Emotional support animals have taken the U.S. by storm in recent years, becoming a popular new way of treating the effects of mental health disorders. The idea behind them is simple: the companionship of an animal is intended to reduce symptoms of common mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. The animal functions just like a pet; there’s no need for them to be specially trained. The focus is on their companionship. An emotional support animal can also be any animal that the patient feels comfortable with, be it an existing pet or a brand new one. To qualify as an ESA owner, you’ll require an ESA letter (or emotional support letter) from a registered health care provider.
An ESA letter doesn’t have to be from your primary caregiver; in fact, you can avail of an emotional support letter over the internet, via telemedicine. However, with the popularity of emotional support animals increasing month to month, there’s a large influx of companies that offer patients these emotional support letters. Unfortunately, not all of them are legitimate. It is crucial to remain vigilant when acquiring your all-important ESA letter, as this document will help you and your emotional support animal avail of certain privileges denied to most other pets.
Every ESA letter needs an expiry date. A legitimate letter is valid for one year only; after that, it has to be renewed. The expiry date has to be clearly outlined with the date of issue. Any ESA letter that is out of date is entirely useless, and cannot be presented as verification of ESA status. There are two additional dates the letter needs to show: the issue date and expiration date of the mental health professional’s license. Without these four crucial pieces of information, the letter is null and void. Unfortunately, there are many companies out there looking to scam customers, which is why it’s important for patients to know what they’re looking for when it comes to ESA letters. Some patients may already be in vulnerable positions, and might be more oblivious than normal to people trying to con them.
The good news is that you can ask for proof of legitimacy before you commit to buying what they’re selling. The company in question should send you over a blank ESA letter, which is essentially a template of the letter they’ll personalize for you. You should also receive a copy of the physician’s medical license. Make sure to thoroughly inspect all these documents before you move ahead to the payment stage. If anything seems out of line, don’t hesitate to back off and find another, more reliable provider. And finally, make sure that the payment page you’re directed to displays a lock and a green address bar – if it doesn’t, that means the page isn’t secure and your information might be vulnerable to hackers.
If you’re looking to explore the possibility of an emotional support animal for you or your loved one, don’t let this put you off. It’s just a sign that emotional support animals are working well for many patients, and that certain people are looking to capitalize on that popularity. All that’s required is a little bit of extra scrutiny. Being aware of the contents and requirements of an ESA letter should make you totally bulletproof when it comes to choosing an ESA provider. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to verify whether it’s legitimate in a matter of minutes.
If you purchase a fake ESA letter and attempt to use it, you may very well be refused that particular service. Emotional support animals are allowed to accompany their owners onto planes under the Air Carrier Access Act. They are not required to go in the hold like other pets, but instead can accompany their owners into the cabin, free of charge. Airlines are getting particularly strict with ESAs and their owners; many complain that some people are taking advantage of the loophole and using it to transport their actual pets in the cabin using fake ESA letters. If you’re intending to fly with an airline and present them with an ESA letter that lacks an expiry date, there is every chance your emotional support animal will be refused boarding. It doesn’t matter if you knew the letter was fake or if you’ve been the victim of an online scam; the end result is the same.
If all this sounds intimidating, relax. As long as you do everything by the book, then you’ll have no problem acquiring your legitimate ESA letter, and availing of your rights as a mental health patient. The important thing to remember to look for is the expiry date. If that’s there, chances are your letter is totally legitimate. The only thing to remember after that is to make sure you keep your letter in date! Apply for a new one with plenty of time to spare, especially if you have a trip coming up.