One in every five people in America suffers from a mental illness. Yet, despite millions of Americans confronting mental and emotional disabilities and disorders, over two-thirds of them choose not to seek out assistance for those concerns. Unfortunately for them, those people are denying themselves many of the services and rights designed to help people just like themselves.
An emotional support animal can be a profound aid to a person with a mental or emotional disability unable to do some of the activities most people take for granted. With an emotional support animal, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows a person to fly on a plane with an ESA accompanying him or her when he or she otherwise could not do so without the ESA’s companionship, calming and comfort. Likewise, according to the Federal Housing Act, a person and his or her ESA could take residence together in housing where pets are normally prohibited, when that person may not be capable of taking residence in that or any housing at all without the aid and support of an ESA.
As per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to be authorized to exercise the rights granted to people with an emotional support animal, you need one piece of documentation and one piece only: an emotional support animal letter (ESA letter.) Within the bounds of that law, however, airlines and housing authorities are permitted to place certain reasonable restrictions, exceptions and additional requirements on that authority. Most of the airlines require additional verification and airline specific forms. At Certifymypet.com we provide those forms and verification directly with the practitioner.
Sample of ESA Letter
ESA Letter Requirements
In order to be considered valid to allow your ESA on an airplane with you at no extra charge or to move into “no pet” housing with your ESA, also with no extra deposits or fees, your emotional support animal letter must meet certain requirements.
Only a licensed physician or Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP), such as a therapist, licensed to practice in the state where you live can write and sign an emotional support animal letter. An emotional support animal from a doctor or LMHP who is not licensed to practice in your state of residence is not valid. If the professional’s medical license has expired or been suspended or revoked, an emotional support letter from that professional may be invalidated. Assuming the professional’s medical license is current and valid, the emotional support animal letter this person provides for you must be printed on his or her own official letterhead and must include the following information about him or her:
- The LMHP or doctor’s type of medical license
- The state in which the license was issued
- The date when the LMHP or doctor’s medical license was issued
- The name of the LMHP or doctor’s practice
- The practice’s phone number
- A statement that the doctor or LMHP is treating your for a disorder or disability listed in the DSM-5. (More on that below.)
You can have your own doctor or therapist write you an emotional support animal letter, but there could be any number of reasons why that may not be practical. You may not have such a medical professional at your disposal and/or could not afford, schedule or otherwise arrange to see one for this concern, or at least not in a timely manner according to your travel or housing needs. These are just a few examples of the many reasons why you may need help finding a different doctor, therapist or other LMHP to write you a valid emotional support animal letter. Fortunately, Certifymypet can help you do just that. Firstly, however, a bit more on what a valid and legitimate emotional support animal letter must contain is provided below.
The physician or LMHP who writes your emotional support animal letter must also sign and date it. The date is important because an emotional support animal letter is only valid for one year from the date it was signed, at which point you must get a new one from your physician or LMHP.
While an emotional support animal letter need not and ought not identify the specific diagnosis of the disability or disorder in question, the letter must state that the person named in the letter has a diagnosed mental or emotional disorder or disability that is recognized in the DSM-5. This includes, but is not limited to, common conditions like the following:
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Stress disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Fears and phobias
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Personality disorders
Moreover, the letter must state that this disorder or disability impairs your capacity to engage in certain activities on your own, such as traveling by plane or living on your own as well as caring for yourself, learning, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, communicating, working or concentrating.
Note that the disability or disorder must be mental or emotional, as having a physical disability or disorder does not qualify you for an emotional support animal but rather a service animal. Note as well, on that same topic, if you have both a physical and a mental or emotional disability or disorder, you would be well advised to seek a service animal that could also provide the emotional support you need, as service animals have more rights than emotional support animals and are capable of performing tasks you may need help with for your physical disability or disorder.
Further, the emotional support animal letter must go on to state that it is the opinion of the doctor or LMHP writing and signing the letter that an emotional support animal might relieve enough of the symptoms of your mental or emotional disorder or disorder that you would then become able to engage in those activities in which you are currently unable to engage because of that disability or disorder.
Certain airlines might require additional information be included on your emotional support animal letter for them to approve your ESA for travel. They may require your emotional support animal letter also state that you need your ESA to travel and the breed and/or weight of your ESA.
