As everyone with a furry friend knows, dogs, cats, and other pets can provide us with a great sense of comfort and stability. While we all love our pets, for some people, having an animal companion by their side is integral to their functioning daily. In cases like these, an individual can opt to turn their pet into an emotional support animal (ESA).
Under federal law, the only legitimate way to turn your pet into an ESA is to obtain a recommendation letter from a licensed mental health professional. This recommendation letter is also known as an ESA Letter or emotional support animal letter. In this article, we will walk you through what an emotional support animal letter is and how you can legally obtain one through a reliable online service.
- What is an emotional support animal? – an emotional support animal is an assistance animal that provides comfort and support through its mere presence
- What is an emotional support animal letter? – an ESA letter is a recommendation from your doctor stating that your emotional support animal is a vital part of your mental health treatment
- How to get an ESA Letter Online – there are many reliable online services that can help provide individuals with legitimate ESA Letters. Five of the top ESA-related services include:
Get your legitimate ESA Letter. Free pre-screening. 100% Money back guarantee.
What is an emotional support animal?
According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, an emotional support animal is any animal that provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, certain phobias, and other mental health disorders. However, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not trained to perform tasks related to their handler’s mental or emotional disability.
While dogs are the most common type of ESA, emotional support animals can be any species of animal. Other common emotional support animals include cats, hamsters, reptiles, and occasionally, miniature horses. That being said, the vast majority of ESAs are not rare, exotic, or barnyard creatures.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, housing providers are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow individuals with disabilities to keep an assistance animal in their home. This law was established to prevent housing providers from discriminating against certain individuals, including those with disabilities. Under this federal law, emotional support animals are not considered pets, and can therefore live in buildings even with “no pets” policies. Emotional support animals are also exempt from any pet-related building policies including mandatory pet deposits, regular pet fees, and breed restrictions.
What is an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
Despite what you may have heard, you cannot certify an emotional support animal with a registration or license. Instead, to turn your dog or cat into an emotional support animal, you must obtain a legitimate ESA letter.
One can think of an emotional support animal letter as a glorified doctor’s note. The purpose of the ESA letter is to help your landlord or building owner understand the importance of your animal and the purpose that it serves. This letter will essentially be a recommendation from your doctor stating that your emotional support animal is a vital part of your mental health support system and is a critical factor in helping maintain your general wellbeing. After receiving your ESA Letter, you will then present this document to your landlord or building owner. This is the only document that you must provide your landlord with to live with your emotional support animal. While your landlord has the right to check the validity and legitimacy of your letter, they cannot ask you to provide them with any additional information or documentation. Therefore, when it comes to living with your emotional support animal, the ESA letter is the most important piece of the puzzle.
What does an ESA letter look like?
There is no specific format or structure that your ESA letter must follow. However, there are several key pieces of information that your ESA letter must include.
Your letter must include the license number, type, and signature of the licensed mental health professional (LMHP) who issued you the letter, as well as the date it was issued. Additionally, the ESA letter must express that you have a mental or emotional condition that qualifies you for an Emotional support animal prescription. It will often explain why the animal is necessary to help you live a full life, and how your ESA helps alleviate the symptoms caused by your diagnosed mental condition. While it is not necessary, the ESA letter might also include information about your emotional support animal, such as their breed. It will also contain information about you, the owner, and any details that your licensed mental health professional thinks are important to include. Lastly, your letter will most certainly include your licensed mental health professional’s recommendation that you use an ESA as a part of the treatment for your mental and emotional disorder.
Who can write an ESA letter?
Under the Fair Housing Act, a valid emotional support animal letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). A licensed mental health professional is not limited to therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. LMHPs also include clinical social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, licensed counselors, and other licensed professionals responsible for mental health.
If you get your letter from an unlicensed individual, a fake online company, or you choose to write it yourself, a housing provider will not recognize your letter. It is extremely easy for landlords to confirm the validity of an ESA letter, therefore, your ESA letter must be legitimate. If you present your landlord with an illegitimate ESA letter, you may lose credibility with this individual, making it harder to secure accommodation down the line.
Even if a mental health practitioner can legally provide you with an ESA letter, they might not know the ins and outs of how to write one. If that is the case, they will most likely be able to recommend you to someone more of an expert in the matter. If you are not currently seeing a therapist or another LMHP, many online services specialize in providing individuals with ESA letters. The U.S Department of Housing specifically states in their guidelines that individuals can obtain ESA-related services through professionals that provide services remotely, including over the internet.
How to get an ESA letter online
Most online ESA-related services operate very similarly. Individuals will typically fill out an initial questionnaire and will then get matched to a licensed mental health professional within the company’s network. After completing an evaluation, the therapist will determine whether or not you qualify for an emotional support animal. If the answer is yes, then the service will provide you with your ESA letter.
That being said, not all ESA-related services were created equal, and some are certainly more reliable and trustworthy than others. In the section below we will outline the top five ESA letter services online, as well as the pros and cons of using each one.
