Emotional support animals help people with mental health disorders cope with day-to-day activities or even major life events. Emotional support animals are different from service animals because these animals support a person’s emotional well-being and mental well-being. An emotional support animal, ESA, has the ability to help someone struggling. Read on to learn more about emotional support pet letter requirements, federal laws, and more.
For individuals suffering from emotional or mental disabilities, there may be help in owning an emotional support animal (ESA). Support animals and service animals benefit their owners with emotional or mental health disabilities. Whether an individual has a support animal to aid them with different mental or emotional disabilities or a service animal to perform specific tasks, emotional support animals can offer help and benefits to individuals who need it. Having a mental or emotional disability and being diagnosed by mental health professionals also means you are protected under federal and state laws, including the Fair Housing Act.
The Bottom Line
- What Is An ESA? - An emotional support animal helps to alleviate symptoms of a mental disability or emotional disability by providing companionship and support.
- How To Make Your Pet An ESA? - To make your pet an ESA you need to have a mental health evaluation with a qualified medical professional in your state. To get the process started click here.
- Benefits Of An ESA - An ESA letter can help keep your pet in your home, waive expensive pet fees, stay in Airbnbs, and travel with your furry friend.
- Satisfaction Guaranteed - Pettable is the only ESA service offering a satisfaction guarantee - meaning your letter works for you or you get your money back!
- How To Get Started? - You can take our 3 minute quiz and see if an ESA will work for your needs.
Your pet has a significant, positive impact on your mental and emotional health, and you’d like to make it official. Or perhaps you’re struggling with mental and emotional disabilities that a furry companion could help ease for you. Common emotional support animals offer vital emotional support.
But how do you make them official, so your animal can be accommodated by your landlord, housing providers, some airlines, and other public places? You need a signed ESA letter. This certifies that your animal is more than just a pet and is, in fact, an emotional support animal that’s beneficial – even instrumental – to your mental and emotional health.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is a type of animal that helps individuals who have mental health conditions or emotional health disabilities. The ESA offers emotional support with its presence. A licensed mental health professional can diagnose, approve, and distribute ESA letters to individuals who qualify for an ESA.
To be prescribed ESA letters by a licensed mental health professional, the person must deal with disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the animal's presence is needed for the patient's mental health.
What Steps Do You Need To Take To Ensure Your ESA Letter Is Legitimate?
There are a few critical things you need to look out for when engaging an ESA letter service to ensure your ESA letter is legitimate.
What Makes The ESA Letter Legitimate?
Unfortunately, there are many scammers out there these days who seek to take advantage of people with real mental and emotional disabilities. Many claim to provide a legally binding “certificate” or “registration” for your ESA – when, in fact, no such registry exists, and the only way to legally legitimize an ESA is through an ESA letter written by a licensed medical professional. The letter must also meet the following standards to be considered legitimate.
ESA Letters Must Be on Official Letterhead
For your pet to be considered a legitimate emotional support animal, the ESA letter needs to be from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and must include the LMHP’s official letterhead.
You can think of the letterhead as the logo for a licensed mental health professional (i.e. their business stamp).
They Must Have the Mental Health Professional’s License Number
A mental health professional must have a valid license in your state when they prescribe and sign an ESA letter certifying that you qualify to have an emotional support animal live or travel with you.
To ensure you have a legitimate ESA letter, make sure the letter includes a license number and check it to be sure it is valid. You can look online for sites where you can confirm that a mental health professional is in good standing and their license is valid.
They Also Need the Licensed Mental Health Professional’s Contact Info
All valid ESA letters also have to include full contact information for the licensed provider who signs them. This is very important because landlords often want to verify that you have a legitimate ESA letter and contact the provider directly to confirm that you qualify to have your ESA with you.
ESA Letters Need Specific Information Required by HUD under the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act governs the rights of people who qualify for an emotional support animal under federal law. The Fair Housing Act also requires that your health care provider follows specific rules to diagnose that you have a mental or emotional disability that qualifies.
For your ESA letter to be valid, the licensed professional who signs it needs to use specific language when stating you have a qualifying mental or emotional health condition. Don’t worry about confidentiality. ESA letters are medical documents, and particular information about your medical issue(s) cannot legally be included.
