Animals improve mental and emotional health. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact that has been proven over and over by health professionals. For the average person, being close to an animal can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, elevate moods, ease loneliness, encourage exercise, and even improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But for someone who suffers from a mental or emotional health condition — one that affects their ability to live a normal life — these effects can dramatically improve their entire quality of life.
For these individuals, a licensed healthcare provider can “prescribe” an emotional support animal as part of their treatment. This prescription is what we call an ESA letter, which specifies the need for a person to have an emotional support animal. With this letter, a person can live in places where regular pets might not be allowed, avoid paying pet deposits and fees in a rental unit, and potentially travel with their pet right beside them instead of having them placed in a cargo area.
Your healthcare provider will write your ESA letter on your behalf. But it’s still beneficial for you to know what all is included in an ESA letter. Not only will you be able to understand how your privacy is protected, but you will also be able to spot a potentially fake or invalid ESA letter and avoid falling victim to an online scam.
Here’s what you should look for if you are interested in obtaining an ESA letter.
Just a doctor’s prescription pad, an official ESA letter will need to contain several details. Many of these details are required to validate the legitimacy of your healthcare provider, including their name, contact information, official letterhead, license number, and state of jurisdiction.
But the letter must also contain information related to your condition and the provider’s recommendation for an emotional support animal. While there is no specific template providers must follow, they must state in the letter that:
If you are traveling with an emotional support animal, it can be helpful to airlines, hotels, and other places you may encounter to have a travel-oriented ESA letter. In this case, your letter might specify the species or breed of the emotional support animal, the weight of the animal, and that you require the animal when traveling due to a mental or emotional condition.
Last but not least, an ESA letter must contain the authentic signature of your healthcare provider. This is one reason why you can’t simply receive a digital download PDF of an ESA letter and print it on your home printer. ESA letters are printed on your healthcare provider’s official letterhead, signed, and mailed to your home, ensuring authenticity throughout the process.
There are several ways you can get a valid ESA letter. For starters, you can check with a number of licensed health professionals in your area and schedule a consultation. Typically, ESA letters are written by professionals who deal with mental nad emotional health disorders. These include, but are not limited to:
Likewise, you can also consult with your primary care physician or a physician’s assistant. Many individuals prefer this method because their primary care doctor has the benefit of knowing the patient’s entire health history. They may already have documentation of their symptoms and conditions, which may support your request in exploring an emotional support animal as a treatment options.
And then there are online channels that can connect you with an ESA letter service, like Therapy Pets. Online channels are quickly becoming a preferable option because of the privacy and convenience they offer. Just as telehealth visits with your primary care physician are increasing, so are telehealth options for mental health services. You can connect with a licensed mental health professional in your state, talk about your condition, your diagnosis if you have one, and how it affects your life, and see if they recommend an emotional support animal as part of your treatment.
Unfortunately, the increasing interest in getting emotional support animals has also led to an increase in fraudulent websites claiming to offer valid ESA letters. Individuals seeking an ESA letter should be careful to choose only a trusted service provider like Therapy Pets so they can avoid the potential of being scammed — and therefore not being able to enjoy the benefits an emotional support animal can offer.
If you are concerned about the potential for fake ESA letters, rest assured that they are usually easy to spot if you know what to look for.
One of the most common telltale signs is the type of claims the service makes. Getting an ESA letter is a process, not an instant purchase like some websites would have you believe. Companies that offer same-day ESA letters, instant PDF downloads, or ESA letters without first talking to a mental health professional should be avoided at all costs.
Scam websites also would have you believe that your emotional support animal has to be registered or certified. They might make a claim that purchasing your letter through them will automatically register certify your animal. But the truth is there is no such thing as a certification or registration process for emotional support animals. The only documentation you need is your ESA letter, which in many cases is not animal specific.
ESAs are a legitimate form of treatment for patients with mental and emotional conditions. It is not a service that needs to be highly marketable or salesy. Websites that take this approach are usually scams.
For example, a company that provides ESA letter services might also try to sell you an ESA kit. This ESA kit might come with a vest, tag, document holder, and other official-looking items. many individuals fall for the scam because they believe that these things might make their animal look more legitimate, and thus less prone to questioning by a landlord or travel service. In truth, these items are merely for show and have no real value in the grand scheme of things. Sure, they might fool someone into thinking your emotional support animal is a service animal and should therefore enjoy the same rights. But this actually falls along the lines of fraud and should be avoided.