Best Online ESA Services
When it comes to online ESA-related services, Pettable is a tough one to top. This premier site is not only fully compliant with federal and state laws, but it has also been recognized by Fox, NBC, USA Today, and CBS. Amongst the handful of top-rated ESA-related services online, Pettable positions itself as a leading service through its devoted customer service team and full money-back guarantee. Pettable’s team provides customers with a phone number that they can call 24 hours a day. There is also a live chat window on their website if you have any questions you need immediate answers to. Additionally, if you are experiencing any difficulties with your landlord or housing provider after you have received your ESA letter, Pettable’s best-in-class legal support is a wonderful resource for you to take advantage of. To top that off, if you ultimately do not qualify for an ESA, then Pettable will give you a full refund after you complete your LMHP consultation.
The process of obtaining your ESA letter through Pettable requires three simple steps. First, a client will complete a free pre-screening assessment, answering a few questions about why you need an ESA. After getting matched with a professional in your state and completing an evaluation, you will then receive your ESA letter within 24 hours of your consultation.
- 24/7 customer service support
- Complimentary legal services
- A world-class team of mental health professionals
- 24 hour ESA letter turnaround
- Full money-back guarantee
- Easy online process
- Will match you with a professional in your state
- May receive marketing emails after using service (easy to unsubscribe)
- Full payment is required before ESA owner approval
Bottom Line: Pettable positions itself as a top-rated service through its unparalleled customer service, full money-back guarantee, and 24 hour ESA letter turnaround.
ESA Doctors is another reliable online service that individuals can use to obtain an ESA Letter. This socially conscious company donates a portion of its proceeds to animal welfare causes. It is also a great resource if you are looking to learn more about emotional support animals and other assistance animals.
ESA Doctors follow a similar online process as Pettable. Clients will fill out a free pre-screening quiz before getting matched with an LMHP. One of the downsides of using ESA Doctors is that it’s slightly unclear how this company determines your ESA eligibility. In some areas of the site, the company claims to rely on the original pre-screening quiz, whereas in other sections it states that this decision is made based on the LMHP evaluation. Aside from those discrepancies, ESA Doctors is a reliable and trustworthy company. One of the main standout features of their website is that ESA Doctors provides you with pricing information upfront and a full money-back guarantee. Like Pettable, ESA Doctors will also go above and beyond to help their clients, even after they have received their ESA letters. However, these services are not complementary and cost clients additional “priority support” fees.
- Full money-back guarantee
- Donates funds to animal welfare causes
- Provides information and resources on their website
- Pricing is available upfront
- Clients may need to wait several business days to receive their ESA letter
- Priority support costs additional fees
- The website includes some confusing discrepancies
Bottom Line: You may need to pay a little extra to receive their full services, but ESA Doctors is both a trustworthy service provider and a great resource if you are looking to learn more about assistance animals
US Service Animals
Founded by lawyers, US Service Animals is another trustworthy ESA Letter provider that pet-owners should feel comfortable using. With their background in legal work, clients can feel 100% assured that this company is complying with federal and state law. US Service Animals has been in operation since 2015 and is currently the largest ESA letter referral service in the country. While ESA owners do not require these, US Service Animals can also provide owners with vests, collars, and tags to mark their ESA as an assistance animal. One of the biggest perks to using US Service Animals services is that once you receive your ESA letter, this letter is valid for the lifetime of your animal. This means that you only need to go through the ESA letter process once.
Like many of the other top-rated ESA services, US Service Animals offers its clients a full money-back guarantee if they do not ultimately qualify for an emotional support animal. However, to receive your refund, you must go through a legal interview first.
- Founded by lawyers
- Largest ESA-related service in the country
- Registration is valid for the entirety of your animal’s lifetime
- Legal interview required to receive a full refund
- The customer service team will not speak directly with the landlord
Bottom Line: US Service Animals is the largest ESA-related service in the country and offers its clients numerous perks. However, you might want to be fairly sure that you qualify for an ESA before opting for their services to avoid the process of securing a refund.
Joining the ranks of reliable ESA-related services is CertaPet. By abiding by federal and state laws, this well-known service has helped over 65,000 customers secure legitimate ESA Letters.
CertaPet also has a loyal and devoted customer service team who is committed to helping CertaPet customers even after they have received their ESA Letters. One thing to keep in mind is that CertaPet does include some misleading information on its site. CertaPet’s official site indicates that ESA owners can bring their animal onto an aircraft with no additional fees. While this used to be the case, this protection by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACT) was altered in 2021, and no longer applies to ESAs. Under the U.S Department of Transportation, emotional support animals are no longer considered assistance animals. Additionally, CertaPet does not provide its clients with a full refund if they do not end up qualifying for an ESA. Customers are required to pay a $35 consultation fee regardless of whether or not they end up receiving an ESA letter.