Besides stating that you have a qualifying condition, the licensed professional who signs your ESA letter has to also say that the symptoms of your condition benefit from having an emotional support animal with you.
Whether you need an ESA letter for housing or travel, the letter must also include the professional’s request for reasonable accommodation on your behalf.
ESA Travel Letters Must Also Include Information Required under the Air Carrier Access Act
If your ESA letter is intended to allow you to travel on a plane with your emotional support animal, it has to include some additional information required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Air Carrier Access Act. Those rules say that the licensed healthcare professional who signs your ESA letter has to specifically state that you need an emotional support animal to travel due to qualifying emotional disabilities or mental disabilities.
What are the Benefits of Having an ESA Letter?
If your animal companion truly does provide emotional support in and out of the home, having an emotional support animal letter to make your pet an official ESA can have several benefits. While rules for emotional support companions may vary from place to place, there are general rules for a variety of places and situations.
Emotional support animals comfort owners with specific mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, phobias like agoraphobia, and depression. Suppose the applicant has evidence of experiencing mental health issues. In that case, they should be able to qualify for an emotional support animal letter, which is the first step to having an emotional support animal.
Live Anywhere With Your Pet
The Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) wants to ensure people with mental and emotional disabilities are able to access the treatment and support they need. Because of this, they have regulations in place that protect your ability to live with your ESA, regardless of the pet policies at any housing unit or apartment complex you move to.
Having an ESA letter makes your support animal official. This allows you to hand your ESA letter to your landlord and bypass any “no-pet” rules on the premises. Your landlord may verify your mental health clinician’s license and call them to verify your letter, but cannot ask any more questions regarding your specific diagnosis or how the animal helps. While federal and state laws vary on many topics, landlords and housing complexes are required to allow you to live with your support pet.
Avoid Expensive Housing Pet Fees
Even in housing units and apartment complexes that typically charge pet owners a fee to live with their animals, you shouldn’t have to, provided you show your landlord your ESA letter. The HUD doesn’t want you to go without the support you need due to extraneous fees. An ESA letter can make it possible for you to avoid them, and still keep your ESA in your apartment.
Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), tenants can have an emotional support animal without additional pet fees or a pet deposit. Housing providers are not allowed to deny tenants due to a disability, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), nor are housing providers permitted to deny an emotional support animal if the tenant has a legitimate ESA Letter.
When you're living alone and experiencing mental issues, having an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional allows for more options in trying to help the patient's mental health.
Fly on Some Airlines With Your Support Animal
In early 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed policies that no longer federally protect ESAs, giving individual airlines the power to decide whether or not they will accommodate ESAs in the cabin during flights.
Unfortunately, because of this, most domestic carriers no longer accept ESAs and instead ask that they fly in the cargo portion of the plane with other pets. However, several international airlines will still allow an ESA on board with no extra fees. It’s always a good idea to call an airline ahead of your booking to learn of their specific policy.
Some people find it an excruciating experience to travel on planes. This is why certain airlines allow passengers to travel with an emotional support animal that can provide support by reducing anxiety. The Air Carrier Access Act allows certain emotional support animals to be with their passengers on a plane to help relieve travel anxiety or societal anxiety.
Those with mental and emotional disabilities often need a social companion to provide emotional support from a mental health aspect. They will typically qualify, mainly if they can communicate their needs for an emotional support dog to the licensed professional of their state.
Stay at Any Airbnb With Your ESA
Airbnb supports the use of emotional support animals, thus allowing guests to bring an ESA to any Airbnb – even those that typically have a “no-pet” policy. Just be sure to provide your ESA letter for your host to view and confirm the animal’s purpose. You may also want to reach out in advance before your stay to allow the host time to prepare the home for your pet.
Gain Access to Some Public Places With Your Pet
While an ESA letter provides no federal protection to allow your emotional support animal to go with you anywhere, some public places may be accommodating if they understand that the animal is more than just a pet.
