If you’re one of the many Americans considering applying for an ESA letter, then there are a few things to note before embarking on your journey. Firstly, you should understand what an emotional support animal (ESA) is, its function and what legally possessing one will mean in the eyes of the American law. Once you’ve understood these basic concepts then you can assess whether an ESA will be appropriate for you and your lifestyle.
If you’re still interested in going ahead then the next step is to apply for an ESA letter, which will require a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional. This is usually a fairly quick and straightforward procedure, however, as ESA application has risen so quickly throughout the US, scam artists have unfortunately jumped on the bandwagon and tried to swindle prospective patients out of their money. This shouldn’t put anybody off applying for an ESA; it simply means that the process will require a certain amount of background checking and vigilance to make sure that what you’re purchasing is legitimate and can be upheld in a court of law.
This article will aim to give a brief overview of what an ESA is, who would benefit from owning an ESA, the three major laws surrounding ESA ownership, and what they mean and how they protect the rights of ESA owners. Then we’ll move onto how to apply for an ESA letter, things you need to look out for when choosing which company you plan to register your ESA letter with, what a legitimate ESA letter looks like and what it should contain in order to be upheld in a court of law.
What’s an ESA and Who Would Benefit From Owning One?
An ESA is an animal (most species qualify: dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, pigs etc.) which is used as a form of therapy for people who suffer from some form emotional duress or social anxiety. The ESA will act as a companion for the owner and will be able to go most places that the owner does, offering emotional support and stability and allowing the owner to lead as normal and comfortable a life as practically possible.
An ESA is not like a service animal in that it needn’t go through any extensive training in order to be qualified; in this respect it’s more like a regular pet. However, as ESAs are now permitted into a lot of public and some private spaces that regular pets would usually be banned from, a certain level of obedience and good behavior is to be expected. If an ESA is overtly loud or aggressive in any way, then owners may legally be asked to vacate the premises.
The Three Major Laws Surrounding ESA Ownership, What They Mean and How They Protect the Rights Of ESA Owners
The three laws that surround ESA ownership are: the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The ADA is the overarching civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, be it in the workplace, education, transportation or housing.
The ACAA and the FHA both fall under the ADA, and they allow owners of ESAs to fly with their animals on commercial flights and live with them in housing that would have otherwise implemented a no-pet policy.
For more information on these laws, you can read this post here.
How to Apply For an ESA Letter and Things to Look Out For When Choosing Which Company You Plan to Register Your ESA Letter With
Applying for an ESA letter is relatively straightforward; all you’ll need is a signed recommendation from a licensed mental health professional that states that you suffer from some form of physical, psychological or mental condition and would benefit from access to an emotional support animal. You can do this either in person or online.
However, before you proceed, you’ll want to ensure that the mental health professional is licensed in the same state as the person wanting an ESA and that their medical license is fully up to date.
Next, you should ask for an example of what your ESA letter will look like. Once you have a copy, you should check that it contains all of these things:
- It’s written on a mental health professional’s letterhead and contains verifiable contact information of the physician in question.
- The letter states the mental health professional is licensed in the same state the patient resides in and it is fully up-to-date and contains the expiration date of the license.
- The letter contains the issue date and an expiration date that is no later than one year from the letter’s original issuance.
- The letter must also state what kind of animal the ESA is, the name of the ESA and the ESA’s certificate ID number.
If buying your ESA letter online, make sure that the payment page has a padlock, includes the word “secure” and the https in green – this signifies that the page is secure and that your bank details will be safe from would-be hackers.
If you follow these simple steps then you can be safe in the knowledge that your ESA letter is legitimate and that your rights as an ESA owner will be upheld in a court of law.