There will always be naysayers who question the legitimacy of Emotional Support Animals. In a world of “online everything” there can be confusion regarding ESA services and online documentation. Uncertainty has grown due to unfortunate abuse of the system over time, but truth remains that ESAs are a vital part of life for many individuals, including myself! My dog is my lifeline, and his assistance is key to my everyday functionality. For this reason, I genuinely hope to inform individuals regarding how to get a legitimate Emotional Support Animal and ESA letter.
Emotional Support Animals (or ESAs) are animals that assist individuals in managing a mental health disability. Some common mental health disabilities that may qualify for an ESA include anxiety, depression, autism, bipolar, attention deficit disorder (ADD), chronic stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Emotional Support Animals do not require any special training since they provide comfort just by being present! They do not need to carry out any specified tasks like Service Animals do. They are, as their title implies, support for states of emotion.
Regardless of who you are, expressing emotions can be a challenge. For those who deal with mental health struggles, this is even more true. A myriad of psychological disorders can leave one feeling misunderstood, hopeless, scared, or unloveable by other people. Hooman relationships can be tricky and sometimes complicated. Animal relationships, however, are another story! Emotional Support Animals always offer unconditional love. Their support is without boundaries, expectations, or judgments. You don’t have to explain to feel accepted. When you are not yourself, your animal just KNOWS.
The most common types of ESAs are cats and dogs, but many species of animals can be considered for the position. If you find hope, devotion, and connection in the companionship of an iguana or bunny, nobody will hold that against you! However, it is important to note that the only animal recognized by the ADA for official Service Animal status is a dog. You can read more in-depth about the difference between an ESA and a Psychiatric Service Dog here.
To qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in the US, an individual must have an emotional or mental health disability certified by a licensed healthcare professional. These disabilities are often invisible to the general public, and that is understood. However, the effects must be substantial enough to interfere with daily life functions. Precise activities are not outlined by law, but they can be anything from eating and drinking to merely getting out of bed.
Sadly, mental health disabilities have a long-standing stigma associated with weakness or inadequacy. This is far from the truth. Many Americans (about 1 in 4 adults, to be exact) struggle with at least one mental health disorder. This shouldn’t be surprising given the unprecedented times we live in. You may have read about Simone Biles, the highly decorated US Olympian gymnast, who stepped down from the 2021 competition spotlight recently. Her reasoning? She cited the need to ensure her mental stability. More and more people from all walks of life are coming forward to speak up regarding the vital role psychological health plays in our overall well-being.
There are many ways to manage the varying symptoms and effects of these struggles. I strongly believe in the power and capabilities of Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs as the first line of treatment. I can say that because I own one! But I am not the only person who feels this way. Many have experienced the benefits of owning an assistance animal. If you don’t believe me, take a moment to read this first-hand account of a young woman’s journey with anxiety. Those who are struggling are not alone. Many qualify for a mental health disability, and everybody deserves the help they need.
Emotional Support Animals are different from Service Animals and are therefore not protected under the same ADA umbrella. ESAs provide comfort and emotional assistance in everyday living situations. For this reason, they have housing protections through the Fair Housing Act (FHA). They do not have specific travel or public access rights like Service Animals do. However, some public establishments and travel partners will permit you to bring your ESA along.
With proper documentation, you may request an ESA accommodation from a landlord or housing authority. The request can be given orally or in writing, does not have to carry any specific language to be acceptable, and may be presented at ANY time (even after the animal is already residing in the home). A landlord cannot discriminate against the species, breed, size, or age of your ESA. There are only four situations, according to HUD, in which a landlord or housing authority can lawfully deny an ESA accommodation request. In most cases, your ESA must be accepted! You can read more about all of your official rights as an ESA owner here.
The first part, as mentioned, is to ensure that you have a qualifying mental health disability under the ADA’s provided definition. From there, you need only obtain a letter from a licensed healthcare professional who is actively practicing in your state of residence. Some people have access to a regular healthcare provider who may be able to offer this service. If you do not, however, American Service Pets can most certainly help. ASP partners with an extensive network of doctors across the nation. Their letters are legitimate, easily verifiable, and provide all of the appropriate documentation regarding an emotional support animal’s individual necessity. Having my ESA letter from American Service Pets made my housing transition so much easier.
1. Visit the main website at americanservicepets.com and take a look around.
2. Click on the questionnaire button.
3. Complete the information so that licensed doctors can determine your qualification.
4. Choose the package that meets your specific needs.
5. Wait 24-48 hrs for verification and receipt of your letter.
It’s really that simple! I understand the importance of being secure in your choice to invest in an ESA letter. I was hesitant at first. There are many companies out there looking to mislead the general public. American Service Pets is not one of them. I took the time to check out their reviews on the BBB and Shopper Approved Network. Additionally, they are available by phone, email, and social media channels to answer any questions. I had a lot of questions, and they answered every one of them with patience and kindness.
Yes. HUDs 2020 revisions acknowledge the legitimacy of remote (internet) services. The guidelines set for valid ESA letters are inclusive of online consultations. It is not true that only your primary care physician can issue an ESA letter. An authentic letter must state a connection between the individual disability and the need for an assistance animal. American Service Pets utilizes a thorough online questionnaire that allows their licensed health care professionals sufficient insight to make knowledgeable, independent ESA recommendations.
I hope that this guide has clarified what a legitimate ESA is and how to get an ESA letter for your housing needs. I would encourage anyone considering an Emotional Support Animal or who currently has one without verifiable documentation to reach out to American Service Pets and see how they can help!
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you on the path. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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