Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support Animal
Learn how an emotional support animal could be the solution to your mental problems
An ESA is like a “slang” term used commonly for emotional support animal. In most cases, any domesticated animal such as mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, can be registered as an ESA. But, mostly cats and dogs are the most preferred choices.
These animals are a source of emotional support, that is why the name. Unlike service dogs, these animals do not require any special training.
There is completely no doubt regarding their therapeutic benefits, Even various studies and surveys have confirmed to the facts that pets are a source of positivity and happiness in the lives of almost everyone. Because they inspire their owners both mentally and physically.
Various pre-clinical research and studies have revealed that contributing to different activities that involve a pet significantly improves the endorphin levels in the body. These hormones are primarily responsible for managing and balancing the mental health of a person.
Also, some studies have shown that just by petting an animal, there has been a tremendous improvement in the BP levels which is usually the cause of the rise in anxieties. Plus, a pet makes its owners socially more accepting than otherwise.
In short, they are helpful in providing a sense of calmness, comfort, happiness, and safety among the patients dealing with one or the other form of emotional or mental health disturbances.
Absolutely a big “NO”. Assistance animals is a category which provides support to the providers in one or the other way. ESAs are basically one class of this category. There are basically three classes of assistance animals that are often confused with each other.
As per the guidelines issued by the American with Disabilities Act, these animals need to be specially trained to perform tasks of the patients with some form of disabilities. For instance, fetching, crossing a road, are among the many tasks performed by these animals. Also, these animals are required to have social skills along with impulse control abilities.
These animals are usually for providing an environment of comfort in and around institutions such as hospitals, or disaster areas. They can be present in schools or clinics as well. There is no registration required with such animals. Only they must have the right behavior to be around people spreading happiness instead of terror.
Emotional Support Animals
These animals are like emotional caretakers which help people with mental disabilities to perform their tasks better without getting any sudden emotional breaks. For a pet to be an ESA, you must have a valid recommendation by a mental health professional or else you will lose all the benefits of having an ESA.
Many people suffering from a range of mental health disorders are able to add positivity in life just by being with a pet. Here are some of the other ways that a pet offers more than just companionship.
-Helps to deal with emotional outbursts by regulating the hormonal levels. Or just inducing the processes to enhance the levels of endorphins.
-ESAs can be used in coordination with other ongoing treatment therapies. Thereby, enhancing the efficacy of treatments.
-Having ESAs by your side will help to boost the immunity as well. There have been many reports which have confirmed that petting a dog helps in increasing the levels of antibodies.
-Who can forget about those tiny attention seekers? They help the patients to relieve social anxieties as well.
-And of course, having an ESA by your side will help to attain physical health as well.
So, having an ESA letter is a legal validation that will allow you to be with your pet in the following situations-
-You will be allowed to live with your pet with no additional pet charges even in the societies with “no pet policy”.
-You will be allowed to fly with your pet inside the cabin at no extra charges.
-And no other registration will be required as well.
An ESA letter is a recommendation or a legal approval by a licensed mental health professional which notifies that you need a pet as assistance for enabling you to take care of your emotional needs which are otherwise impossible because of a number of known and unknown triggers.
Most people don’t feel the requirement of having an ESA letter. But, under the current circumstances, it is definitely something that can be beneficial in many ways. The reason being, it is supported by two federal laws that provide extra benefits besides the known medicinal advantages. So, if you are looking for legal protection such as flying and living with your pet at no additional charges, then you will need this recommendation letter.
An ESA letter issued by the mental health expert should indicate clearly that you are a mental health patient of the doctor, and that you are taking the treatment as per the guidelines laid down by the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5. Plus, it should also state that the doctor has recommended you for an emotional support animal as a part of your therapy treatment plan.
To be eligible for an emotional support animal letter, the mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed clinical worker) must suggest that you require an ESA letter. However, in most cases, the qualifying conditions must be stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5.
