A Helpful Housing Guide to Emotional Support Animals

Updated July 13, 2020.

Everyday through our online platform, our products connect clients with doctors and therapists who provide emotional support animal letters of recommendation and mental health talk therapy.

Our clients aren’t just “buying a letter from us,” they’re buying all that goes into the best emotional support animal products on the market. Our letters simply flat out work.

Do I Qualify? What About My Pet?

The United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency recently updated Fair Housing Act (FHA) guidelines that sought to equalize the ability of people with disabilities to enjoy housing. Under the law, housing providers had to exempt those with disabilities from “no pet” rules and pet fees.

Based on this latest guidance, we put together two free, exclusive tools to help determine if you and your pet qualify for a reasonable accommodation request. For US residents only.

What Makes Our Emotional Support Animal Letter Wildly Successful?

It’s a rare combination of industry expertise, excellent clinical skills, and global knowledge that only one firm can deliver. Over the past five years, we've had just four letters denied. Four letters, out of a rather very large number of clients. And while we can't make any guarantees about your letter, we're extraordinarily confident it will be smooth sailing for you.

We're Home to Authentic and Genuine Care.

Welcome to the era of pushing back on fake ESA letters. New Federal rules require a much higher burden of proof for those seeking an emotional support animal, as therapeutic care is now required. Patches, ID cards, registrations, certificates, and instant letters are causing headaches. Clinicians are being charged with crimes. Landlords are reporting tenant fraud.

No therapy options offered to clients. No sessions, no care, no concern for their mental health. Forget HIPAA compliance. All that’s missing is a Groupon coupon. It’s just bogus.
- Chaz Stevens, CEO ESAD Int'l

Elsewhere, Fraud is Rampant.

We've recently completed an exhaustive review of Internet providers who (a) offer emotional support animal letters, and (b) comply with HUD's latest guidelines. After examining over 100 websites, none were found to be in compliance, none offered clinical care, none ethically provided "an ongoing treating relationship."

So, don’t take a chance with subpar products because they cost less. We’re earned our reviews with hard work, compassionate care, and doing everything by the book.

A Helpful Housing Guide to Emotional Support Animals

A study by the World Health Organization found that people who had diabetes, angina, asthma, or arthritis were more likely to suffer from depression than people without these conditions.

Every day, we encounter clients that struggle with anxiety, stress, and a multitude of other emotional and physical disabilities.

As the COVID-19 disease swept across the globe, many individuals who might not have previously felt a need for mental health services are now finding themselves unsure of how to emotionally deal with this pandemic. It’s common to feel anxious, stressed, or depressed during this time. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean we have to do everything alone.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

All too often, landlords working for a housing provider believe that unless you are blind or deaf, your reasonable accommodation request is fraudulent.

The American’s with Disability Act (ADA) defines an individual’s disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” Major life activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working

Service animals versus emotional support animals.

Legal problems can sometimes bubble up when dealing with the nuanced differences between service and support animals.

Service animals, which are traditionally dogs and horses, are highly trained to perform a particular skill, for example detecting a seizure, pulling a wheelchair, and guidance for the visually challenged.

Animals commonly kept in households.

Comparatively, emotional support animals require no specialized training (FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).

If the animal is a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, then the reasonable accommodation should be granted because the requestor has provided information confirming that there is a disability-related need for the animal.

All other animals.

Reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and other non-domesticated animals are not considered common household animals.

Individuals requesting to keep a unique type of animal that is not commonly kept in households has a substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal.

Specific Protections: Emotional Support Animal Laws.

Emotional support animals, like service animals, are protected by Federal. Though, support animals do not enjoy the same public places protection.

Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws

Federal Law requires landlord to allow tenants to live with their psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. In practice, this means renters cannot be charged a pet deposit, nor evicted (excluding certain rare exceptions).

Landlords can require documentation supporting the need for a service or support animal. However, as no training is required for a support animal, there’s no need for any time of “animal” certification.