Furthermore, in addition to your emotional support animal letter, there are certain other letters or documents you may be required to present in order to fly on a particular airline’s flights or take residence in certain housing, namely:
- A statement of responsibility that your ESA is safe and behaved enough to travel by air or live in shared housing both to staff, other passengers or residents, yourself, the animal itself and all physical property, and that you take full responsibility for all your ESA’s actions. Keep in mind that, while your ESA may not be required to be trained to perform specific tasks for you, it must still be trained enough to behave around other people, including children and people in uniforms, as well as personal, private and public property and other animals. Your ESA must be effectively under your control at all times and remain reasonably quiet and still at your side or your feet or in your arms or lap as necessary.
- Current vaccination and health records showing your ESA is safe and healthy to travel or live in a building where other people and animals live and/or work without posing a risk to them, the animal or yourself.
If your ESA fails to meet these qualifications or becomes a disturbance later on after already being admitted passage or residence, you can be asked to remove the animal from the premises. By the same token, if you have all your proper credentials and your ESA remains well-behaved, airlines and landlords are required by law to accommodate you and your ESA. Moreover, a landlord is not allowed to deny you reasonable accommodations because he or she is not sure you actually have a disability or disorder or that the disability or disorder you have does not require accommodations for an assistance animal.
Why Get Your ESA Letter Through Certifymypet.com
As the above has made clear, you can get your emotional support animal letter from any licensed physician or Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. There are numerous advantages, however, to getting your letter through ESA registration with Certifymypet. First of all its a convenience of receiving healthcare services through telemedicine.
When you register at Certifymypet, you fill out a short intake form that helps Certifymypet to locate the right doctor best suited to help you. Certifymypet then sets you up with a one-on-one consultation via video-conference with a physician licensed to practice in the state where you live. Within one to five days from submitting your registration form, you will be contacted directly by the doctor chosen to consult with you. Not all applicants will be approved for emotional support animal letters, as not all people qualify for one. This fact gives you the confidence that, if you are approved for an emotional support animal letter, you meet all the qualifications and can count on a legitimate and verifiable emotional support animal letter backing that up. The fact that the letter you get from registering with Certifymypet is a physician rather than just an LMHP who writes you your emotional support animal letter gives that letter additional, prescription-like authority.
By getting your ESA letter online, you also avoid the need to travel to a doctor or therapist’s office building to have the necessary appointment. By preventing you from having to do this, obtaining an ESA letter online is generally much cheaper, quicker and easier.
Certifymypet makes it effortless to have a face-to-face appointment with a licensed physician who will listen to your explanation of your disability or disorder and how it impedes your life and how an emotional support animal could help you. Having consulted with you face-to-face, that doctor is now more able to authentically verify your qualifications to have an ESA, when asked, with full honesty and authority.
Unfortunately, there are many ill-intentioned people and companies tricking good-hearted people only trying to live a normal life with their mental or emotional disorder or disorder into paying for what turns out to be a fake emotional support animal letter. Examples of some of the features of such fake emotional support animal letters include the following:
- Instant approvals – For an emotional support animal letter to be valid, the physician or LMHP signing it needs to have met you and made to understand your disability or disorder and need for an ESA. When a company offers to approve you for an emotional support animal letter without first even having you meet with a licensed doctor or mental or emotional health care professional to make sure you qualify, the letter it offers is not worth the piece of paper on which it’s printed. When a doctor or LMHP has not seen you and consulted with you about your disability or disorder and need for an ESA, that individual can not effectively verify your credentials, if asked. When you have no rapport or method of contact with the doctor or LMHP who writes and signs your emotional support animal letter, you cannot have that professional sign any additional documents or forms that may require their signatures or additional clarification.
- Lifetime letters – Emotional support animal letters are only valid for one year before they must be replaced with a new letter. Therefore, the promise of a “lifetime license” is simply false.
- ”Low-cost” letters – Since an emotional support animal letter is written and signed by a licensed physician or LMHP, it must come at an appropriately corresponding price. If an emotional support animal letter is offered at too low a cost, you have to wonder about the credentials of the individual who will be writing and signing your letter to agree to do it for what would have to be such low pay. The price you pay for an emotional support animal letter should be commensurate with the qualifications of the medical or health care professional with whom you’re consulting.