But, the conditions are not limited to these disorders. Usually, the conditions which limit a person’s ability to perform even the normal or daily activities of life because of the sudden fear or phobias surrounding a patient, then you are eligible for having an ESA recommendation. Also, look for your state’s guidelines for obtaining an emotional support animal recommendation before starting with the process of application.
You can also talk to a mental health specialist first to get a clear picture while applying for an ESA letter.
An ESA letter comes with several benefits including living and flying with your pet hassle-free. If you feel your pet is helping you manage your mental condition, you can reach out to a mental health professional or take the telemedicine route. The online process is actually quite easy and convenient.
Just make sure the pet that you are registering as an ESA is well-behaved and does not pose any threat to others in the vicinity.
Having an ESA letter has a lot of perks- like flying with your pet or living in a place even with “no pets allowed” policies at no additional costs or deposits. However, for that first you are required to have access to a genuine ESA letter or recommendation by a licensed mental health professional.
Here are some tips and tricks to start a conversations to an ESA doctor right away.
-Start with a complete homework concerning ESA. Basically, it involves understanding the concept of an ESA such as benefits, its effects on an individual, requirements, and others. This will help to avoiding trapping in any scams whatsoever.
-Get all the medical health records in one place before applying for an ESA letter online. This will save you a lot of time while filling out the online form.
-Although, your doctor will let you know whether or not you will be qualified for having an ESA letter. Still, you can search if your medical condition is a part of the qualifying condition list. For instance, the following conditions are included in the list for sure — anxiety, depression, ADD, bipolar disorder, motor skill disorder, etc
-While asking for an ESA letter, you need to honest and never lie of having any mental health issue. Or else you will have to face consequences.
There are three types of assistance animals — Service, Therapy, and Emotional Support Animals. While service dogs are protected by the American Disabilities Act. There are two federal ESA laws which provide perks to the patients living with any form of mental health disability.
-Fair Housing Act (FHAct)
As per this Act, you and your ESAs will be allowed to live in a “no pets” policy housing societies or condos. The law clearly states that landowners or building managers will have to provide a reasonable accommodation for you and your pet. Plus, they cannot charge anything extra while renting you the apartment such as pet deposits.
-Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
This law is helpful by enabling you to fly with your pet even into the airplane cabins. And this too with no additional charges. However, it is recommended to notify your airplane providers before 48 hours of the scheduled date of the flight.
But, all of this can only be possible only when you have a valid ESA recommendation letter for your pet that too signed by a licensed mental health professional. Or else you might have to face legal penalties for faking your pet as an ESA.
As per the guidelines laid down by ACAA (Air Access Carrier Act), any airline provide does not have the authority to disapprove you from flying just because of your disability.
While, having an ESA letter is a must in such circumstances, here are some additional documentations which are required by most of the airline providers. They include-
-Behavior certificate of your ESA
-Number of ESAs are limited to just 1
-Vaccination and Health Records
Other than that. Here are some tips and tricks when planning a vacation with your ESA.
-Contact your respective airline provider well in advance (at least 48 hours prior to your flight date).
-Once you reach the airport for flying with your ESA, inform the airline representative that you are flying with your pet.
-After boarding the flight, inform the attendees as well that you have an ESA along. So, if your ESA is larger than the seat, they can arrange a seat for you in a bulkhead to help you travel with comfort.
We hope the tips will help you plan your documents and other legal formalities well in advance to make your journey a memorable one. So, make a plan with your companion and have a life filled with happiness, and positivity.
According to the FHA 1988, Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 and Title 2 of ADA, no landlord can discriminate you against renting an apartment because of your disability. This is because an ESA is essential for a person who are in need of an emotional support.
According to this law, a landlord is required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation (which is a suitable change to the ongoing guidelines which will help the patient to live and enjoy the place equally as others) in case of patients with requirement for a pet as an assistive aid. Also, the rule is applicable to the housing societies and condos which have “no pets” policy.
