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What Are The Costs Associated With an Emotional Support Animal?

The main emotional support animal cost you will incur is the price of acquiring an ESA letter, which can cost up to $200+. Outside of that, you need to consider adoption costs for your ESA, as well as the cost of caring for your animal. These costs include food, enrichment, and vet bills.

Kristi Carignan
February 12, 2024
November 17, 2023
5 minute read
Updated By
Pettable Staff
February 12, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
November 17, 2023
August 18, 2021
5 minute read
February 12, 2024
Emotional support animals entail costs, including adoption fees, ongoing care expenses, and obtaining necessary documentation.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) play a crucial role in providing comfort, companionship, and emotional well-being to individuals facing mental health challenges. However, one aspect that potential ESA owners often think about is the cost associated with acquiring and maintaining an ESA.

How Much Does an Emotional Support Animal Cost?

There are several costs to think about for an emotional support animal. Most notably, getting an ESA letter can cost anywhere from $150 - $200+ but is vital for documenting your need for an ESA. Other costs to think about are animal adoption costs, and the cost of caring for your emotional support animal. How much you end up paying will vary greatly depending on what type of animal you have.

Costs Associated with an Emotional Support Animal

From securing the ESA letter to the cost of additional paperwork and the renewal of an ESA letter, these are all factors you need to consider when assessing the financial responsibility of having an ESA. There are also animal adoption costs, veterinarian costs, and costs associated with the general care of your ESA.

Cost of an Initial Emotional Support Animal Letter

The cost of an ESA Letter primarily comprises the fee for the Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) consultation and ranges from $150 to $200 or more. This consultation involves a thorough assessment of your mental health condition and determines your need for an emotional support animal. 

Cost of Additional Paperwork for your Emotional Support Animal

In addition to the ESA Letter, your landlord may request further paperwork to verify your emotional support animal's status. These additional documents typically come with an expense, ranging from $30 to $50, and serve to fulfill your landlord's requirements, ensuring that your ESA is permitted within their property and cannot charge you additional fees. It's important to note that the specific paperwork may vary among landlords, so it's advisable to communicate with them to understand their expectations.

ESA Letter Renewal Costs

While ESA letters are not legally required to be renewed annually, landlords may request a fresh letter each year, and this can range from $100 to $200. Some states, like Arkansas, have even mandated yearly renewals.

Emotional Support Animal Adoption Costs

The cost of adopting an animal from a shelter can vary depending on several factors such as the type of animal (e.g., dog, cat, rabbit), the age of the animal, the shelter's location, and any additional services or fees included in the adoption process. However, on average, adoption fees for animals from shelters typically range from $50 to $200.

These adoption fees often cover the cost of basic veterinary care, such as vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping. Some shelters may also include other services like initial grooming, a starter kit with food and supplies, or a trial pet insurance plan.

It's worth noting that while the initial adoption fee covers many essential services, there will be additional costs associated with pet ownership, such as ongoing veterinary care, food, grooming, and supplies. However, adopting from a shelter is often more affordable than purchasing from a breeder or pet store, and it provides a loving home to an animal in need.

Costs of Caring for Your Emotional Support Animal

In addition to adoption fees, you also have to consider veterinarian visits, vaccinations, and initial supplies such as food and grooming equipment. It’s important to choose an animal that suits your lifestyle and your needs, as these costs can total hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year. 

Things You Don't Need to Purchase for Your Emotional Support Animal

Many items are not legally required for your ESA, but many businesses sell them as they are looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of ESAs. Some of these items include vests, registrations, and ID cards. It is okay to purchase these products if you have already gotten written documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating that you need an emotional support animal, but these products alone do not make your ESA official.

Emotional Support Animal Savings on Pet Rent, Fees, Deposits

One of the benefits of having an ESA is potential savings on pet-related costs. Many landlords who recognize ESAs are not allowed to charge pet rent, fees, or deposits. This can result in substantial financial relief compared to having a traditional pet.

As long as you have a legitimate ESA letter, your ESA is protected by the Fair Housing Act, allowing you to live with your emotional support animal without incurring additional pet-related expenses. Learn more about the obligations of house providers here and the steps required in assessing a person’s request to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act

What is an Emotional Support Animal Letter (ESA Letter)?

An ESA letter is the gateway to obtaining and maintaining an emotional support animal. It serves as the legal foundation for your rights and responsibilities as an ESA owner and is issued by a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. This letter verifies that an individual has a mental health condition that necessitates an emotional support animal. The letter is crucial when it comes to ensuring your ESA's legitimacy and your rights as an ESA owner.

An example graphic of an ESA letter with the issuing clinicians name and license information clearly stated.
An example of what a legitimate ESA letter should look like.

Do I Need to Renew my ESA Letter Yearly?

While it's not technically required to renew your ESA letter yearly, it is often recommended for peace of mind. Some landlords may insist on annual renewals, and in certain states, it is mandated by law. ESA letter renewals provide an opportunity to assess whether your emotional support animal continues to be necessary for your mental health. 

Can I Get an Emotional Support Animal for Free/Cheap?

The cost associated with ESA letters is primarily attributed to the thorough evaluation conducted by LMHPs. While some may claim to offer free or cheap ESA letters, it's essential to be cautious. Legitimate ESA letters require a genuine assessment, which cannot be offered for free.

Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, as they may not meet the legal and ethical standards required for emotional support animals. A legitimate ESA letter is an investment in your mental well-being and your ESA's place in your life.

The Takeaway

An ESA letter is not just a piece of paper; it represents the recognition of the positive impact your ESA can have on your mental health, offering invaluable emotional support and companionship in your life. The costs associated with an ESA may initially seem daunting, but they are essential for ensuring the well-being of both the ESA owner and the animal itself.

Meet the author:
Kristi Carignan

Kristi Carignan is a seasoned freelance writer with over 20 years of experience crafting copy for global agencies and brands. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her furry companions, Sugar the PomChi and Rudy the Shiba Inu, and indulging in hobbies like crafting and home renovation.

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