Say you’ve been struggling with your mental health for the past 10 years. Last month, you adopted a beautiful corgi puppy. He’s been amazing for your wellness, making sure you wake up and get out of bed, and for keeping your body active.
The only problem is your landlord. There is a no pet policy in your building, and you don’t have the resources to move to a different place.
You’ve asked your therapist to write you an emotional support animal letter, but they turn you down, saying that they don’t have the necessary qualifications and they are afraid of losing their license if they write you one.
You don’t want to lose your puppy or lose your home. You know that there are ways of obtaining ESAs online, but you’re also afraid of getting scammed.
Read on to find out how to obtain an ESA worry-free, in 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Matching With the Right LMHP
Your very first step is going to be matching with an LMHP, or licensed mental health professional. In the scenario above, the therapist felt they were unqualified and ultimately not helpful.
You will need to find a professional that is familiar with the emotional support animal process who can help you qualify for an ESA letter. Thankfully, there are convenient ways to do this.
One is to utilize an online service that will match you with a doctor and return your certificate to you. For example, if you are located in Washington state, you could consider getting ESA letters here.
Another is to find a medical or mental healthcare professional and converse with them directly about your needs. ESAs are often used in conjunction with therapy and medications, so a licensed professional is best positioned to evaluate their place in your holistic treatment.
You will be using this letter to prove to necessary parties that your domesticated pet is your emotional support animal, whether that be a dog or a cat, or something else.
If you are already working with a therapist and they feel they are unfamiliar with the procedures for writing an ESA, you may ask them to read the HUD’s guide for assistance animals.
If your therapist is still unwilling to help you, you can try asking a family doctor that is familiar with your mental illness and describing how your animal supports your treatment. Alternatively, if you are working with a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, counselor, registered nurse, or another licensed professional, they may be able to help you. Try to ask anyone that is familiar with your mental health treatment plan.
Depending on which professional you ask, the ESA letter will contain a signed and dated prescription or recommendation for you to get an ESA with the professional’s letterhead.
Step 2: What to Know
Your LMHP should let you know that:
- ESAs are only recognized within the United State through the Fair Housing Act
- They are not granted rights to public buildings (restaurants, etc)
- They should be part of a plan to manage a federally recognized disability
- Landlords can not require you to pay a “pet deposit” for the ESA because they are not considered pets
- You will be required to pay for damages incurred by your ESA, however
- An ESA can be anything that is legally owned, like a chicken or a horse but is most commonly a dog
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier than ever to reach licensed medical professionals online. Sometimes, you may be unable to access a professional in person for whatever reason.
There are definitely scams out there, but you can definitely acquire an ESA letter online. The most important thing is that you have a licensed professional write the letter; sometimes, your application may even be denied at no cost to yourself if the online professional returns an evaluation that an ESA is not recommended for your treatment.
Thankfully, these services are convenient and efficient for those who do need ESAs in a snap and are unable to find other licensed professionals.
Does Your Animal Need Training?
You’ve designated your chicken as an ESA. Does it need to be trained?
The answer is no.
Some common domesticated animals like cats and dogs can indeed be trained to offer emotional support through their behavior, but people use ESAs for all sorts of reasons.
Unconventional but valid ESAs include horses, birds, hedgehogs, snakes, and more. Any animal that can be legally domesticated can be your ESA.
Do Your Research
Before committing to an online ESA service, please do your research. There are scammers out there, many of whom are operating from abroad.
Verify whichever company you are using with whatever means possible. Be skeptical of services that take your money upfront.
Step 3: Receive and Show Your ESA as Needed
Regardless of whether you are receiving your ESA letter through an online professional or through an LMHP you visit in person, ask for a digital and print copy.
Keep the digital copy with you on hand in case you need it for a consultation with your landlord, and keep the physical copy as well.
Through the Fair Housing Act, once you get an emotional support animal you will always be allowed to live with them even if your building does not allow pets. Restrictions on the breed and weight of your animal will not apply, because they are not considered regular pets. You should not be legally subject to any fees or deposits for your ESA.
Getting Your Emotional Support Animal Letter Today
Emotional support animal letters should not be hard to come by for those who need them. Animals are amazing for those who are struggling with their mental health, and many healthcare professionals are beginning to recognize this.
The key is finding a professional to support you through your treatment and this entire process. If you are unable to find one in person, there are LMHPs available online to help you.
Read more about living with animals in our Top Stories section.