Having an emotional support animal (ESA) can help you live a higher quality of life if you suffer from a mental illness or condition. To take advantage of the legal rights that come from an ESA, you first need an official ESA letter. The main question many of our customers have is: who can write an ESA letter?
There’s some misconception about who is authorized to write an ESA letter and how a person can go about getting one. In truth, an ESA letter is very much like a doctor’s prescription for medication. The letter “prescribes” an emotional support animal as part of your overall mental health treatment plan.
Ultimately, what this means is that before you can get an ESA letter, you first need to be evaluated by a healthcare professional who has the ability to write an ESA letter.
Here’s what this process looks like and the steps you can take to receive your ESA letter if you qualify for one.
If you suffer from a mental health disorder or condition, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, OCD, agoraphobia, or something similar, chances are you are a candidate for an emotional support animal. An official emotional support animal is different from a pet because they require ESA letter. However, a pet can become your emotional support animal if you choose to get an ESA letter.
ESA letters are provided by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), such as a physician, psychiatrist, counselor, therapist, or psychologist, for example. These professionals have the authority to write prescriptions for their patients as part of a treatment plan. The ESA letter acts like a written prescription, which is why you cannot obtain one from just any source.
To get an ESA letter, you first need to be evaluated by someone who is authorized to write it. This evaluation seeks to understand your mental health condition and the effects it has on your daily life. Your mental health care provider will want to know things like:
Just like any health care provider, your therapist wants to understand the issues you face as best as possible so they can make the appropriate recommendations.
After being evaluated, your therapist may recommend an emotional support animal as part of your mental health care. In this case, he or she will write an ESA letter that you can use to provide proof that your “pet” isn’t just a pet, but an important part of your daily life. These letters are particularly helpful in helping individuals secure housing and avoid paying high pet fees.
Be aware that speaking to a licensed mental health professional is the only way to receive a valid ESA letter. Websites that offer instant downloads of ESA letters without first speaking to a professional are scams and should be avoided at all costs.
Many of our customers at Therapypet.org have asked whether their primary care physician can write them an ESA letter. The answer is yes, they are authorized to prescribe emotional support animals and can therefore furnish you with a valid letter. This can be a great place to start if you are seeking an ESA letter, as your physician may already know and understand the complexities of your condition and the challenges you face every day.
However, the majority of ESA letters are not provided by primary care physicians. In many cases, your physician may not be the main person who treats your mental health. Many physicians choose not to issue ESA letters simply because they are unfamiliar with them. This area falls more in line with dedicated mental health professionals, such as counselors, therapists, and social workers.
If you do not have a primary care physician or another licensed healthcare provider that you can contact, you may choose to connect with a provider online. At Therapypet.org, we connect you with one of our licensed therapists for a discreet, secure consultation. Here, you can discuss the details of your unique condition and why you feel that an emotional support animal may help. Your therapist will ask you questions to better understand your condition and make the appropriate recommendations.
However you choose to seek help with an ESA letter, it is imperative that you select someone who is licensed to practice in your state. This is one of many pieces of evidence that will make your ESA letter valid and separate it from the many fake scams that are circulating online. If you somehow end up with a fake ESA letter, you will not be able to enjoy the benefits and legal rights that come with it.
Once you receive your ESA letter, your letter will be valid for one year from the date it was issued. If you are using your ESA letter to secure housing, your letter should remain valid through the duration of your lease, even if your letter expires before your lease does.
While you may not always have to renew your letter each year to ensure your emotional support animal can live with you, it’s a good idea to always have an up-to-date letter on hand. Why, you might ask? Because it leaves an opportunity for landlords or HOAs to deny your rights when it comes to pets on the premises.
For example, let’s say you decide to move to a new home or apartment closer to your work. You still have your ESA letter, but it was issued two years ago. When you tell your landlord your emotional support animal will be joining you, your landlord may ask to see the documentation.
Three things could happen here:
First, your landlord might look at the letter, nod, and say okay. This would be the best-case scenario.
Second, your landlord might contact your therapist to confirm the letter’s validity. Your ESA letter includes the name of the therapist who wrote the letter, their license number, and contact information (among other things). While the landlord cannot ask for specific details about your medical history, they can reach out to confirm the letter’s validity and ensure the therapist actually wrote it. If this happens, your therapist may be hesitant to confirm the letter’s recommendation for an emotional support animal without a recent evaluation.
Or third, your landlord may notice the date is more than a year ago and ask for an updated letter. Until they receive it, they might deny your rights to an emotional support animal.
