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What is an emotional support animal (“ESA”)?

Pets can be a great source of comfort and love during tough times. But many people don’t realize that emotional support animals are so much more than just pets – they’re certified and trained to help people with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. They can remind people to take their meds, distract them from panic, and even help them control crowds or get them out of tough situations. Unlike service dogs, you don’t have to be a dog to get an emotional support animal, for instance you can have a cat, horse, pig, or hamster. Unfortunately, though, it seems like everywhere an ESA owner goes these days, they’re turned down for a bunch of services and products just because they have an ESA.

How do I qualify for an emotional support animal?

In order for someone to have an ESA, they need to have been diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, like a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. This is done through a prescription letter that’s properly formatted. The main difference between an ESA that’s legitimate and a pet that’s not is the letter you get from your mental health professional.

Do I need to register my ESA?

 No. If any ESA Service asks you to either sign up or get “registered” in its database, it’s a fraud. An emotional support animal does not require a registration or certification. However, in order to acquire ownership of an ESA you must have the emotional support animal certified by a licensed mental health professional.

What kind of animals can be an emotional support animal?

An ESA can be any domestic animal such as cat, dog, mouse, rabbit, bird, hedgehog, rat, minipig, ferret, etc,  and can be of any age. An ESA must be easy to control in public and not be a public nuisance.

Why choose My ESA Doctor?

Here at MY ESA Doctor, we go to the extra mile to make sure everything we do complies with housing and other regulations. We’re backed by an extensive network of highly qualified mental health professionals, with decades of experience and thousands of happy clients, ensuring your consultation and letter assistance will be provided in fast and effective manner.

What does the ESA letter contain? Does it reveal details about my condition?

Your ESA letter serves as confirmation that you possess a mental or emotional disability in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, and that the presence of an ESA is conducive to alleviating symptoms of said disability. It is unnecessary to disclose specific details regarding the diagnosis or the severity of the disability. Landlords are not authorized to request medical records or demand a medical examination. The letter will be issued on the letterhead of your healthcare professional, bearing their signature and date. Furthermore, it will include your professional’s licensing and contact information to enable your landlord to verify their credentials.

What rights do ESA owners have?

ESA owners have the following rights:
  • The privilege to retain their ESA(s) within their residence, notwithstanding any pet restrictions imposed by the housing complex.
  • Immunity from housing complex regulations pertaining to pet weight or breed restrictions.
  • Freedom from pet-related charges, including supplementary rent or cleaning deposits.

I have an ESA letter, do I need a certificate, license, ID card, or vest for my ESA?

The sole essential document to qualify an emotional support animal is a valid ESA letter. Landlords are not permitted to request a certificate, registration, license, or ID, nor can they mandate that your ESA don a vest. These items carry no legal significance for emotional support animals.

Can I use my ESA letter to take my ESA to a grocery store, restaurant, or hotel?

A service animal is permitted to access private establishments, such as grocery stores or restaurants, in accordance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), whereas an ESA does not enjoy this privilege. As most cat and dog owners are aware, service animals must undergo training. In contrast, an ESA does not require specialized training to attain the status of a legal support animal.

How do I know that the person who wrote my ESA letter is qualified to do so? My landlord says a physician or doctor needs to write the letter, is that true?

An ESA letter must be issued by a licensed mental health professional. You should have the means to reach out to this professional if the need arises for additional forms or documents that may necessitate their input or signature.

Will my ESA letter be as valid as one obtained through a therapist seen in person?

Absolutely! The U.S. Department of Housing recognizes that licensed professionals who offer ESA services remotely, including online, can offer authentic support. Remote therapists serve as a priceless resource for individuals facing challenges in finding an in-person therapist, those with financial constraints, individuals with scheduling constraints due to commitments such as school, work, or family responsibilities, and those dealing with phobias or anxieties related to seeking in-person assistance.

When do ESA letters expire?

While the specifics may differ slightly from one state to another, it’s important to note that your ESA letter provides you and your emotional support animal with legal protection for a duration of one year.

Do I get an ESA letter before or after adopting my emotional support animal?

While it’s beneficial to already have an animal when applying for an ESA Letter, you can apply for one before adopting your desired pet. The ESA Letter includes a description of the animal, so ensure that the animal you adopt matches the one mentioned in the letter. When going through the application process, specify the animal you intend to adopt and make sure it aligns with the description in your letter.

