An ESA Letter is a recommendation by a licensed physician stating that an emotional support animal is the best way for you to be able to manage your mental health condition. ESAs provide you with companionship and constant support to help you deal with neurological conditions like PTSD, stress, autism, bipolar disorder, and more.
It is important the one does not confuse an ESA and a service animal. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not require any kind of special training as they do not help you complete any physical tasks you might have any problem completing in your day to day life. Their mode of providing help is through constant companionship and support. Your emotional support animal does not even have to be a dog. It can be any animal that helps you feel calm and whose companionship you enjoy. A cat, bird or any other animal is considered fair game as long as they are safe. Any pet can end up as an emotional support animal as long as a licensed health professional deems they are necessary. However, there are certain laws and privileges that you need to keep in mind before owning an emotional support animal in California.
How To Get An ESA Letter
To obtain an ESA letter without any hassles, the best course of action is through telemedicine. An ESA letter can only be prescribed by a certified mental health professional. This includes psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other licensed therapists. Telemedicine makes it much easier for you to access an ESA letter.
Here is how you get an ESA letter online:
- Sign up and register with us
- Fill up a simple pre-qualification form
- Have a video call with the doctor for your evaluation
- Once approved, you will receive your ESA letter in a few minutes via email.
Benefits Of An ESA Letter
If your pet provides you with emotional support, you should avail of the benefits that an ESA letter could bring you.
With an ESA letter, you can fly with your ESA in-cabin without paying any additional costs. However, there is still some leeway given to individual airlines regarding the rules. So, do remember to check out airline restrictions accordingly.
Manage Your Condition
An ESA letter helps you manage your condition by giving you one less thing to worry about. In this case, it lets your ESA stay with you.
Once you have your ESA letter, you can live in rentals that have a strict no-pet policy as well. Your landlord cannot charge you extra for living with your ESA. Just ensure that your ESA is well behaved.
There is no additional training that your pet needs to go through to get an ESA letter. An ESA letter is issued keeping in mind what the patient is going through and not what the abilities of your pet are.
College is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. An ESA letter allows you to live with your ESA in your college dorm.
The best part about owning an ESA letter is that you no longer have to pay any additional charger while traveling or living with them.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act
An ESA is allowed to live with you irrespective of the existing housing policy. The landlord cannot refuse; except in the following cases:
- If the building consists of less than four units and the landlord resides in the same building.
- The property does not have a real estate broker and is considered under a single-family unit.
- Some places like restaurants, hotels, and cafes will not accommodate your ESA due to the FHA. Service animals might be allowed at times according to the American Disability Act.
The FHA, a federal emotional support animal housing law, does give the tenants some power by stopping landlords from doing the following
- Landlords cannot ask you to produce a detailed medical record of your condition.
- The Landlord cannot ask you about your ESAs training or its ability to perform tasks.
- You don’t have to pay any extra fees or deposit for your emotional support animal.
- Finally, you cannot be refused admission on the basis of the breed or the weight of the animal.
The FHA allows landlords to accept an ESA letter from a certified mental health professional. Your landlord might even ask for a short verification form from a therapist or physician that confirms your emotional or mental disability.
The Air Carriers Access Act
Under this emotional support animal law, people who suffer from mental and emotional disabilities are allowed to board a flight with their pets in-cabin. The ESA is allowed to either sit near the feet or in the owner’s lap. If traveling with your ESA is on your list then call the airline well in advance so that they can make the necessary preparations.
These ESA Laws allow you to:
- You are allowed to fly with your pet in-cabin
- There are no additional pet fees when you travel with your ESA
Beyond these, there are additional laws to support the ACAA which are:
- No airline provider can refuse transportation to anyone based on any grounds. Especially if you suffer from a mental condition.
- There are no limits on how many ESAs can be on a flight but the airline still has to check if they can accommodate everyone.
ESA Letter For A Rented Accommodation
There are landlords who are against renting out their houses to people who live with animals. However, if you are someone who has a valid ESA Letter then they have to accommodate you. Here is what an ESA letter entails you to:
- The landlord cannot evict you or ask for a pet deposit in any case
- Your ESA cannot be rejected on the basis of their size, weight, or breed
- They can, however, ask for your medical records or about your existing medical conditions
- They can not ask for your ESAs training on certain tasks. There is no need to show any certification regarding animal training.
