Emotional support animals continue to grab headlines around the US due to the ever-changing laws surrounding their rights, the growing demand for access to them and the public’s interest in what exactly constitutes an ESA. Some stories are favorable and outline the benefits afforded to patients who have access to emotional support animals for both housing and travel, while others have been more critical of the new therapy.
The positive articles often highlight the importance of a patient’s right to choose the best form of therapy for their condition and the laws that have been created in order to protect patients from any undue stress and anxiety that can be caused by air travel and strict, no-pet housing policies. However, there are also a growing number of articles that call out ESAs for disrupting the already-established service animal community. They state that, as emotional support animals require no formal training, the number of cases in which an ESA has misbehaved in a public space is tarnishing the reputation of and possibly even damaging the rights to extensively-trained service dogs for patients with severe physical disabilities. There have also been an unfortunate number of cases whereby scam sites sell fake ESA letters and rip off patients with emotional disabilities, leaving the animals and patients completely unprotected when traveling or seeking accommodation.
All of this commotion has led to continuous debate surrounding emotional support animals and their rights with regards to the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act with many landlords and airlines having now changed their policies and requirements for ESA acceptance. This means that it is now more important than ever to stay informed on ESA news, the laws surrounding ESA ownership and how to ensure that your ESA is fully protected under US law so that you can live and travel comfortably. This article will focus on how to make sure that your ESA letter is legitimate and contains everything that is required in order for it to be considered valid.
In order for your ESA letter to be considered valid, it must:
- Be written on a licenced mental health professional’s letterhead
- State that the mental health professional is licenced in the same state as the patient resides
– The name of the therapist
– What they specialize in
– The type of medical licence
– The medical licence registration number
– Issue date of medical licence
– Expiration date of medical licence
– Verifiable contact information
– The type of animal being registered
– The name of the animal being registered
– The ESA certificate ID number
– The issue date of the letter
– The Expiration date of the letter, which is no later than one year from the letter’s original issuance
If your ESA letter contains all of this information then you can rest assured that it will be considered legitimate in a court of law. If you’re unsure about the company that you plan to register with, ask them for an example letter such as the one posted above to ensure that all relevant information is included.
As the debate surrounding ESA rights continue, some airlines now also require patients to fill out additional documentation before flying, as often they limit how many ESAs they will permit per flight. With this in mind, it’s important to call the airline before purchasing your tickets to make sure that there will be room on your desired flight so as to avoid any confusion, stress or disappointment on the day of travel. Moosh has the compliant ESA forms that are needed for domestic travel on several major airlines, however, it is the sole responsibility of the patient to organise these forms themselves before traveling.
If you would like further information surrounding ESA laws, check out our post on How to Make Sure You Follow Emotional Support Animal Laws. Or, if you’re after a more in-depth review of ESA housing and travel, read: Housing with an ESA: How the Americans with Disabilities Act Protects You and How to Prepare for Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal.