How to Get an Emotional Support Animal: Professional Advice for Living and Traveling with an ESA
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is one that does exactly what it says – provides emotional support. The Fair Housing Act allows an ESA to live with you, even if the landlord has a ‘no pet’ policy. In order to enjoy this benefit, you need a letter from a mental health professional to confirm that you have a mental health problem and that the ESA helps you to deal with it.
An ESA does not need training to perform specific tasks like a service animal. You may already have a pet that can serve as your ESA, and all you need to do is get an ESA letter. Otherwise, getting an ESA is pretty much like getting any other pet. You will need to decide which one is best for you and look at local places where you could adopt or buy one. Before you go ahead and adopt a pet to act as your ESA, connect with a mental health professional.
Connect with a mental health professional
A licensed mental health professional such as a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist can write an ESA recommendation letter for you. One with specific knowledge about ESAs is your best option. Today you can visit a website like ESAPet and receive a legit ESA letter in California or wherever you live in the U.S. You first have a short assessment to find out if you’re a good candidate, and if you are, an online appointment with a licensed mental health professional is arranged for you. You will receive your ESA letter within 24 hours. As long as the letter appears on a professional letterhead and is signed and dated, it is just as legitimate as one from a therapist you see in person.
Traveling with an ESA
In 2020 the United States Department of Transportation introduced a new law relating to airlines and ESAs. The new law allows airlines to recognize ESAs as pets rather than as service animals. Airlines were happy about this law as an increasing number of ESAs were traveling by plane with their owners. It is now up to each individual airline to decide whether your ESA can travel with you. Some of them also require that you now pay a pet fee. This law is regarded as discriminatory by some organizations who are working towards a compromise in legislation.
Find the right ESA for you
There are various considerations you will need to keep in mind when choosing an emotional support animal.
Size: If you live in a small apartment, a small dog like a Yorkie would be appropriate. You could even consider a hamster, ferret or bird. A larger animal like a Labrador Retriever would require suitable garden space.
Temperament: If you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, you need an ESA that will attach to you and form a strong bond. You want one that gives you companionship and comforts you.
Health: If you suffer from allergies, you will need a hypoallergenic ESA, such as a Poodle or Yorkshire Terrier. Certain dog breeds suffer from specific health problems, and going with a breed that suffers from fewer health problems may be best when considering an ESA.
Behavior: ESA’s may not have the training to perform specific tasks, but they still need some kind of basic training to ensure that they aren’t misbehaving. If your ESA is unruly and causes damages, a landlord could charge you for this. Pets intelligent enough to undergo some basic training make better ETAs.
Use your ESA letter the right way
Your landlord needs to know if you want your ESA to live with you. You must submit your ESA letter and give the landlord about ten days to respond. Landlords must accept the letter unless they have a legitimate reason not to do so. Your landlord doesn’t have to know details about your condition, and you don’t have to show any medical records.
If you want to take your ESA with you on a flight, you can submit your ESA letter, but this doesn’t mean the airline will accept it.
You shouldn’t try to pass off your pet as an ESA unless you have a legitimate ESA letter. This could give people who get genuine relief from having an ESA a bad reputation. However, landlords can be misinformed about the law and may want to see if your ESA is registered or certified, which isn’t necessary.
Make sure you can take care of your ESA
Before you get an ESA, it is important to seriously consider the responsibilities of taking care of it. Are you physically, mentally and financially capable of caring for it? A dog is a fairly high-maintenance animal, and you need to know that you can provide it with enough food, exercise and grooming. A cat requires less maintenance as it is a more independent animal, but it may be best to start off with a hamster or a bird.
Having an emotional support animal can be a great help if you’re suffering from a mental or emotional disability that affects the quality of your life. You will need to receive a confirmation of your diagnosis from a mental health professional and a legitimate ESA letter to present to your landlord if you want your ESA to live with you in accommodation with a ‘no pets’ policy. You need to select an ESA that is best for your specific issue and one that you know you can care for.