However, there might be some exceptions to this rule, where a landlord can deny your request for renting an apartment. For instance, if you ESA is threat to the safety of others. Or if your ESA is responsible for sudden financial burden to the providers. Or buildings with 4 or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units.
In other circumstances, if you have a valid recommendation letter with all the exceptions covered, then you can file a complaint to HUD. For more information visit: www.hud.gov/offices/fheo or call 1-800-669- 9777.
The advancement of the technology also results in the rise in various scams as well. So, if you are not careful while applying for an ESA letter, you might end up paying a fine around $1000, or your rights of having an ESA might be dissolved.
Some tips and tricks that will help you to avoid such scam websites or portals.
-Don’t fall prey to instant approvals. Such sites work for just duping people and providing with fake letters without letting them talk to a professional.
-Beware of the hidden costs. Some websites circulate ads of minimal amounts for obtaining ESA recommendations. However, you must understand that a licensed professional would expect to earn something for consultations. There is nothing that comes “free” in this world.
-Websites with physical address mentioned. There are many websites which are working only by providing the PO Box number or nothing at all. You must only obtain your ESA letter which have a medical clinic with established clinic history.
-Registration for ESAs. Legally, there is no requirement of having any form of ESA registration other than having an ESA letter. So, if sites are asking you pay extra for registration. Stop right there.
So, check for the licensed doctor’s official letter, the license number, date of issuance, your name, and you will be good to go.
Legally, having a vest for your emotional support animals is definitely not required. But, still, buying it will be of good use especially because people are able to identify you ESA even at distance. Also, having an ESA vest will be helpful while traveling and finding an accommodation as it will notify the people that its an assistance animal.
In addition to that, it will help signify that your ESA is on the “work mode”, or something like “don’t disturb”. Reason being, pets are very cute which engage a lot of viewers wherever they go. So, having a vest on your ESA will help you maintain the desired calmness and peaceful environment which is the ultimate requirement of any mental health patient.
So, finding a suitable vest for your companion should always be on the list of requirements. For that, you need to measure the size of your ESA, preferably cats or dogs around their girth.
Once that is sorted out, check for the fabrics, and style of vest as per your need or requirements. These might be-
Cape Vests that comes in two sizes- regular and tiny which are light in weight with high durability.
They might be available in mesh or cotton fabrics.
These are made using a high quality materials with water-resistant properties. They come along with leashes as well.
There is a lot of difference between the types of assistance animals. For instance, service animals are allowed to be with their handlers at all times. However, the case is not same for emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are only allowed to be in the areas within the housing society along with flying with the airlines.
The rule of ESA's apply to the college dorms as well after HUD asked FHA to include college dormitories into the housing act as well.
For others, you need to ask beforehand, if they allow an emotional support animal into their premises or not. If you have planned an outing with your pet, here are some tips that you need to follow for avoiding any mess afterward.
You need to judge whether or not taking your ESA in the public would be a good idea. See for the mood of your ESA, or else you will end up paying extra bills to the place owners.
Take along water and food for your pet or else they might turn a fun evening into a horrible event. You might end confusion by having a ID card and vest for your ESA. Keep emergency contacts for your ESA always within your reach to avoid any sudden mishappenings.
A common assumption is that just because you have an ESA letter, you can automatically board any flight. There are still a couple of things one needs to take care of. Under federal regulations, if you suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, depression or PTSD you can take your pet with you in-cabin, provided it is a legitimate ESA. There are certainly legitimate concerns you need to take care of before boarding. First of all your pet needs to be well behaved. Along with that, you might even need to fill out some forms. However, in the end, it is all about the practical aspect of the situation. So, choose your airline accordingly.
You are allowed to fly with your ESA if you have an ESA letter. However, every airline has different requirements that you have to comply with. Most of the airlines do not allow the following pets on board such as hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, goats, non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey), and pets with tusks, horns or hooves.
