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 (ie registered therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist) 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). You must find it difficult or unable to perform major life activities due to your emotional disability.
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.
How Do I Get an ESA Letter?
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 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 “no pets” policy housing and by participating airlines.
When flying with your ESA on a participating airline, let the airline know you will be flying with an emotional support animal at least 48 hours in advance. You will be expected to present your ESA letter in order for your ESA to be allowed into the cabin of the aircraft. You may also be required to submit additional airline-specific documentation on time.
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 get special privileges for their family pets, building owners are becoming increasingly suspicious of ESA letters. This is why it is vital that you follow the rules for obtaining this important letter.
If you have a documented need for an ESA and your ESA is denied access to “no pets” policy buildings 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 fewer 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).
You and Your ESA
Emotional support animals are more than pets and therefore you can exercise your rights to live with your ESA in most types of housing. Go through the proper channels to obtain a legitimate ESA letter, then start living your life to the fullest.