honest as possible with yourself about whether this is the right move for you. You will thank yourself in the long run.

Who is Authorized to Write an ESA Letter?

Qualified individuals can obtain an ESA letter from a variety of sources. However, it’s important that you receive your letter only from a licensed mental health provider, as this is the only way that your letter will be considered valid.

 

So, who is authorized to write an ESA letter? Let’s look at your options:

Your Primary Care Physician

Many individuals start their journeys with their own primary care doctor. This is often because their doctor has the advantage of knowing the patient’s full medical history. They usually have documented cases of how a person’s condition or symptoms has affected their daily lives. There’s an established trust and relationship there, which might make it easier to talk about their interest in an emotional support animal. As long as your doctor has provided care for your mental or emotional condition, he or she can write an official ESA letter on your behalf.

A Physician’s Assistant

If you usually see a physician’s assistant (PA) for your primary care instead of a doctor, your PA might be able to authorize an ESA letter. PAs have the ability to write prescriptions for patients, and an ESA is a form of prescription. Similarly to doctors, your PA should have played a role in providing care for your mental or emotional condition before writing your ESA letter.

A Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors that specialize in mental health disorders. They routinely see patients for conditions like schizophrenia, dementia, substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, sexual disorders, sleep issues, ADHD, and many more. Because they are licensed mental health professionals, they have the authority to write prescriptions and recommend non-medical treatments for their patients, including the use of an emotional support animal.

A Psychologist

What psychiatrists are to mental health disorders, psychologists are to behavioral issues. Psychologists often work with individuals who experience panic attacks, depression, stress, and similar conditions. In certain states, a psychologist can prescribe medication to their patients. In all states, they can also recommend treatments and therapies that might help a patient’s condition.

A Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner work with patients suffering from psychiatric disorders. They often work in independent practices, psychiatric facilities, and mental health units within hospitals. In many states, a PMHNP is authorized to directly prescribe medications and treatments to patients. In a few states, they must work directly under the supervision of a physician.

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Another example of a licensed mental health professional, a clinical social worker works with individuals of all ages across a range of conditions. Their focus is on improving the mental health and well-being of the individuals they serve. Areas of specialty may include children’s mental health, family dynamics, substance abuse, social work, and more.

 

They observe the client’s behavior, diagnose psychological, emotional, or behavioral disorders, develop and implement treatment plans, and consult with a client’s other healthcare providers, such as a primary care physician or psychiatrist.

A Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor (LMFC)

Licensed marriage and family counselors work closely with families to improve relationships in the home. In some cases, family dynamics may cause certain family members undue stress or anxiety. For example, a divorce may diminish the quality of life for one or more family members, or death could create anxiety in children or grieving spouses. These effects may be alleviated by the presence of an emotional support animal.

A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) work directly with clients to diagnose and treat mental disorders. They offer therapy sessions on an individual basis and in group settings. Their primary goal is to help their clients live fuller, more productive lives by helping them overcome mental or behavioral issues.

 

For more details on who is authorized to write an ESA letter, check out our recent blog post: Who is Eligible to Write an ESA Letter?

Where Can I Get an ESA Letter?

Now that you understand more about the role of an ESA letter and the benefits it provides, you might be ready to take the next step in obtaining an ESA letter. If you are an individual with a qualifying mental or emotional health need, this process is relatively simple.

 

Your first option is to connect with one of the suggested licensed health professionals mentioned above. Take care to choose the right professional based on your symptoms, diagnosis (if you have one), and other needs. You’ll have a better chance of getting the help you need.

 

There is a second option: getting your ESA letter online. Our Therapy Pet customers prefer to use our online service instead of choosing their own provider. The reasons for this are many: for starters, we do all the work in connecting you with a licensed professional in your state who is qualified to help you. We also offer a discreet process that you can complete from the comfort of your own home. There’s no need to travel to an office or risk having your identity or privacy compromised. Everything takes place online, and if you are approved for an ESA letter, you will receive a copy mailed directly to you in as little as 72 hours.

 

Plus, we guarantee that our ESA letters are 100% legitimate. Each letter is tailored to the individual and written and signed by an authorized mental health professional. We take this process very seriously because your health matters to us just as much as it does to you. In the face of rising online scams and fake ESA letters, we know you need a resource you can trust, and we aim to earn it by providing the best possible service to you.

 

We invite you to explore our process and take the next step in getting treatment for your mental health. Start with our free 5-minute assessment to see if you might qualify!