These airlines can refuse your ESA if it starts growling, jumping on passengers, relieving themselves in the gate area or cabin or eating off seatback tray tables.
Southwest Airlines accepts both emotional support animals as well as service animals at no extra cost. Other animals are not allowed to board the plane as an ESA under any circumstances.
A Customer seeking to travel with an emotional support animal must satisfy all of the following requirements:
Delta Airlines also allows emotional support animals to board the plane with their the pet owners provided they are not larger than the footprint of a passenger’s seat. Service and support animals and their associated items travel for free (Items include a kennel, blanket, toy, food or similar item)
Other Delta Airlines requirements include:
We know that service and support animals are highly-trained working animals. We will only refuse transportation of the animal if it engages in disruptive behavior such as:
We do not permit the following as service or support animals, as these animals pose safety and/or public health concerns. If you have additional questions, please contact the accessibility assistance line at 404-209-3434
Fully-trained service animals and emotional support / psychiatric service animals may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements.
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals cannot:
If your animal doesn’t fit within the allowed spaces, you may need to:
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals must be trained to behave properly in public and they won’t be permitted in the cabin if they display any form of disruptive behavior that can’t be successfully corrected or controlled, including but not limited to:
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals must be in your control at all times by leash and / or harness.
If this behavior is observed at any point during your journey and isn’t corrected or controlled, the animal will be considered a pet and all requirements and applicable fees will apply.
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals assist individuals with emotional, psychiatric or cognitive disabilities. Specific training isn’t required for animals to meet this classification.
Only cats and dogs are accepted as emotional support animals. Advanced notice and approval is required to bring an emotional support / psychiatric service animal with you in the cabin.
Fully-trained service animals and emotional support / psychiatric service animals may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements.
Trained service animals
Trained service animals have been specifically trained to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities, including but not limited to:
Dogs and cats are accepted as service animals; miniature horses will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
We encourage advanced notice for service animals, but it isn’t required
As the requirements for transporting each type of animal differ, our employees are trained to ask certain questions to determine the classification applicable to your animal.
ADVANCE NOTICE REQUIRED
To travel with an emotional support / psychiatric service animal in the cabin, you must submit all required forms to the Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before your flight. We’ll notify you upon document approval.
If you don’t complete or meet all the requirements, your animal may be able to fly as a pet. All applicable fees apply.
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals
You must complete, submit and receive approval of all 3 forms before your animal will be allowed to fly:
Fax forms to: 817-967-4715
All service and support animals
If you have a flight over 8 hours in your itinerary, the Animal Sanitation Form is also required stating your animal won’t need to relieve itself or can do so in a way that doesn’t create a health or sanitation issue.
United Airlines allows emotional support animals only on flights with 8 hours or less in duration. All the required documentation should be submitted to the United Airlines accessibility desk at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled flight via email.
United Airlines requirements include:
United requires a passenger who is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of Department of Transportation Rules (Part 382) who wishes to fly with a psychiatric service or emotional support animal to obtain and submit documentation:
United may require an additional airline form to be signed by your on-going treating physician. This is not a service we provide.
Please submit your completed forms as soon as possible via United Airline’s secure portal. The required travel documents for your emotional support or psychiatric service animal must be submitted for approval at least 48 hours prior to your day of travel. Please bring your original forms with you while traveling and be prepared to present them to airline representatives if requested.
With respect to an animal used to assist a qualified individual with a disability, the animal must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Animals found not to have been trained to behave will only be accepted in accordance with United’s current pet policies or may be denied boarding.
Alaskan airlines support the traveling of emotional support animals for free. However, the size of the animal is restricted to the footprint or space of the passenger’s seat or foot area.
Alaska Airlines requirements include:
Alaska may require an additional airline form to be signed by your on-going treating physician. This is not a service we provide.
Emotional support animals must not-