Ask your restaurant host or manager at the store if you can bring your emotional support animal inside – and be sure to show them your ESA letter, too. You never know – you may just come across an understanding person who’s willing to accommodate your support animal.
What Makes The Emotional Support Animal Letter Provider Legitimate?
Besides making sure your ESA letter includes all the necessary details and language, you need to make sure the service that you use to obtain the letter is also legit, or you will almost certainly run into trouble. It is important to note that it is possible to find a legitimate ESA letter online. But there are steps that must be taken before valid and official ESA letter requirements are met.
The Service Has Licensed Mental Health Professionals In Your State
First off, the providers you connect with through an ESA letter service MUST be licensed in the state where you live. It is illegal for anyone to provide a medical service, including an ESA assessment, in a state where they don’t have a valid license.
As long as they are licensed in your state, various medical professionals can provide a valid ESA letter, including:
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- Family Doctor With Experience In Mental Health
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors
- Licensed Clinical Psychologists
Check this out carefully, because services that provide fake ESA letters will sometimes connect you with a professional, but they won't necessarily be licensed in your state. When a landlord or an airline checks that your ESA letter is legit, that is one of the questions they can ask.
The Service Only Offers Live LMHP Consultations
Another thing you need to check when trying to get an official ESA letter is that the medical consultation is done live either in person or, more commonly these days, via a video call. If a service says they provide an ESA letter online and you only have to fill out a form online, get away from them right away.
It is entirely legal to provide ESA letters via an online service. It is also 100% illegal for a mental health professional to state that your mental health qualifies you for an emotional support pet letter without necessarily having met you previously. But, if you don’t have a live conversation with the professional who signs your ESA letter, then the letter isn’t in fact legitimate.
How to Qualify for an ESA Letter
To make the state recognize your need for an emotional support animal, the applicant must meet with licensed mental health professionals to have any potential mental issues verified.
We offer a risk-free guarantee that we will refund your entire payment with reasonable accommodation if your ESA letter doesn't work correctly. Hence, there is no reason to schedule a meeting with a licensed mental health provider.
Most states recognize the need for emotional support animals for those with emotional and mental disabilities. Because of this, those within the states will be eligible to receive a legitimate ESA letter and become ESA owners by following simple steps.
Take the pre-qualification quiz.
This online questionnaire will change depending on whether you already have a pet that you wish to be recognized as an ESA or if you are looking to get an ESA letter, then get a pet.
For the latter, the mental health professional will ask more questions about the number of pets the client wishes to have ESA recognized, the type of pet they are looking to have, and the type of ESA letter they may need, whether it is ESA letters for housing providers, for travel, or both.
Suppose the licensed mental health professional determines that you suffer from mental health disorders or mental illnesses and have a disability-related need for an emotional support animal. In that case, they will write you an ESA letter to make it official for your current or future pet.
Receive your letter
To obtain an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, you may need to pay around $149 or $199 for a Travel and Housing ESA letter.
How to Spot a Fake ESA Letter
With the plethora of scammers on the Internet, it’s essential to learn how to spot a fake support animal letter. Some telltale signs that an emotional support animal letter is fake include the following:
- It’s not written by a licensed mental health professional
- It’s written without an LMHP’s letterhead
- Not written by an LMHP registered in your state
- Includes no license number or contact information for the LMHP who wrote it
- Does not include the date issued
- Uses incorrect terms, like “therapy animal” or “service animal” instead of “emotional support animal”
Or the ESA letter-writing service may not be legitimate if any of the following are true:
- It does not require a mental health screening
- The service is TOO inexpensive
- They don’t offer to respond to people who wish to verify your ESA letter
- They claim registration is required
- They claim a certificate, ESA tag, ESA ID card, or vest is required
- They claim you’ll be able to take your pet anywhere
What Makes The ESA Service Provider World Class?
The last piece for you to consider is what makes a service like Pettable that can help you get an emotional support pet letter a truly world-class service.
Offer a Guarantee That the Letter Will Work, or Your Money Back
You can be sure the service you work with to obtain an emotional support pet letter does things legitimately when it guarantees the service it offers. Look for a company that promises to refund your money if the emotional pet support letter they provide doesn’t work to protect your rights to keep an emotional support animal with you at home or while traveling.
