Emotional support animals are growing in popularity, but many people aren’t sure how to get an ESA letter. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy and the benefits of having one can be huge, depending on your needs. This article will teach you everything from how to get an ESA evaluation all the way to what you need to know about your rights when traveling with an ESA dog or cat. If you have any questions at all, make sure to check out the frequently asked questions section at the end of this article!
What Is an ESA Letter?
An emotional support animal letter is a document from a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker. The letter is written on their professional letterhead and states that the person has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and needs the emotional support of an animal. It also provides information about the person’s diagnosis and treatment.
A letter does not need to be lengthy but should give enough information for the applicant’s physician or landlord to understand how having an emotional support animal would help treat their condition. Some examples of ways an animal could help someone with depression might include: interrupting isolation; providing companionship; taking care of basic living tasks like getting up in the morning; or being present during panic attacks.
What benefits of Getting an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is essential if you want your pet to accompany you on public transit, stay in a hotel room with you, or go into a restaurant with you. It can also help increase the chance of being approved for housing that doesn’t allow pets. If a landlord asks for an ESA letter, be sure to have it ready. Requesting one requires proof of disability (e.g., by providing your doctor’s note) and proof that the animal has been trained to behave properly around others (e.g., by providing documentation from a professional trainer).
These letters are granted based on need and not according to specific medical conditions. In order to qualify, you will need to provide documentation of a qualifying mental health diagnosis such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the person seeking an emotional support animal must be able to show that their condition creates a marked limitation in activities which includes interacting with other people due to fear, anxiety, or panic attacks which can only be reduced through interaction with their emotional support animal.
Qualifying Conditions for an ESA Letter?
In order for a person to qualify for a letter, they must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or licensed mental health professional as having one of the following conditions:
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobia
- Panic attack
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)
If you would like more information on how to get an emotional support animal evaluation letter, please contact us. We are willing and able to help anyone who has a qualifying condition and would like to obtain their ESA letter.
Steps to Get an ESA Letter
- Find a licensed mental health professional who is willing to assess you and write a letter of support.
- Determine if your condition would qualify for ESA status by reviewing the Department of Health list of psychiatric disorders that qualify for ESA status. If you’re not sure, ask your provider or call the Department of Health at 206-296-4692.
- Request that your provider completes a Mental Disability Assessment Form.
- Pay the $99 fee for this service
- The therapist will then provide you with a signed evaluation letter stating that you are qualified for emotional support animal designation under state and federal ESA law
- Fill out the application form
- You will be required to sign certifications confirming that all information in your application is true
- Review your completed application packet
- Submit your application packet to Multifamily Housing
- Provide a copy of your Mental Disability Assessment Form to the property management company
- Wait to hear back from them on whether they approve your request
- Once approved, they’ll issue you written confirmation
The Bottom Line
ESAs are animals that provide companionship, comfort, and/or emotional support. ESAs are not service animals and do not have any specific training like service animals do. ESAs can be dogs or other animals and can live in your home with you as long as there is a doctor’s note saying it’s okay for the ESA to live with you. You must meet all of the same requirements for having a pet dog in your area.
You should consult your landlord before making sure they don’t have any restrictions about having pets. If your rental agreement says no pets are allowed, you’ll need to find another place to live if you want to have an ESA. If not, make sure you get permission from the landlord and put that in writing! Some landlords might require more proof than just a letter from your doctor, so ask them what kind of documentation they need from your physician.