What is an Assistance or Emotional Support Animal?
Different from a pet, an emotional support animal, or assistance animal, is an animal that gives a person with a psychiatric or mental disability some therapeutic benefit. It is a type of companion animal that requires a person requesting one to have a diagnosed disability that can be verified. According to the 1998 Fair Housing Amendments Act, an emotional support animal is considered a “reasonable accommodation” from any rule against pets in housing.
Is there any difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal?
Service animals are specially trained to perform certain duties to help people with physical or emotional disabilities, such as blindness or being bound to a wheelchair, to live independent lives. Service dogs may even be trained to calm an individual suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or alert someone if the person has a seizure. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not trained in special skills such as these and are not expected to perform certain tasks for an individual. Nor are emotional support animals even required to obtain any specific or specialized training to be considered emotional support animals. Rather, emotional support or assistance animals provide emotional support through their companionship. Service animals are permitted inside public facilities where animals are not usually permitted, while emotional support animals are not.
Are there any exceptions to the Fair Housing Act?
While the FHA applies to almost every type of housing, including single-family homes, apartments and condominiums both for rent and sale, there are exceptions. Owner-occupied homes with four or fewer units are excepted from the FHA rules, as are single-family houses sold by the owner without the aid of an agent. In addition, if a private club or religious organization operates housing with occupancy restricted to only its members, that housing too is exempted from FHA rules. This does not necessarily mean these types of housing prohibit emotional service animals, but it does mean they may do so under law if they want to.
What is taken into consideration by a landlord or other housing provider upon receiving a request for an assistance or emotional support animal??
A housing provider or landlord takes two basic things into consideration when you make a request for an emotional support animal. First, he or she considers whether you have a verifiable mental or physical disability that significantly impairs your ability to function or engage in one or more basic life activities. He or she then considers whether you have a need for an emotional support animal that relates directly to your disability. In other words, upon identifying a disability and the ways in which that disability impairs a person’s life, will an emotional support animal actually assist in alleviating those specific problems?
What documents must I provide to be approved for an emotional support animal?
The first step to getting an emotional support animal is to formally request the permission of your landlord or housing provider to have one. If your disability is not obvious, this person may legally request you provide documentation verifying your claim of disability, as well as documentation of a need related to your disability that would necessitate having an emotional support animal. You do not necessarily need to disclose your exact disability or diagnosis, as long as you can have a doctor or other health care professional (like a social worker, psychiatrist or other mental health professional) state in writing that you do indeed have one and that an emotional support animal will indeed help you to better mitigate the symptoms of that disability.
Is a landlord or housing provider permitted to request details of my disability?
A landlord or housing provider can only request documentation verifying the presence of a disability and a need related to that disability for an emotional support animal. The landlord or housing provider may not inquire for details of the nature of the disability or any other personal medical-related information. He or she may not ask you to document or detail your exact impairments, nor may he or she ask for medical records or access to your medical providers.
How can I prepare my emotional support animal for air travel?
If your emotional support animal has never traveled with you on a plane before, there is a lot about the experience that will be new to him or her. Your ESA may be unfamiliar with the environment of an airport, with being examined and inspected by various personnel and with sitting at your feet in a confined space, among other common air travel situations. Moreover, your ESA may be unfamiliar with the sensations of air travel, including takeoff and landing, turbulence and air pressure changes. Anything you can do to make your ESA more comfortable throughout this experience will only help your ESA to continue providing you the emotional support for which his or her presence is intended. Make sure your ESA is prepared enough to be calm, obedient and well-mannered, as any number of airport or airline staff can refuse your ESA passage even if you have all of your proper paperwork in order, if that person still deems your ESA a nuisance or a health or safety threat to crew or passengers. A good guide to go by is the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Good Citizen training objectives. If your ESA can meet all of the following guidelines, you should have no problem being allowed to take him or her on a plane with you:
- Be receptive to the approach of a friendly stranger.
- Sit calmly to be pet by a friendly stranger.
- Heal on a leash.
- Walk through a crowd of people calmly.
- Sit, stay and lie down on command in place.
- Come on command.
- Act politely toward other animals.
- Respond to distractions appropriately.
How long does it take to get approved for an ESA?
Provided you meet all the qualifications for an ESA, your letter is issued in digital PDF form within one hour. Additionally, a physical copy of your letter will be sent by way of US Postal Service Priority Mail for you to receive within two to three days. If that time expires and you still have not received your letter, we invite you to reach out to our customer service team to follow up.
What is your refund policy?
All consultations with a mental health professional on the Certifymypet.com network are backed by the Verificationesa.com Money-Back Guarantee. It ensures that if your applications gets refused or rejected by Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) we arrange for you to see, no matter the reason, you will be refunded your full fee minus a $35 consultation fee.
What types of Licensed Mental Health Professional will I see?
We will select a LMHP legally authorized to approve letters for Emotional Support Animals in your state of primary residence. We have a comprehensive variety of LMHPs on our team, including Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. All LMHP’s in our network have passed the appropriate medical board examinations and are completely qualified.
What is contained in an ESA letter?
Your ESA letter will be produced on the professional letterhead of the LMHP signing it and include his or her name, license number and contact information. Within the body of the letter will be all the necessary information required for an ESA letter to be legal and legitimate, including a statement that you have a qualifying diagnosis and that an ESA would be helpful in alleviating at least some of the symptoms of that diagnosis. The letter will not state the name or nature of your diagnosis other than that it is a qualifying mental health diagnosis for an ESA. The letter will not identify your ESA, which is why airport personnel still have the authority to examine your ESA and make sure he or she meets all the other necessary qualifications for air travel.
Is any other paperwork besides an ESA letter required for air travel?
Certain airlines may require additional forms to be filled out and submitted to permit an ESA to travel with you, including Alaska and Delta Airlines and possibly Jet Blue and Spirit Airlines as well. Be sure to check with the airline or airlines with which you will be traveling to make sure you meet all their requirements as well, including providing any additional documentation, to travel with your ESA. If an airline has a custom form it requires for you to travel with an ESA, you can download that airline’s specific form directly by logging into your Certifymypet.com account. Then just ask the same LMHP who signed your original ESA letter to sign this custom form as well.
Are any special accessories like ID cards or ESA vests also required for me to travel with my ESA?
The only item legally required for you to travel with your ESA is a properly completed ESA letter. Other accessories like ESA vests and ID cards are optional, though recommended as they help to more easily identify an animal as an ESA to air travel personnel and other passengers.
Am I allowed to have ESA letters for more than one animal?
Rarely will a LMHP authorize more than one ESA to any single individual, mostly because it is quite hard to justify the clinical necessity for a person to have more than one ESA. Moreover, both airlines and housing authorities are averse to permitting more than one ESA by a single passenger or resident.