At Pettable, we know how important the service we provide is to our customers, and we stand behind it 100%. We guarantee that the ESA letter you obtain through Pettable will do everything it is supposed to under the law.
We can offer such a strong guarantee because we carefully choose the mental health professionals you will work with. We make sure that you get matched with the right person – someone with experience writing ESA letters, who knows the legal and other requirements, and who will work with you to understand your situation and make sure you get the ESA help you need.
Outstanding Customer Service
Finding the right service to work with to get a valid emotional support animal letter can be stressful. For one thing, there are many shady services out there that take advantage of how important emotional support animals are to their owner’s quality of life.
And, of course, anyone who needs an emotional support animal is already dealing with difficult mental or emotional challenges. Our responsibility to our customers is a serious one. We’ve built our business to offer you unparalleled customer support as you work to deal with often challenging housing or travel situations.
That’s why we provide knowledgeable 24/7 support via email, SMS, or phone to answer specific questions or help you deal with an urgent issue. If you get an ESA letter through Pettable, we've got your back – our team has resolved 99% of all customer inquiries.
Have Your Back With Legal Support
Having your back includes providing legal support. We’re here to help if you run into problems getting your emotional support animal approved by your landlord or need help filling out a Reasonable Accommodation form.
Sometimes one of our ESA clients encounters someone willing to risk denying a valid ESA letter and legal request for accommodation. It doesn’t happen a lot but, when it does, our team is there to explain your legal rights as an ESA owner and make sure you and your companion are protected.
Don’t Charge You For A Bunch of Extras - Like Multiple Pets or Calling Your Landlord
We don’t charge you extra for things that should be included in every ESA letter service, like helping you get approved for more than one ESA or making any necessary calls to your landlord.
We don't believe in price gouging our customers, and we include as much as we can into one affordable fee.
We offer some added-cost options, including express service that guarantees you will receive an ESA evaluation within twenty-four hours of signing up. We also can sign any external forms (like something from your landlord or rental office) for an additional fee.
One benefit of Pettable is that we include up to two animals per letter if your situation qualifies. Most services restrict it to one per letter and try to nickel and dime you.
Because the medical and legal forms involved in obtaining an ESA letter are often lengthy, complex, and require additional work from our clinicians, we cover the cost of providing multiple copies of forms with a reasonable fee.
Difference Between a Support Animal and Service Animal
Psychiatric service dog (PSD) owners must have a verified mental illness or psychological condition that requires a support animal that will follow them in public and their designated workspace. This must be verified by meeting with an LMPD and then confirming that a PSD would help the client deal with their condition, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or schizophrenia. This meeting with a licensed mental health professional should clarify the type of Psychiatric Service Dog Breed that best fits your needs.
While any condition that qualifies for an ESA also allows for a PSD, a PSD is very different from an ESA as an emotional support animal does not have the same laws that require a job to permit them access to the workspace of that job. A PSD is trained to do work that allows people with psychiatric disabilities to function in everyday life. In this circumstance, getting a PSD Letter will be essential.
Psychiatric Service Animal vs. Support Animal
Emotional support animals assist through their presence alone. Meanwhile, Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks for someone with a disability. Emotional Support Animals also don't require the same level of training that PSDs do to assist their user. A PSD has equal access to service animals do to public areas. However, reasonable accommodation may need to be requested for support animals.
Difference Between an ESA Letter and a PSA Letter
To qualify for a psychiatric service animal (PSA), you must have been diagnosed with a mental illness or psychological disease by a licensed mental health professional. The licensed mental health professional determines the condition and how a PSA, specifically a psychiatric service dog (PSD), can benefit you.
While not all ESAs are dogs, PSAs must be dogs to be classified. A mental health professional can help determine which animal will best benefit you.
While any condition that qualifies for an emotional support dog also allows for a psychiatric service dog, a PSD is very different from an emotional support dog. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do work that allows people with psychiatric disabilities to function in everyday life. Because of this, around three-quarters of service dog owners will benefit from owning a PSD.