Many of these individuals sell fake emotional support animal letters as part of a larger (and more expensive) ESA registration package they try to make you believe is necessary in order to have an emotional support animal and all the rights it affords. Fake emotional support animal letters have ruined many a person’s vacation and destroyed many a person’s chances of getting housing in a “no pet” building with their needed ESA. These scams have also made it harder for people with legitimate emotional support animal letters to prove their status and exercise their rights. As such, the need for a perfectly proper and authoritative emotional support animal letter is all the more important.
As you will read below, Certifymypet is the antidote to these ESA registration scams. For example, Certifymypet will never try to fool you into thinking you need something that you don’t. The fact is, ESA registration is not required to have a legitimate and full legal emotional support animal and all the documentation you need to exercise the rights that having one grants.
It’s just a really good idea, as long as you register with a legitimate ESA registration service like Certifymypet.
Based on the information just described, the first benefit of ESA registration is assistance easily attaining a legitimate and prescription-quality emotional support animal letter. With lawmakers cracking down not just on purveyors of fake emotional support animal letters and ESA registration scams but on people using these “services” to misrepresent their own ESA credentials, the last thing you want is a questionable letter that could subject you to even more trouble than simply being denied air travel or housing with your ESA. Avoiding needless legal troubles is yet another reason to be sure you obtain a completely legal and legitimate emotional support animal letter, such as you get from registration with Certifymypet. The benefits of registering with Certifymypet don’t stop there, however.
In addition to a fully legal and legitimate, prescription-style emotional support animal letter, ESA registration with Certifymypet also provides several official-looking, laminated ID cards for your wallet and keychain and your ESA’s collar, harness and carrier. Registration with Certifymypet also gets you a digital versin of your emotional support animal letter that you can pull up on your phone, laptop or other mobile device anytime you need. If your physical printout of your emotional support animal letter is accidentally lost, left behind or destroyed, you can simply pull up this digital version and present that to personnel requesting your ESA credentials.
While none of these documents beyond the emotional support animal letter are required to board an airplane or take residence in “pet-free” housing with your ESA without paying a fee or deposits, they can help make your travel and housing search experiences easier, quicker and more effective. Certifymypet subscribers are less exposed to potential obstruction, hassles, delays and refusals on days of travel or housing interviews.
While a valid and legitimate emotional support animal letter is enough legally to allow you and ESA to exercise your ESA rights, and should therefore be enough to get you both on board any (qualifying) flight or in any (qualifying) residence, some individuals in authority you may encounter in this effort may require more information or proof from you. For these situations, Certifymypet offers on-the-spot verification of your emotional support animal letter, 24/7/365.
When you register with Certifymypet your name and your ESA’s name and breed are entered into the Certifymypet database of people authorized to have an ESA. The phone number is listed on all those same documents to contact Certifymypet so as to have the emotional support animal letter and credentials that you present verified.
What an Emotional Support Animal Letter Does NOT Grant You
There are several situations in which airlines and landlords are legally permitted to make exceptions or impose restrictions on your general ESA rights. An airline can restrict the species and breeds of ESA allowed on its flights. Most airlines restrict ESAs only to domestic flights but refuse ESAs in-cabin travel on international flights and flights lasting eight hours or longer. Airlines may not, however, refuse an ESA in-cabin travel based on its size. Landlords may not restrict ESAs based on species, breed or size, except landlords of certain types of properties, who may prohibit certain types of ESAs or all ESAs if they so desire. Those types of properties are:
- Single family homes purchased or rented by the owner with no real estate broker’s involvement
- Housing owned by a private club or organization that restricts residence only to members
- Owners of residences with four or fewer units, one of which the owner him or herself occupies
Being that an emotional support animal is not a service animal, it is not afforded the same rights as a service animal, including a psychiatric service animal or a therapy animal (often confused with emotional support animals). If the animal has not been trained to perform specific tasks on behalf of or to assist a disabled individual who cannot perform those tasks on his or her own, that animal is not a service animal.
Therefore, an emotional support animal letter will not get your ESA granted entry to other types of facilities and establishments other than airports, airplanes and residential properties that are accessible to the public but prohibit animals. This means, even if you show a valid emotional support animal letter to the owner or staff of a store, theater, restaurant, public transportation or anywhere else, that person can legally refuse your ESA entry. Alternatively, that person may also choose to allow your ESA entry at his or her discretion, but there is no legal obligation to do so.