Getting an Emotional Support Animal Letter
Emotional Support Animals or ESAs, are prescribed as part of a treatment program to certain people with psychological or emotional disabilities. These animals bring comfort to their patients. A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed therapist, are the only individuls authorized to prescribe an animal according to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. ESA’s help mitigate emotional/mood related symptoms, as well as help the patient remove themselves from a triggering environment that could potential lead to emotional turmoil. The following is some information about an Emotional Animal Support Letter –
What Is an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
An ESA letter is a prescription document which would allow a qualified individual to take an ESA with them on airplanes and will also effectively overturn a no-pet policy in housing. However, in order to prove your disability and the need to have an ESA, you need an ESA letter. This letter should not be more than a year old for air travel. An ESA letter for housing does not have to be within a specific timeframe. Each letter should be printed on a professional letterhead, and the person recommending the ESA for you should be a licensed medical professional.
The following information must be stated in the letter:
➢ The disability that the passenger has is related to mental health and is a part of DMV-IV. This mental disability limits one or multiple major life activities of the patient substantially.
➢ The ESA is necessary for the treatment, health and well-being of the patient at the destination and during the flight.
➢ The person signing and writing the letter is licensed in medical health and the patient is under their care. Also, the letter should specify the particular type of medical health professional that the individual is – clinical social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, et al.
➢ Details about the license of the medical health professional, including date, state, type, et al.
➢ The letter should be dated no longer than 12 months from your departure date.
Who Needs an ESA Letter?
A person who has a mental disability and has been recommended to carry an ESA everywhere needs an ESA letter to carry the animal to certain establishments. These disorders should be included in DMV-IV. DMV-IV disorders include mental retardation, learning disorders, motor skills disorders, communication disorder, developmental disorder, ADD or disruptive behavior disorder, eating disorders, feeding disorders, tic disorders, elimination disorder, delirium, dementia, amnesia, cognitive disorders, substance related disorders (alcohol, drugs, and others), schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, mood disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, somatoform disorder, factitious disorders, dissociative disorders (DID), sexual dysfunctions, paraphilia, gender identity disorder, sexual disorder, sleep disorders, adjustment disorder, impulse control disorders, and others.
For all the above mentioned disabilities, an ESA can be obtained. It is needed when the patient wishes to fly with their ESA (take the animal into the flight with them). It is also required if the patient gets an accommodation and wishes to stay with their ESA, especially if the rules and policies of the landlord do not allow for pets and animals.
Who Is Authorized To Write The ESA Letter?
The ESA letter can only be written by a mental health specialist who is licensed. It could be a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or anyone else. The credentials of the specialist need to be legitimate. This is because various airlines might call the office of the professional and take steps to verify the authenticity of the ESA letter. They need to be sure that this is not just another ploy by people to take their animals with them.
Do Letters Need Expiration On Them For Traveling With An Emotional Support Animal?
Usually, the ESA letter is a blanket permission which lasts for a long time.
The date at the top should not be more than a year old. If it is, it is best to get another letter because the authorities want the letter to be recent. Also bring the vaccine and health records of the ESA with you if traveling to Hawaii, in case the authorities want to examine them . It is best to have your ESA be potty trained before flying.
What About Housing Letters For Emotional Support Animals?
The needs, requirements and authorization for a Housing ESA Letter are the same as a normal ESA letter. According to Fair Housing Amendments Act, 1988, property managers and landlords must make accommodations in their policies to allow the ESA to live with their tenant. Thus, in a “cat only” housing society, a dog who is an ESA would be allowed. If the policy is such that the animal should not weigh more than 10lbs. and the ESA is 30lbs., it would be allowed. If all dogs are allowed but Cocker Spaniels are the exception, the rules will be changed in case your ESA is a cocker spaniel. The documentation requirements are the same as that of a normal ESA letter.
Sometimes, the landlord or property manager might verify the contents of the letter by asking your psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health professional to fill a verification form. According to the protection, the landlord CANNOT –
➢ Ask for a pet deposit, surcharge or fee for the ESA for allowing the ESA to live with their tenant. Even if the normal rule for pets in the housing society is such that it requires a fee, it would not be applicable to the ESA.
➢ Require the ESA to undergo training.
➢ Require the ESA to wear a special means of identification like emblem, vest, dog collar, harness, et al.
➢ Ask for details about the individual’s disability or medical records regarding the same.
➢ Refuse accommodation to the ESA because it is not covered by their insurance policy.
➢ Put a clause for charging the tenant for any damages to the premises caused by the ESA.
➢ Evict or threaten to evict the tenant and his ESA if the animal causes disturbance, shows aggression or behaves in an unruly manner.
If the property manager or landlord refuses to comply with the law, they can be reported to the US Justice Department or sued for discrimination.
What Are the Qualifications For Getting a Letter?
The patient must need the ESA in order to conduct major day-to-day living activities. Their ESA should be a part of the treatment program as recommended by the licensed medical practitioner. The ESA would only be provided if all these qualifications are fulfilled. For airlines and housing societies, the ESA letter is that qualification.
• Other Important Points –
➢ Are Tags, Vest, Or Any Other Forms of Registration Compulsory for the ESA?
No, there is no rule or compulsion in getting the ESA registered. However, registration is recommended. Also, there is no rule about making them wear a special emblem, vest or tag. However, if you do not want other people to pet your ESA, touch them or play with them (like they would with normal pets), you can make them wear a special vest.
➢ How Much Information About The Disability Needs to be Given?
Landlords and airlines cannot ask you about the details regarding your disability. Only the information revealed in the ESA letter and the fact that the disability falls under DMV-IV is to be provided.
➢ Is a Special Customs Check Necessary For ESA?
It depends on the country you are traveling to. Many countries have special vet booths or animal import agencies that will check the paperwork of your animal and let you pass. They will give you a document which you can show at the normal customs gate.
In case of any nervousness about the ESA while flying, it is always best to mail the ESA letter to the airlines in advance and print out their approval.