You can also look at the language of the letter to tell whether it might be a fake. Even if you connect with a healthcare professional online, you really have no way of knowing whether that healthcare professional is legitimate or not.
That’s why alI ESA letters need to contain vital Information about the practitioner, such as their name and contact information, their license number, and their state of jurisdiction. Seasoned healthcare professionals will know not to use language like therapy pet or service animal when describing an emotional support animal. If you noticed that your letter contains the wrong terminology, chances are it is not a valid ESA letter and therefore will not allow you to enjoy the benefits you expect.
The best way to avoid a fake ESA letter is to work only with a trusted and reputable service provider. Pay close attention to the process and become familiar with the requirements for receiving an ESA letter. This way, there will never be any question about whether you are entitled to the rights that come with having an emotional support animal.
As we specified earlier, the information included in an ESA letter mostly concerns the practitioner, not the patient. There are very limited details that need to be shared regarding your condition, and that’s largely because of the purpose the letter serves.
Typically, individuals need ESA letters for two purposes: one is to protect their rights under the Fair Housing Act. And the other is to potentially travel with their emotional support animal without having to pay pet fees or additional charges.
Let’s start with the first part.
A housing ESA letter serves as proof that a tenant has an emotional support animal as part of their treatment for a mental health condition. This is an important differentiation to make between an emotional support animal and a regular pet.
Only persons with disabilities are able to obtain an ESA letter. This allows them to enjoy certain rights that tenants with regular pets may not. For example, if a complex or rental house typically does not allow pets, denying the application someone with an emotional support animal could be seen as discriminatory. Landlords cannot charge you pet deposits or additional fees because you have an animal, even though they may charge pet fees to other tenants.
When it comes to travel, emotional support animals may enjoy a limited number of privileges. It used to be that the Air Carrier Access Act mandated that airlines allow emotional support animals to fly with passengers free of charge in the cabin area. However, regulations have sinced changed and airlines are no longer obligated to accommodate emotional support animals. The good news is that many airlines and travel companies still do offer this courtesy to their guests, provided the emotional support animal does not pose a health or safety risk to other passengers or service animals.
To take advantage of this potential benefit, it’s helpful to have a travel ESA letter. Your travel ESA letter may contain additional details not found in a housing letter, such as the breed or species of your emotional support animal, the weight of the animal, and the need for you to be able to travel with it.
Keep in mind that travel benefits are not guaranteed even with an ESA letter. Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals, and therefore cannot be expected to be allowed in public spaces. You will need to check with your individual airline, place of lodging, or other travel provider to determine whether your emotional support animal will be welcome.
Once you speak with a licensed mental healthcare professional and they recommend an emotional support animal, they will write you a letter of prescription and mail it to you. Once you receive your letter, there is nothing more you need to do other than maintaining a current copy of the letter. Keep the letter in a safe place so that you know where it is in the event you need to provide it to a landlord.
Typically, ESA letters expire one year from the date they were issued. Well this is not necessarily a hard expiration date, landlords may question the letters validity if it is older than one year. They might require you to obtain a more recent letter from your healthcare provider before approving your housing application.
Similar to medication prescriptions, your ESA letter should be updated regularly. Your symptoms and conditions may change over time, which may affect your healthcare provider’s decision as to whether or not you should continue using an emotional support animal as part of your treatment.
Rest assured that any mental health provider will want you to continue using a treatment that works for you. Each year that you update your letter, take advantage of the opportunity to speak with your provider and let them know just how much your emotional support animal is helping you live a better life.
Do you consider yourself an individual with a mental or emotional condition? Are you looking for natural treatment options that can help you live a better quality of life? If so, then you might want to explore the benefits of an emotional therapy pet.
At Therapy Pets, we’re dedicated to lowering the barriers of getting the treatment you need to succeed in life. We’ve designed our process to be as streamlined and efficient for you as possible while also adhering to legal rules and guidelines. We’ll conduct a quick assessment to see if you might qualify, learn more about your ESA letter needs, and connect you with a licensed professional in your state who is authorized to speak with you and make recommendations on your condition.
If you’re approved, you’ll receive your ESA letter in as little as 72 hours with expedited shipping options.
Take the next step toward better mental health — start our online assessment here.