To receive an ESA letter or to enroll in our PSD training program, complete our 3-minute assessment and so that we can pre-screen your specific needs. Afterward, you may choose between and ESA letter or PSD training depending on what is correct for you.
Pettable’s Process for Helping You Get An ESA
Here at Pettable, we design our ESA letter process to make it as efficient and easy as possible for our customers. That includes making sure you can do everything needed to get certified as needing an emotional support animal online or via video, without having to travel to a clinic or medical office.
All of our clinicians have experience working with patients to understand their needs and write valid ESA letters that are guaranteed to work for you. Our clinicians and expert support staff are here to help you understand and deal with anything that comes up after you receive your ESA letter.
Fill Out Our Assessment
The first step is to fill out our online ESA assessment (click below to start taking it).
The ESA assessment puts together a unique profile about you that helps us match you with one of our licensed mental health professionals and schedule a consultation.
Pick From Our ESA Letters
Once the assessment is complete, tell us if you need a housing letter, a travel letter, or a combination letter that can be used for both.
Patients who need their ESA with them every time they fly will need their pet to undergo psychiatric service dog training.
If you think you might need more than one ESA for your emotional or mental wellness, check out our advice on how many emotional support animals you can have.
Book Your Consultation
When you are ready to book your consultation with one of our expert mental health professionals, you’ll pay our affordable fee online. Then we use your assessment info to connect you with a clinician licensed in your state.
The professionals we work with are all experts in ESA and properly licensed. They understand everything that’s required to make your ESA letter medically and legally valid.
Sign Off On HIPPA and Telehealth Forms
After your fee is paid and you’ve filled out and returned privacy and consent forms, you’ll be ready to start the process of certifying your right to live or travel with emotional support animals.
Get Connected For Your Consultation
As soon as we have your completed forms, you can schedule an appointment to complete a mental health evaluation and discuss how your ESA will help you with your specific mental or emotional health and wellness issues. This consultation will give the clinician all the details they need to write your legally valid ESA letter.
Receive Your ESA Letter Within 24 Hours Of Your Consultation (exception of residents of California under law AB 468)
Once the assessment is successfully completed and the clinician agrees that your emotional support animals are a necessary part of your care, they will write a personalized and legally compliant ESA letter.
Frequently Asked Questions about ESA Letters
What is an ESA letter?
An ESA letter is the only legal and legitimate document that certifies your pet serves the specific purpose of emotional support animal for you – meaning they ease the symptoms of your mental illness and make life more livable.
Who can write an ESA letter?
Only a licensed mental health professional can write an ESA letter. This includes
- Licensed clinical social workers
- Licensed marriage and family therapists
- Family doctor with experience in mental health
- Licensional counselors
- Licensed professional mental health counselors
- Licensed clinical psychologists
What does an ESA letter look like?
A certified ESA letter will feature your LMHP’s official letterhead, license number, contact information, and the date the letter was issued. In the body of the letter, it will use specific wording to explain your need for an emotional support animal.
Can a physician write an ESA letter?
Yes, some can. Only family doctors that are licensed professionals with experience in mental health can write an ESA letter.
How to get an ESA letter online?
If you feel more comfortable staying within your home than seeking out an in-person meeting with an LMHP, you might consider meeting remotely through an online ESA letter-writing service, such as Pettable. Even though the service is online, the patient's mental health remains top priority. Just be sure to work with a legitimate service that will work with you every step of the way, set up a live consultation with an LMHP, and provide a legal, legitimate ESA letter.
At Pettable, we are so confident in our service that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee – meaning in the unlikely event that your ESA letter does not work for you, we’ll provide you a full refund.
What does an ESA letter need to say?
An ESA letter must include specific wording to be considered valid and legal. While it cannot give specific information about your medical issues, it must state that you have a qualifying condition. The ESA letter also must say that your symptoms are improved by the companionship of an emotional support animal. Finally, it must include the LMHP’s request for reasonable accommodation for your emotional support animal.
If it is an ESA travel letter, it must also state that your ESA is needed to accompany you during travel due to your mental or emotional disabilities.
Can a nurse practitioner write an ESA letter?
If that nurse practitioner has a license to practice mental health care, then yes.