- Fast turnaround for ESA Letters
- Offers consultations for both ESAs and PSDs
- Money-back guarantee doesn’t cover consultation fee
- The website lists outdated information about airline rights
Bottom Line: CertaPet is a reliable and trustworthy ESA-related service, but customers are not guaranteed a full refund if they do not qualify for an emotional support animal
Fast ESA Letter
Fast ESA Letter is another online ESA-related service that can provide pet owners with ESA Letters. One of the biggest benefits of using Fast ESA Letter is that this company provides customers with pricing information upfront. An ESA Letter for Housing will cost an individual $89. However, there are some issues that interested customers should be aware of. This company still offers “ESA Letters for Travel,” even though emotional support animals are no longer given special air travel rights. Additionally, this company has not been certified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as a legitimate business.
- Provides pricing information upfront
- The website includes outdated information and packages
- Not BBB certified
Bottom line: While this company does conveniently provide pricing information upfront, it has not been certified by the BBB as a legitimate business.
FAQs on Emotional Support Animal letters
How long is an ESA letter good for?
While this rule varies from state to state, emotional support animal letters often expire after one year. Therefore, if your ESA letter was issued more than one year ago, the safest option would be to get your ESA letter renewed.
Are emotional support animals service animals?
While these terms are often used interchangeably, emotional support animals and service animals are very different. Emotional support animals do not receive any special training and provide therapeutic benefits through their mere presence. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks to assist their handler. While service animals must be dogs, emotional support animals can be any animal species.
What does an ESA letter do?
An ESA letter is a legal document that allows owners to live with their assistance animals, regardless of whether or not pets are allowed in a building. An ESA letter is meant to showcase the fact that an ESA is not a normal pet, but rather a critical tool to helping its owner maintain a full life.
What kind of doctor can write an ESA letter?
A valid ESA letter must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). This includes therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, licensed counselors, and other licensed professionals responsible for mental health.
Can a landlord deny an ESA letter?
In most cases, a landlord must accept an ESA letter, if it is indeed a legitimate emotional support animal letter. However, there are some exceptions to that rule. If your ESA is overly disruptive or dangerous, if it threatens the health or safety of tenants, or if it is too large for a certain accommodation, then a landlord may reject your ESA.
Do I Qualify for an ESA Letter?
Before you can get an emotional support animal (ESA) letter, you first need to determine if you qualify for one. To be eligible, you must have been diagnosed with an emotional or mental disability by a licensed mental health professional. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Anxiety is extreme feelings of worry, fear, or unease that can interfere with daily activities. It’s a common mental health issue that affects people of all ages.
- Depression is a mental health condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
- ADHD is a mental health condition that qualifies you for ESA. It is a disorder that affects attention and hyperactivity.
- Learning Disabilities are also mental health conditions that qualify you for ESA. These disabilities affect how a person learns and may cause difficulties in school.
- Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that can cause mood swings, irritability, and changes in energy levels.
- Organic Brain Syndrome is a mental health condition caused by damage to the brain. This damage can be from accidents, illnesses, or substance abuse.
- PTSD, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition that often affects people who’ve gone through traumatic events. These include war, accidents, torture, or kidnapping.
You will likely be qualified if you have a documented condition history and are currently receiving treatment.
Once you have established that you are eligible, you will need to obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional. They will provide the letter that an ESA would provide therapeutic benefits for any of these conditions. With this letter, you can legally register your animal and bring them with you in public places.
Four Steps in Getting an ESA Letter
If you qualify for an ESA letter, you may follow the following four steps to getting an ESA letter:
- Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
- Discuss your symptoms and how an emotional support animal would help alleviate them.
- If the mental health professional determines that you would benefit from an ESA, they will write a letter recommending you get one.
- Once you have the letter, you can register your animal as an emotional support animal.
Enjoy all the benefits that come with it. These benefits include living with your animal in no-pet housing and having it accompany you on airplane flights.
How to get an ESA
After getting your ESA letter, the next step is getting a pet. Given that no special training is required, your pet can become your emotional support animal. It’s also likely that it can be certified for this service.
If you don’t have a pet, it would be in your best interest to decide what type of animal is best for you. After all, getting an emotional support animal is similar to getting any other pet. Ideally, if your ESA choice is a do, look for a breed that will suit your needs.
Size and maintenance also matter. You can get help from your mental health professional for this step or your local animal adoption agencies.
- What does an ESA letter look like?
- Who can write an ESA letter?
- How to get an ESA letter online
- Best Online ESA Services
- ESA Doctors
- FAQs on Emotional Support Animal letters
Does an ESA Letter Come Before the Emotional Support Animal?
The answer is yes. To qualify for an emotional support animal, you must have a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter will indicate that you have a diagnosed mental health condition and that your animal provides therapeutic benefits.
It would also help to indicate the type of animal you want. Once you have this letter, you can begin finding an emotional support animal that is right for you.
What to do if I Have Lost or Damaged my ESA Letter?
If you have lost or damaged your support animal letter, the first step is to contact your healthcare provider. Your health care provider can reissue the letter and may also be able to provide you with a temporary letter in the meantime.
You can contact a local mental health association or therapy center if you are not currently working with a health care provider. You may also find a list of qualified providers in your area on the internet.