There is sometimes a debate about the definition and the purpose of an emotional support animal. You can’t just turn up at a pet shop or an animal shelter, for example, and say, “One emotional support animal please!” As they don’t need any kind of specific training, no animal or pet is actually known as an ESA prior to registration. It happens the other way around – any animal (in theory) can become an ESA. This can occur in two ways. Either you already own a pet and enquire about a doctor’s note for an ESA letter to qualify said pet; or you decide that you would benefit from a support animal, so you choose one and then go about asking a doctor for an ESA letter. In this post, we’ll take a look at how you might qualify for an ESA and who is allowed to prescribe an ESA letter.
Firstly, though, to clear up any confusion: an emotional support animal is defined as a companion pet that can provide some support and be of benefit to a person suffering from a psychological or emotional disorder. There are several conditions that might qualify you for an ESA, including depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and learning disorders. If you have a debilitating complaint that is affecting the quality of your life, you may wonder, ‘Can a doctor prescribe an ESA letter?’
The answer to this is actually no. You can’t get a doctor’s note for an ESA letter, or a doctor’s certification for an emotional support animal. The ESA certification letter has to be written by a mental health professional, who must have a current license in the state in which you live. Your doctor can certainly recommend you to a professional, but they can’t personally supply you with the relevant letter. The expert has to confirm that you suffer from a psychological, emotional, or physical disorder and that an emotional support animal would help alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. You must have your animal before you apply for your ESA letter, as details such as the type of pet and its name need to be included in the official letter. An ESA letter is a bit like a prescription; its purpose is to prescribe something that will hopefully help improve your condition. Only in this case, it’s for something living and breathing as opposed to medication!
The easiest and quickest way to proceed is to get an ESA letter online. At Moosh, we have access to many licensed mental health experts in every state. We can put you in touch with one in your own state in the blink of an eye. The professional will carry out a relaxed assessment, which can be done via telemedicine rather than a face-to-face consultation. This is particularly handy, because many people who would benefit from an emotional support animal may find it hard to travel on their own, go to public places such as a doctor’s waiting room, or talk about their issues with anyone. Doing this via Skype or a telephone conversation can be much easier to deal with. The expert will ask you about your history and will need access to your health records. Rest assured not only that you will be dealt with very sympathetically, but that your privacy will be guarded, as Moosh is fully compliant with HIPPA, the body which sets the rules for patient data protection. If you’re approved, your official ESA letter will be sent to you in no time at all.
Of course, you can have a special pet that gives you emotional support and comfort without getting an ESA letter for it. There’s no law against owning a pet, after all. But having an official ESA letter means you can take advantage of certain laws that exist around emotional support animals. These include the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.
The former means that you cannot be discriminated against if you own a registered emotional support animal and are looking to rent accommodation. A property own must make “reasonable accommodations” available to tenants with mental health issues, meaning that a registered ESA (depending on the type of animal) is allowed to live in rented properties that might otherwise have a ‘No pets’ rule. Furthermore, no extra charge can be made for housing your little friend as well as you. However, it goes without saying that your ESA must behave appropriately and cannot be a nuisance to other tenants or be allowed to damage the property in any way.
The Air Carrier Act allows you to take certain pets into the cabin of an aircraft with you, providing you have pre-registered your ESA and it has been approved to travel with you. In addition to these two protective acts, a legitimate ESA letter may also mean that you can take your animal into certain public places that otherwise don’t allow pets.
Hopefully you now have an understanding now of what an emotional support animal is, whether you might qualify, and how you go about applying for one. If you think this might be for you, then apply now to get an ESA letter online, or think about asking a doctor for an ESA letter referral. Remember, if you’re awarded an ESA letter, it must be renewed every year. But you won’t need to go through the whole process again; just apply online via Moosh for a renewal!