If you’re looking for an emotional support animal letter, chances are you’re looking online first. Sites selling ESA products are a dime a dozen, and navigating the glut of options can be a real downer. Avoid being scammed, so be on the lookout for:
- Therapists not located in your local region or state (that rules out almost all online providers)
- Registration sites
- Certificates of any kind
- Save your money on leases, harnesses, and tags
[Need a good laugh? Take a look at our bad letter library. Our competition’s best effort!]
In the news
Here's a few clippings for the recent news:
- For example, the United States Dog Registry (link is external) will certify any dog as a “service dog” or a "therapy dog" for $58, and an outfit called ESA of America (link is external) will happily certify your pet rat, hamster, or iguana as an “emotional support animal.”
- Carla Black - It took FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn about 30 minutes -- and a $159 charge on his credit card. Two days later, he received a letter from a licensed psychotherapist he'd never met.
- "Please know that those are scams,” Cynthia Chandler, a professor of counseling and higher education and the director of Consortium for Animal Assisted Therapy at the University North Texas, says of such companies. “[People] are just paying strangers for a piece of paper.”
Categorically unethical behavior
Seems that Carla Black is in trouble with the State of California, as the authorities just slammed her with the following complaint:
Carla Black is not licensed to practice in either Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. Never met nor talked with Complainant. Respondent's psychological tests were for entertainment use only.
- State of California
Folks, this is how, all to often, the online ESA business works.
- Out-of-state therapists engaged in the unlicensed practice of mental health.
- Complete disregard for the protection of client's mental health data.
- Zero contact between client and therapist.
- Emotional support animal letters all too often indicate a therapeutic relationship, when in fact, none exists.
What Black did ... what 9/10 online vendors do ... is regularly engage in (at best) categorically unethical behavior. THAT IS NOT HOW WE DO BUSINESS.
The ESADoggy Blacklist
In our professional opinion, we'd avoid doing business with these following vendors:
Swimming in the foul waters of the online ESA business.
Honestly, it’s somewhat easy to get into this business. You launch a cheesy website offering misleading and factually incorrect information, ignore Federal HIPAA privacy guidelines, use the same ESA letter template found online, and voila! — you’re in the ESA business.
We’d prefer stronger guidelines to help tighten up the nonsense that’s allowed to go on.
No wonder you’re rightly concerned about legitimacy.
Conversely, if you’re considering a $49 ESA letter, instant certificate, or thinking that an “ESA leash” is the way to go, well, you get what you pay for.
Thankfully, yes thankfully, due to the media’s attention, HUD and the airlines are now really scrutinizing a therapist’s letter.