Can I have more than one emotional support animal?

You are not limited to a specific number of emotional support animals; you can have as many ESAs as you require. There are no regulations or restrictions dictating a maximum limit for emotional support animals.

Do I need a hard copy of my letter?

No, there’s no need for a physical ESA letter. Our licensed professionals at ESA Doctors will furnish you with a digital copy of your ESA letter if you meet the criteria, and you can put it to use right away. An original copy with a wet ink signature is not a prerequisite.

Is My ESA Doctor ‘Legit’? How Do I Know It’s Legal?

Yes, “My ESA Doctor” absolutely legitimate and legal. With the growing popularity of ESAs, there has unfortunately been an increase in fraudulent websites offering counterfeit documentation. Before you proceed with an online ESA company, be vigilant for these seven warning signs:
  • Claims of ESA Registration:
Some sites falsely assert that they can provide ESA registration. However, it’s essential to know that there is no legal requirement to register an ESA, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) advises against it. Having a registration number will not qualify your pet as an emotional support animal. Certification Claims: Be cautious of sites claiming to “certify” your ESA through a certification process. There is no official certification program that properly designates emotional support animals. Registrations and certifications are not valid forms of documentation; you must possess an ESA letter.
  • Instant Turnaround Promises:
Genuine ESA letters cannot be issued automatically. You must collaborate with a licensed healthcare professional in your state. The professional will evaluate your condition and determine whether an ESA is suitable for you. Lack of Licensed Professional or Contact Information: Your ESA letter’s validity depends on it being authored by a qualified, licensed healthcare professional, such as psychologists, LMFTs, social workers, registered nurses, physician’s assistants, doctors, or counselors. The licensed professional should sign the letter and provide their contact and license details.
  • Unlicensed Healthcare Professionals:
It’s crucial that your healthcare professional is actively licensed to assist you. ESA Doctors connect you with professionals licensed in your state of residence. Remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Assistance from a licensed mental health professional is never excessively cheap.
  • Absence of Client Support:
The ESA approval process doesn’t conclude with the ESA letter. Landlords may sometimes be hesitant to accommodate ESAs, even with a valid letter. They might request additional information and documentation. ESA Doctors offers ongoing client support and optional services to handle any additional document requests that may arise.

How long does the approval process take?

The majority of customers report that My ESA Doctor  provides them with a sense of being heard and validated. Additionally, they appreciate the expedited delivery of their ESA letter, with the majority of customers receiving their ESA within a few days following a consultation with a Licensed Mental Health Professional.

What kind of Licensed Mental Health Professional will sign my letter?

Any LMHP can write one of these letters, but they need to assess your mental health in a “live” setting: either in person or through a telehealth app. A lot of people have trouble getting an appointment with a local mental health professional, which is why there are websites that offer online ESA letter services.

What does the ESA Letter look like?

In order for an ESA letter to be considered valid, it must be completed on the provider’s official letterhead, bearing the license number of the provider and the practice address of the provider. The letter must also contain your name and a diagnosis of an eligible emotional/mental disability.

Does the ESA Letter expire? How often do I need to renew?

While the specifics can differ slightly from one state to another, your ESA letter provides you and your emotional support animal with legal protection for precisely one year. If you possess a valid ESA letter, it signifies that you are under the care of a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP), and they have the authority to renew your prescription before it lapses.

Can I use my ESA Letter for on-campus housing?

There are two federal laws that protect ESAs and ESAs’ owners. The Fair Housing Act says that no landlord can do anything to make it harder for someone who has an ESA to rent a place on campus.

Can I get a letter for more than one ESA?

You might have a bunch of different ESA letters from different therapists. But most people who have multiple ESAs only work with one healthcare provider, so all their ESA needs are listed in one single letter.

Do I need to use a “registration” site to make my pet an ESA?

There is no formal certification process for emotional support animals. You can prove that your animal is an approved ESA by submitting a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

Do I need additional accessories like an Emotional Support Animal Vest or ID Card?

Although it’s important to note that vests, leashes, tags, collars, and other accessories are not obligatory for emotional support animals, they can frequently prove beneficial in making it clear that your animal serves as an emotional support animal and can help minimize inquiries about your pet.

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