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Is A Free Emotional Support Animal Letter Real?

Despite free emotional support animal letter templates existing online, they are not sufficient evidence of an emotional support animal. Any legitimate ESA letter requires a consultation with a licensed mental health professional, which comes with a cost. Using a free ESA letter risks losing your housing rights or even legal consequences.

April Brightman
January 12, 2024
November 28, 2023
7 minute read
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November 28, 2023
August 18, 2021
7 minute read
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A free ESA letter isn't real because it requires a licensed mental health professional's assessment, not available for free online.

An emotional support animal letter is the key to enjoying all the rights and benefits of having an emotional support animal in your life. Getting an ESA letter that’s 100% legitimate is a must. The legitimacy of free ESA letters is questionable at best, with most simply being templates you fill out online. A proper ESA letter requires that you consult with a licensed mental health professional, who is qualified to write such a medical document, and is very unlikely to be free unless you have financial assistance.

Free Emotional Support Animal Letter

Free emotional support animal letters are often not legitimate or legally valid because they typically lack a genuine evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Legitimate letters require a thorough assessment of the individual's mental health condition and the necessity of an emotional support animal. Free letters may not meet these standards, raising doubts about the authenticity of the support animal's role.

Can You Get a Free ESA Letter?

The only time a free emotional support animal letter can be legitimate is when it’s provided to you by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) who you’ve already been seeing. Even then, there are certainly significant costs associated with seeing a mental health professional. If you’re under their care, your counselor or therapist are examples of professionals who can write you an ESA letter, typically for no additional cost. 

Free ESA letters that you find online are unlikely to be legitimate, or hold any validity. It is a legal requirement that a licensed mental health professional who is aware of your mental health condition write you an ESA letter. These free online services simply put your name and details into a template and pass it off as an ESA letter. If your landlord looks into the validity of your letter, these free online ESA letters won't stand up to scrutiny, and your housing accommodation will certainly be denied.

Free ESA Letters Online are Not Legitimate

Free emotional support animal letters obtained online are not legitimate. Getting a real ESA letter requires a consultation with a licensed health professional (like a therapist, counselor, or LMHP). Although, this does not mean that all ESA letters offered online are illegitimate, but there are signs you should look out for. If a company offering an ESA letter isn't transparent about your need to consult with an LMHP, there is a chance they are cutting corners and offering you a legally invalid document. Make sure that you have a real conversation with a healthcare professional when obtaining your ESA letter.

How to Get a Real ESA Letter

Getting a real ESA letter is a fairly straightforward process, but requires a few steps. First, you have to have a qualifying condition that meets the requirements for getting an emotional support animal. Any condition can qualify, but a few common examples are anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Second, you’ll need to consult with a mental health clinician like an LMHP or therapist to get an official diagnosis. Finally, your provider must write you an emotional support animal letter that contains a statement you require an ESA, is on official letterhead, and includes their professional license number. 

A dog look up at its owner who is on a laptop working

Your Current Mental Health Clinician May Write You an ESA Letter for Free

If you’re already under the care of a mental health clinician, they can write you an emotional support animal letter for free. Whether it’s counseling, therapy, or another type of treatment, licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs), psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed providers can provide you with an ESA letter for free because you’re already using their services. 

What if Your Mental Health Clinician Doesn’t Write ESA Letters?

If your mental health clinician doesn’t write emotional support animal letters, there are a few ways you can seek an emotional support animal letter on your own.

Use an Online ESA Letter Service

Online emotional support animal letter services can supply you with the documentation you need and provide you with service from the comfort of your home. Pettable works with a huge network of licensed mental health clinicians in all 50 states who can provide consultations and legal, legitimate ESA letters. 

Ask to be Referred to Another LMHP

If they don’t write emotional support animal letters themselves, your provider may be able to refer you to a clinician who does write ESA letters. Ask if there is someone in the same practice or office who can provide you with an ESA letter consultation, or if they can write you a referral to see a professional in another practice who can. 

How Do Online ESA Letter Services Work?

Getting an emotional support animal letter online is convenient and simple, but requires a few key pieces in order for the ESA letter to be legitimate. Online ESA letter services like Pettable typically have you provide more information first, then work with you to consult with a clinician and get your ESA letter.

Getting Your ESA Letter with Pettable

Pettable provides emotional support animal letter services to individuals across the U.S. 

The first step to getting an ESA letter with Pettable is taking our brief assessment and giving us a little more information about you. Once we have that, we’ll match you with a licensed mental health clinician in your state who can provide you with the necessary consultations. Once you’ve worked with a clinician to determine your specific needs they can provide you with your legitimate ESA letter, which can be used for housing, travel, employment, or any combination of the three. 

A woman cuddling with her emotional support dog in bed

Beware of Illegitimate Emotional Support Animal Services Online

There are some online services out there that claim to provide legitimate emotional support animal services but are really only providing unnecessary products. Registration forms, certificates, and ID tags are all items that might be offered but hold no legal weight when it comes to proving your need for a service animal. 

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

An emotional support animal letter is a legal medical document that proves an individual’s need for an ESA. It functions somewhat like a prescription and is the only way of certifying an emotional support animal. A legitimate ESA letter is important for individuals with a mental health condition who wish to make a request for reasonable accommodation when it comes to housing, employment, or travel.

Legitimate ESA letters must contain a few things. They have to:

  1. Be written by a licensed health professional 
  2. Contain a statement that you have a qualifying mental health condition or disability
  3. State that an emotional support animal is part of your care plan
  4. Be written on the official letterhead of the practice
  5. Include the professional licensed number of the provider

Who Can Write an ESA Letter?

Any licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can write an emotional support animal letter. Other health professionals who can provide ESA letters might be physicians, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, or psychologists. 

What is a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)?

A licensed mental health professional or LMHP is someone who provides care to individuals, couples, or families with psychiatric or mental health conditions. They do this through counseling, therapy, or other appropriate treatment options. 

Is There an Official Government ESA Letter Service?

No official government service currently provides emotional support animal letters, training, or matching. There’s no official registry or database of certified service animals, either. Companies that claim to offer certification or registration of an emotional support animal or service animal are likely not legitimate. 

The Law on ESA Letters: The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prevents discrimination against individuals with disabilities seeking rental housing or housing assistance  — including those who require an emotional support animal or service dog. 

Under the FHA, emotional support animals are exempt from policies that restrict pets in rental housing and aren’t subject to fees or breed restrictions. Landlords and rental agents, however, may ask for proof of your need for an emotional support animal. An ESA letter is the only recognized form of documentation that must be accepted.

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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