- If your landlord refuses to rent on the basis of your ESA, you can under the Federal Emotional Support Animal Law sue and book them for violence
- This is not just applicable for an emotional support dog in California but in actuality covers all emotional support animals.
There are a few conditions under which the landlord can deny accommodating your animal in their house:
- If the animal threatens the health and safety of other residents in the building
- Has the capability to cause physical damage to the property
ESA Letter And The Workplace
If you work and have an emotional support animal, then here is some good news for you as well. If you go look at the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of your disability. But for gaining access to benefits associated with owning an ESA you need to first get an ESA Letter.
Here is what an ESA Letter will help you with:
- Your ESA can accompany you to your workplace.
- If your office has a “No Animal’ policy even then your employer needs to make an exception for you and your ESA.
- If 5 or more employees in the office own an ESA then the employer needs to make accommodations for them. The provision under the federal disability is only applicable to private employers who have more than 15 employees.
- The employers are allowed to ask for documentation regarding your need for an emotional support animal.
However, there is a possibility that your employer might not allow for an emotional support animal even with an ESA letter because of these conditions:
- If your animal shows signs of aggression and pose a threat to the company and other employees
- It creates disturbances around and inside the office area.
ESA Letter In Public Places
The existing laws allow people with disabilities to bring their trained service dogs and psychiatric service dogs to public places along with them. But this same law does not extend to emotional support dogs.
Even with an ESA letter, laws like The Unruh Civil Rights Act, The California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not applicable to emotional support animals or their owners. So, it is not possible to take your untrained pet to public places even if they are your ESA and you do have an ESA Letter.
ESA Letter For Multiple ESAs
This question is a leading one and it is easy to see why one might get a little confused when it comes to living with multiple ESAs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are allowances regarding multiple emotional support animals in place. It is also a known fact that in some cases it is actually better to have multiple animals to effectively treat an emotional or mental disability. The first thing you need to know is that your ESA letter needs to clearly state the type and name of the animal in question.
However, in the end, it is all about the practical aspect of the situation. There are some restrictions that are placed in case of fair housing and also while flying.
Living With Multiple ESAs
If you are going to live with more than one ESA, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your doctor includes multiple pets in your ESA letter.
The Act does not lay out a fixed number for the ESAs you can live with but the Fair Housing Amendments Act has a slight interpretation attached to it. It is a slightly vague law. Some landlords do open complaints based on that vagueness. So, ensure that your ESA letter explicitly states every ESA you have and the condition they are helping you manage. That is the only way you can ensure that no landlord can refuse your fair accommodation.
Flying with Multiple ESAs
Most airlines have one pet per passenger policy but if you have a certified ESA letter you can fly with multiple animals. Little has been reported on this matter primarily because airlines hardly ever refuse travel for ESAs.
It is important that you ensure that your ESA’s are well behaved and don’t cause a ruckus on the flight. Your pet is expected to either remain on your lap or under the seat during the flight. They can also not be disruptive or aggressive during the flight.
Call the airline at least 48 hours prior to ensure that there is no issue that crops up due to multiple ESAs.
Avoid Online ESA Letter Scams
If your goal is to get an emotional support letter online, then it is important that you check the credibility of a website before making a purchase regarding the ESA letter. You will often find companies that promise instant approvals, low-cost letters, lifetime letters, and even animal registration. Chances are in all these cases the letter you get will be a fake.
Red flags to look out for:
- Instant ESA letter approvals might not be legitimate. This is because a real licensed mental health professional will always take their time before approving someone for an emotional support animal. An instant approval consequently means that they have signatures on file and the licensed health practitioner in question has never even heard about you. This can put you in trouble if your landlord/ airline decides to contact them.
- If you think an offer is a little too good to be true. It probably is. Real ESA letters come from a licensed mental health professional. People who are educated, trained, and have years of experience.
- ESA’s do not require any kind of registration. So, every site that offers you registration is a scam. Similarly, places that state that vest are compulsory, aren’t true. It is recommended that you equip your ESA with a vest so that they are easily recognizable in a sea of pets but they are not required by law.