Emotional Support Animal Doctor Prescription Guide
What Is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is a prescription letter written by a licensed mental health professional that recommends your pet as your Emotional Support Animal.
For those people who suffer from an emotional or mental disability, there’s a treatment that doesn’t involve drugs; an emotional support animal (ESA).
An ESA can be of any species and is there to provide comfort, companionship, and even a boost of confidence for you. However, having an emotional support animal may not be as simple as having a family pet and calling it an ESA.
In this post, we will take a look at the proper channels in which to get an emotional support animal and a legitimate ESA letter.
What is an ESA Letter & How Do I Get One?
An ESA letter is a prescription letter written by your mental health professional (ie registered therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist) stating that the animal you have been prescribed is there to assist you in living a normal life. You must find it difficult or unable to perform major life activities due to your emotional disability. However, if you have suicidal thoughts or tendency, a therapist may not be able to assist you through tele-health therapy ethics.
The letter must be written on your mental health professional’s own letterhead and will include his/her name, license number, date of issue and place it was issued. It should also include his/her signature. Your ESA letter may only be accepted for one-year of the issued date so annual renewals may be required.
In order to qualify for an ESA letter, you must have a mental or emotional issue that falls under the documented illnesses laid out by the DSM-IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5) which your mental health professional will either know of or have access to.
Who Will Accept My ESA Prescription Letter?
An emotional support animal is not considered a service animal and has different rights under Federal law.
Your ESA prescription letter should be accepted by both airlines and “no pets” policy housing.
When flying with your ESA, you are asked to make your reservations at least 48 hours in advance and to let them know you will be flying with an emotional support animal. You will be expected to present your ESA letter in order for your dog/cat/bird etc. to be allowed into the cabin of the aircraft at no extra charge to you.
When it comes to “no pets” policy housing, your ESA letter will be presented to the building manager/owner. Once accepted you should have the same rights to the building and areas as any other tenant would. The landlord/owner of the building also cannot charge you any extra fees for having an ESA. However, if your animal should do damage to the property, you can be held liable and even evicted if the issue(s) are serious enough.
What Can I Do If My ESA Letter is Not Accepted?
Since there are a number of people trying to use family pets to get special privileges, airlines and building owners are becoming more suspicious of the ESA letters. This is why it is vitally important that you follow the rules to obtaining this important letter.
If you have a documented need for an ESA and your ESA is denied access to “no pets” policy buildings or the airline there are actions you can take.
The Fair Housing Act (HUD) protects people with emotional support animals, so they would be your first line of defense.
Your second option would be to contact a lawyer and have that person write a letter on your behalf to the building owner/landlord.
Lastly, there are ESA advocates that may also be able to step in and point you in the right direction.
However, be also aware that not all landlords have to accept an ESA. These circumstances include when the building has four or less single dwellings and the landlord occupies one of them and when the house has been rented or sold without a real estate broker (private sale).
If your ESA letter is not accepted by the airline, there should be a contact number that each airline will provide (in person or on their website) for further assistance. Some airlines have special wording request or even their own document to complete. This is why it is important to notify the airline ahead of time so you feel confident that you are traveling with all the correct paperwork.
You and Your ESA
Emotional support animals are not only pets and therefore you can exercise your rights to having one when it comes to both housing and airlines. Go through the proper channels to obtain a legitimate ESA letter, then start living your life to the fullest. If you have problems with either landlords or airlines, then contact the appropriate service to get the rights you deserve.