Can a therapist write an ESA letter?
Yes, any mental health professional can write an ESA letter, including therapists.
Who can prescribe an ESA letter?
Any licensed mental health professional. And remember, they must be licensed within your state to evaluate you for an ESA and to write a valid ESA letter.
How long is an ESA letter good for?
An ESA letter, or “prescription,” is good for one year.
How to tell if an ESA letter is legitimate?
For an ESA letter to be legitimate, it must meet the following criteria:
- Be written by a mental health professional licensed in your state
- Be written after you’ve been evaluated via a live consultation with an LMHP
- The LMHP’s official letterhead
- The LMHP’s license number and contact information
- The date the letter was issued
- The correct language – including statements that
- The patient has a qualifying mental health condition
- The emotional support animal improves symptoms for that person
- A request for reasonable accommodation for the ESA
- (If it is a travel letter it must also state that) the person needs their ESA present during travel due to their mental health condition
Can my counselor write an ESA letter?
Yes, any licensed mental health professional can write an ESA letter.
Can my doctor give me an ESA letter?
Yes, if that doctor has experience practicing mental health care, they can write an ESA letter.
What Are The Benefits of Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals give you a reason to go out for a walk, maybe a run, or spend time outdoors. These are all excellent activities for helping to maintain your mental well-being and are all activities that can be done during break periods of jobs when a person's emotional disorders can have an impact on whatever emotional issues that person may be dealing with.
A valid ESA letter means your household animal is no longer "just a pet." Instead, your animal is now considered an emotional support animal, meaning you and your animal are protected under federal and state laws and local laws regarding support and service animals.
Licensed mental health professionals can help you get an ESA Letter after a consultation. The ESA Letter is accepted under the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, and in occasional public places. ESA letters from mental health professionals off legal protection in housing developments, meaning the housing provider cannot charge pet fees under federal laws.
What is An Emotional Support Animal Letter
An emotional support animal letter is written by a licensed mental health professional who can see that a support animal can benefit your emotional or mental health. An emotional support animal letter does not guarantee that you will be able to bring your dog to work or in other public spaces, regardless of what mental health issues the animal may help you relieve.
State and local laws protect service animals, but it does not force employers to allow emotional support animals into their workspace if that is against their workplace policy. However, having an ESA letter proves that the emotional support animal benefits a person's functionality. So, while an ESA letter doesn't mean that under state and federal laws, it's a guarantee that they will compromise with you, it never hurts to show your ESA letter to your boss or the manager of an establishment.
Showing an ESA letter from licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) to your boss gives you a better chance than not being able to bring your dog to work. Suppose they see evidence of a mental disability that can be dealt with by allowing an emotional support dog to remain within a work environment. In that case, that could change the employer's mind and make them consider how their policies affect their other employees that may be experiencing mental disorders or have a mental health history.
What’s the difference between an ESA letter vs PSA letter?
An ESA letter makes an emotional support animal official, while a PSA letter legitimizes a psychiatric service dog. While both types of service animals help people cope with mental health issues or emotional issues, their training is different.
An emotional support animal requires no special training beyond basic training for good behavior. Its role is simply to provide a comforting presence for the owner. They are required to be allowed in any place of residence, but only some airlines and other public places.
Psychiatric service animals, on the other hand, require extra training to complete a specific task (or tasks) that aids the owner with a mental or emotional disability. PSAs are generally allowed in any public place.
How Do I Start The Process To Get An ESA?
If you already have a pet that offers you love and support, you're already on your way to having an emotional support pet. If you feel that you struggle with any one of a number of mental disorders or emotional disorders, an emotional support pet could be an excellent way get therapeutic support to cope.
It's easy to get started and be on your way to having your emotional support animals legitimized. Use a site that makes it easy to get in touch with a customer support team if you need any help with these steps. The steps are:
- Fill out our assessment
- Book your consult at the end of the assessment
- Sign off on the forms we'll send you
- Coordinate a time with your clinician for the phone consultation
- Get your ESA letter within 24 hours
Get started today and join the long list of Pettable customers who have discovered the peace of mind a legally valid ESA letter provides!