Many people know the value of a good pet which can help a person with an issue like stress, anxiety, or other mental health problem. These support animals can help in treating these illnesses or minimizing their symptoms through love and compassion. A person with a pet has a fixed routine, a companion who is always there, and unconditional love. All of this can be a remedy for people with different types of mental health conditions. But these animals are not normal pets as they provide emotional assistance to mentally ill people.
Also known as ESAs, Emotional Support Animals are often confused with service animals or therapy animals. But these animals are different and have specific legal privileges associated with them. For their privileges, they should be declared an ESA through a defined procedure.
Discrimination against people with disabilities is prohibited according to the Americans with Disabilities law. This law makes sure that all organizations that provide public services allow service animals including ESAs to accompany people with certain disabilities. The special rights that emotional support animals have are for traveling and housing purposes.
- A person with a certain mental health condition can travel along with their ESA in a plane belonging to certain airlines that allow support animals along with the passengers. There is no extra fee charged for the travel of a support animal. The patient needs to carry an ESA letter at the time of travel. The support animal should be well-mannered and obedient so that there are no disturbances to other fellow passengers. Also, the animal should be able to stay in the little space in front of the passenger’s feet during the flight.
- ESA letter is also helpful when the ESA owner is looking for a rented house. According to Fair Housing Act (FHA), a tenant with an ESA cannot be treated differently than a normal tenant if the person has an ESA letter. So, it can become easy for a person with a mental health condition to find housing along with their support animal using an ESA letter. Even an establishment with no pet rules is bound not to have discrimination against a person and his support animal with this letter.
The procedure to register ESA
The process to get an Emotional Support Animal Letter is not something centralized. You can register an emotional support animal but it is not necessary for an ESA letter. The owner just needs a letter from a mental health professional, which could support the allowance requested. The letter issued by this professional should clearly justify the need for an ESA. The letter should be issued by a qualified physician or mental health provider on letterhead and should include:
- the name of the patient
- the license number of the provider
- the signature
- the date of issue
An ESA letter can be issued by a provider through a physical appointment or online through a virtual method. In an online appointment, the mental health care provider can evaluate your mental condition remotely and then issue an ESA letter for a nominal fee if approved your application is approved. Once you have the letter, you will be able to travel through flights with your ESA. With the letter, people also cannot refuse to provide housing because of your support animal.
ESA, Service Animal, and Therapy Animal
Knowing the difference between ESA and other kinds of special animals is important to avoid any confusion in case you want to adopt an animal as ESA or get yourself an ESA letter.
First of all, emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform any particular tasks other than basic manners and obedience. Other service animals like are specially trained to help people with disabilities. Also, these service animals are only dogs whereas ESAs on the other hand can be any animal but are usually dogs or cats. Psychiatric service dogs, also known as PSDs are different from ESAs as they do help with mental health issues like ESAs but are specially trained to provide that kind of help. ESAs do not need any special training and their main purpose is to make you relaxed and comfortable in stressed situations.
Adopting an ESA
A person who needs an ESA can get one before or after receiving the ESA letter. The animal to be chosen should be carefully considered according to the environment and resources available to you. For example, a dog from a colder region may find it difficult to adjust to a warm environment in your area or a dog too big may not have enough space in your small apartment.
Training is another important thing to keep in mind while adopting an animal for support. You should be able to train the animal for good manners and obedience. No specific training is needed but only a well-behaving animal could be of help to a person with a mental condition. Avoid choosing an animal with a traumatic experience in the past as it would be more stressful for a person who is already struggling with a mental health condition. It is a kind thing to do but should be avoided in this scenario.
So, if you don’t have an ESA letter but have a mental health issue, you can get a lot of support from an animal using this letter. If you already have an animal, you can just get an ESA letter to register an animal as emotional support and be eligible for ESA rights or you can adopt an animal after you get an ESA.