Maintaining an up-to-date letter at all times allows you to avoid the hassle and embarrassment of not having one when you need it most. We never know what life will bring so it’s best to plan ahead.
As we said earlier, the only real way to get an official ESA letter is to first consult with a licensed therapist or healthcare provider in your state. However, this does not mean that you have to consult with them in person.
Many people choose to seek an ESA letter online because they want to remain as confidential as possible. It’s understandable if you do not want to seek mental health services in your local area for fear that you might see someone you know or might feel ashamed by talking about your condition in person. Seeking help can sometimes be enough to increase feelings of anxiety and stress.
Online channels offer an excellent alternative because you don’t have to leave the comfort and security of your own home. You can take your time in selecting an ESA letter service (like Therapypet.org) and complete the process online. It’s very similar to visiting with your physician via telehealth services.
The big question that savvy consumers ask is not whether they can receive an ESA letter online — It’s whether an online ESA letter is valid.
The answer is yes. And no.
Not all ESA letters are created equal. Online channels create a greater potential for scams. Seemingly legitimate websites use clever tactics to get in front of people looking for an easy way to get an ESA letter. They take advantage of people who want the rights that ESA letters afford, even if they would not qualify for the letter otherwise. These companies are more interested in making a quick buck than actually helping people get the emotional support they need.
It’s important to consider the source of your ESA letter. Yes, you can get a valid letter online. But that letter is only valid if you first speak with a licensed therapist in your state AND they recommend an emotional support animal as part of your treatment.
You wouldn’t normally ask your doctor for a specific prescription, so why would you ask your mental healthcare provider for an ESA letter? The short answer: because your livelihood is worth it.
For the most part, we think of prescriptions as being “doctor’s orders.” But mental health is a little different, especially when it comes to seeking treatment in the first place. Many of the patients we serve here at Therapypet.org do not currently have a trusted therapist or counselor. Maybe you are not currently addressing your mental illness or have chosen to manage it in other ways.
Services like Therapypet.org are particularly helpful if you do not have a therapist or counselor. Our therapists are licensed in all states and speak with people specifically about emotional support animals every day. We guarantee our therapists are skilled and knowledgeable to speak on the subject of emotional support animals, which isn’t a guarantee in all therapy practices. It’s our specialty, one we know inside and out and can help you connect the benefits of animal therapy to your unique condition.
And if you do currently see someone for your mental health, there’s always a chance that they might not be familiar with emotional support animals and ESA letters. Even if they think you might benefit from one, they may be hesitant to issue a letter simply because they aren’t as knowledgeable about them. Maybe you feel embarrassed bringing up the idea of an emotional support animal. Or maybe you’re scared of being judged or rejected. These feelings can increase your stress and anxiety, which is why we see many patients avoiding asking about ESAs altogether.
But if you feel that having an emotional support animal would be beneficial to your condition, simply ask them if they agree. You do not have to wait for them to offer the idea of an emotional support animal to you. Talk to them about the benefits of emotional support animals and how they might help your specific condition. Your therapist is on your side!
We always recommend advocating on your own behalf. Seeking help is nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. The best therapists know this and admire patients who want to take control of their health and livelihood.
One more thing to be aware of when you seek an ESA letter is the source it came from. As we noted already, there are many online scams looking to make easy money from vulnerable people. They promise quick turnarounds and don’t make you consult with a therapist first. They “guarantee” their ESA letter approvals regardless of your condition and whether a therapy pet might truly benefit you.
We cannot stress enough that you should be careful about the ESA letter process, especially if you choose an online service provider.
The reason for this abundance of caution is because a fake ESA letter could mean having your rights denied, similar to having a fake ID and trying to buy alcohol. If your ESA letter is identified as fake, no one owes you any of the courtesies or privileges that you’d enjoy with a valid letter.
How can you tell a valid ESA letter apart from a fake? Look for these telltale signs of an authentic letter:
Letters that check all these boxes should undergo further scrutiny, as many can look valid on the surface but be filled with other red flags.
Companies that make fake ESA letters are usually easy to spot. Look for the following signs:
Taking time to vet your ESA letter source can be a huge time saver, not to mention the money and hassle you’ll save when you do it right the first time.
If you are experiencing a mental health illness or disorder, know there are many treatment options available and real healthcare professionals who want to help you succeed. One viable option worth looking into is an emotional support animal that can provide comfort in times of distress.
To find out if you qualify for an ESA letter, take our free ESA evaluation today!