Millions of people throughout the US live with a mental or emotional disability. Whether it is a diagnosed condition or not, these people often face daily challenges that can be overwhelming. For some, the symptoms of a mental illness can even be debilitating.
There are several treatment options for those who suffer from mental health conditions. Popular treatments include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Some people may also need the help of an emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides companionship and emotional support to those who need it. In most cases, you need to have an ESA letter from a mental health professional stating that the animal is necessary for your treatment. This article will discuss how to get an ESA letter for housing in 2022 with CertaPet.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner. ESAs are typically dogs or cats, but can technically be any animal. For example, some people have birds, pigs, and hedgehogs as their ESAs.
ESAs provide a sense of comfort and security to those who need them. They can also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Some people with crippling mental health conditions cannot live without their ESA.
An emotional support animal is categorized as a form of treatment for those who suffer from mental health conditions. The animal provides companionship and love, which can help reduce symptoms related to a mental illness. Since they are a component of treatment, they are usually prescribed by a medical professional and require the help of emotional support letter services.
Emotional Support Animals Versus Service Animals
There are key distinctions between emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals are specially trained to help their owner with a specific task. They are allowed in all public places and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Service dogs are groomed from a very young age to perform tasks related to their owner’s disability. For example, a service dog may help someone who is blind navigate in public. Common disabilities that service animals help with are:
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington's disease
Emotional support animals do not have the same legal protections as service animals. They lack the intense training and ability to assist with severe disabilities. Only certain places will allow them, such as pet-friendly areas.
Do I Need an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is a document that verifies that an animal is an emotional support animal. People who can prescribe emotional support animal letters include therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. For example, mental health professionals familiar with a patient's mental health conditions will issue the emotional support animal letter as a form of treatment.
A legitimate ESA letter states that the emotional support animal is necessary for the owner's treatment and should be afforded the legally-bound protections given to ESAs. For example, housing providers who don't allow pets in their rental properties cannot discriminate against you for owning one.
A valid ESA letter is also required by airlines when flying with an emotional support animal. Since pets are not allowed on most commercial flights, passengers must prove proof stating that their animal is an emotional support animal.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter for Housing
In many places across the country, landlords and property managers do not allow pets. However, the Fair Housing Act protects those with emotional support animals. This means that an ESA for housing remains legitimate, regardless of the landlord's pet policy.
Getting an ESA letter for housing can be tricky, but CertaPet makes the process very easy. Here is how to get an ESA letter in a few easy steps:
You will first need to complete a pre-screening questionnaire on the CertaPet website. The pre-screening will ask you to answer a few questions about yourself, your pet, and your mental health condition. For example, you will need to provide your name, home country (the U.S. or Canada), and additional information on your pet (breed and name).
Next, CertaPet will ask you about your current mental health state. These questions come with five answer choices that gauge how often you feel or behave a certain way. The rankings range between "never", "rarely", "sometimes", "often", or "always".
The first health-related question asks how you have been feeling recently. The next set of questions asks about your behavior, including sleep patterns, social activities, and coping mechanisms. Finally, CertaPet will evaluate your symptoms and ask about intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, impulsive actions, and suicidal thoughts.
When answering these questions, evaluate how you felt over the last two weeks and answer accordingly. It’s important to be as truthful as possible.
CertaPet will use the pre-screening to determine whether you are a good candidate for an ESA letter. If so, you will proceed to the next step and have an appointment with a mental health professional.
CertaPet will set up a telehealth consultation with a medical professional that is licensed in your state. During this consultation, you will have a chance to speak with the therapist about your condition and how an ESA can help improve your quality of life. They will evaluate your condition and ask you questions regarding:
- Your pre-screening answers
- The symptoms you experience
- How an ESA would help improve your mental health
- Your pet's personality and demeanor
If your therapist issues an emotional support animal as a part of your treatment plan, CertaPet will immediately send you a digital letter in PDF form. The letter will state that you are under the care of a licensed mental health professional who has prescribed an emotional support animal.
You can present this letter to your landlord or property manager to prove that you have a valid reason for having an emotional support animal. They will then be required to accommodate your ESA. According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords and property managers cannot evict you from your home or charge you an additional pet deposit if you have an emotional support animal.
CertaPet offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all its products and services. If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with your ESA letter, they will refund your money immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
ESA letters are becoming an increasingly popular way to provide proof of a disability to property managers, airlines, and other organizations. If you're thinking of getting an ESA letter for housing or travel accommodations, here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand the process.
Any domesticated animal can be an ESA. The most common types of ESAs are dogs and cats. Other popular pets include rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and birds. As long as your pet is friendly and well-behaved, it can qualify as an emotional support animal.
Because an emotional support animal will likely be in public areas, it’s important to carefully consider which breeds and animal types are best in those types of settings. Ensure that you can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your pet and those around you.
No exotic animals do not meet the qualifications to become emotional support animals. These animals typically require more specialized care and may not suit all households. Domestic animals are also safer when in public areas.
If you don't already have a pet, the best way to find an emotional support animal is to adopt one from a shelter or rescue organization. In addition, many online resources can help you find a pet compatible with your lifestyle and personality.
No. An ESA does not need specialized training or specific certifications. However, your pet must be comfortable around other people and animals. Socialize your pet from a young age and provide positive reinforcement when they exhibit good behavior.
Because of their growing popularity, many companies now offer ESA letters without requiring any evaluation from a mental health professional. These letters are not valid, and property managers will not recognize them as proof that you need an emotional support animal. Your ESA letter must be issued by a licensed mental health professional for it to be considered legitimate.
When you get a legitimate ESA letter, online mental health professionals will always print it on the issuer's letterhead. The prescribing professional will also sign and date it. Additionally, they will clearly state that you have a confirmed disability and that your emotional support animal provides you with the support you need.
Furthermore, beware of online ESA letter scams that promise "free" ESA letters in return for signing up for a subscription service. These offers are not valid and you should avoid them.
The Air Carrier Access Act has recently restricted an emotional support animal’s ability to travel in an airplane cabin with its owner. The decision is now entirely up to the airlines. This means that ESA policies will differ depending on which airline you are flying.
For example, certain airlines may enact additional restrictions during busy travel periods. Others may not accommodate emotional support animals at all. It’s best to check the airline’s policy on ESAs before booking your flight.
If permitted on the flight, your ESA should be well-behaved and housebroken. You will be responsible for any damage your ESA causes to the aircraft. It’s important to prepare them for a calm and stress-free flight.
An emotional support animal is protected under the Fair Housing Act, as long as it’s considered a "reasonable accommodation". Therefore, you are not required to move if you have an ESA, no matter what housing providers say.
The Fair Housing Act also prevents landlords from discriminating against you for your disability or because you own an ESA. You simply have to present them with your valid ESA letter.
If you fear animals, an emotional support animal may not be a suitable treatment for you. It’s best to consult your mental health professional and explain the situation. They will be able to provide you with more information and help you decide what's the best treatment options for your needs. If you are willing to work through your fear, an ESA can be a great way to overcome it.
Emotional support animals do not have special training, but they do provide companionship and relieve loneliness. Many people diagnosed with a mental or emotional disability —such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, etc. — are prescribed an ESA letter for these very reasons.
It’s essential to work with a legitimate ESA letter service, like CertaPet. Your housing provider will then be required to make reasonable accommodations that are necessary for you to fully use and enjoy the housing with your disability and emotional support animal. This stands true regardless of a “no pets” policy.