Battling mental and emotional illness is quite a feat. There are many treatments available to those who struggle with these issues; one emerging area of therapy involves the use of emotional support animals (ESAs). ESAs can be a helpful companion in your fight, but there are certain rules you must follow and limitations you must be aware of so you and your ESA can get along in the world. Here are a few of the general guidelines you should know about when you have an ESA, as well as the answers to questions like “Can I borrow an emotional support animal?” and “Can a friend borrow my ESA?”.
What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal is an animal companion that can help those with emotional or psychological disabilities. An ESA can be almost any type of animal, from a dog or cat to a miniature horse or guinea pig.
An important distinction to be aware of is that an ESA is not a service animal. ESAs have not been trained to recognize signs and symptoms of illness, nor are they trained to perform tasks for their owner. An ESA is simply meant to offer support to the owner through the bond they share.
How to Get an ESA
In order to legally qualify for an ESA, you must be prescribed one by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, who is treating you. They will then write a letter on their letterhead that includes their license type, license number, date of license, and the state the license was issued in. The letter should also include the date it was written.
You can also get an ESA letter online from reputable sites like Moosh, where mental health professionals licensed in your state can help you get qualified for an ESA to support you on your journey through life.
What an ESA Can (and Can’t) Do
Remember, your ESA is not a service animal, and because of this distinction, they’re not allowed everywhere a service animal is because they are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. You cannot take your ESA into certain stores or restaurants. You must adhere to “no pets allowed” policies in these situations.
What your ESA can do is live and travel with you. The Federal Fair Housing Amendment Act allows your pet to live with you as long as you have a current ESA letter, even if your landlord does not allow pets. The Air Carrier Access Act also ensures that your ESA can travel on an airplane with you, but it’s important to arrange this ahead of time with the airline, even with an ESA letter in hand.
Can I Lend My ESA to a Friend?
Your ESA may be so great that you want someone else you know who is struggling to reap some of the benefits of your companion. That’s very thoughtful of you, but the truth is that your ESA is prescribed only to you, so you can’t lend an ESA dog or any other animal to someone else.
You have to think about your ESA like a prescription. You don’t share your prescription for medications with other people – so you shouldn’t share your ESA letter, either. If a friend wants to “borrow” your ESA, then politely explain these rules and regulations, and don’t afraid to point out that it can endanger your ESA letter status by doing so.
What If They Have an ESA Letter – Can a Friend Borrow My ESA Then?
If your friend or acquaintance has an ESA letter of their own, then they should be able to borrow your emotional support animal in a pinch, right? Not quite!
When you have an ESA letter, the mental health professional who writes it also must approve the type of animal it is. So if you have been approved to have an emotional support dog, and your friend has been approved for an emotional support cat, then the two definitely do not go together, and your friend can’t borrow an ESA dog from you or anyone else.
Your ESA is for you alone. And let’s face it – the bond you share and the comfort they give you probably won’t translate to someone else easily. That’s exactly why you should never attempt to lend an ESA dog or borrow an ESA dog yourself!
Penalties for ESA Misuse
If you’re found misusing your ESA letter or your animal, then they can be taken away. That means that the rights you are given under the law with an ESA will be revoked – this could have serious consequences for your housing situation, as well as impact any plans you have for airline travel.
Stay on the right side of the law by keeping your relationship with your ESA an exclusive one. And don’t forget to stay on the right side of the law with a current ESA letter. If you need help with renewal, then Moosh is happy to assist! If you sign up for our newsletters, we can send you reminders and discount codes to help you stay on top of things.