HUD’s FHEO2020 Fair Housing Act Guidance Update

ESAD Int’l does business all across the globe, and Florida and California housing providers apply the most stringent standards (sometimes going overboard) when approving a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal.

Recently, HUD updated their guidance (FHEO2020), applying new standards to the ESA approval process, now requiring providers to have “personal client knowledge” and an “ongoing treating relationship.” To comply, our Housing Pro 2020 product provides multiple clinical sessions between client and an in-state licensed provider.

Exceptions to Emotional Support Animal Law

Emotional support animals are not granted unlimited legal protection. Only service animals, and not support animals, are offered unfettered access to a public place.

Landlords also have the very limited ability to deny support animals, if the animal poses a threat to the safety or health others or would cause substantial property damage.

This exception is not based on breed or size; the threat to property or safety must be specific to the animal in question.

On the other hand, the amount of damage done by an animal need not be substantial if it is unreasonable. (See, e.g., Woodside Village v. Hertzmark, FH-FL Rptr. ¶ 18,129 (Conn. Sup. Ct. 1993), where failing to clean up or walk the dog in designated areas resulted in a proper eviction).

Need More Information?

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Getting qualified for an assistance animal is as simple as 1-2-3.

1: Place an Order.

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2. Complete an Assessment.

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3: Engage With an Expert.

Finally, you'll engage in therapeutic care with a local, licensed health care provider via secured video technology

Being Approved.

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

Individuals Seeking an ESA.

  1. Must have a “disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal” that can be verified.
  2. Has a disability that meets the law’s definition as having a “major impact on a life activity,” commonly referred to as a functional limitation.
  3. Usually experiences the effects of the disability through difficulties with sleep, focus and social interaction.
  4. Has an animal (and ESAD Int'l only considers dogs and cats) that relieves the symptoms of the disability and its effect on major life activities.

New HUD Guidelines.

HUD's new rules are an update to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that sought to equalize the ability of people with disabilities to enjoy housing. Under the law, housing providers had to exempt those with disabilities from “no pet” rules and pet fees. But some of the gaps in the rules have been abused by those simply trying to bypass pet rules and fees. Others who are providing the letters have exploited uneducated consumers To comply, Housing Pro 2020 provides multiple clinical sessions between client and an in-state licensed provider.

Therapeutic Relationship Required.

Documentation submitted in support of an assistance animal request must come from a person who has a “therapeutic relationship” with the resident seeking the accommodation. A therapeutic relationship is “the provision of medical care, program care, or personal care services, in good faith, for and with actual knowledge of, an individual’s disability and that individual's disability-related need for an assistance animal by:

  1. a physician or other medical professional;
  2. a mental health service provider; or
  3. a non-medical service agency or reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual's disability.”

Because a therapeutic relationship requires that care services be provided, in good faith, for an individual’s disability, documentation submitted on the basis of a single visit to a health care provider solely to obtain a “doctor’s note” will generally not be legally sufficient.

Significant impacts on major life activities.

In summary, a disability can be verified if it has a significant impact on major life activities (sleep, concentration, focus, social interaction). If an animal helps mitigate those symptoms (sleep better, etc.), then an individual can be recommended for an assistance animal.

Examples.

Qualify: John Doe suffers from PTSD which results in high levels of anxiety. His anxiety keeps John awake, so he can’t get enough rest to go about his daily life. John has a very strong emotional bond with his cat, Mr. Mittens. Thankfully, the feline helps relieve his disability by reducing the level of anxiety to the point John can sleep. With his cat, his substantial limitation is alleviated — thus a necessary part of accommodating his disability. Mr. Mittens satisfies the definition of assistance animal because it: “... provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability.” [see FHEO Notice FHEO-2013-01, April 25, 2013] Deny: John Doe is having issues with his landlord. Facing eviction, John turns to ESAD Int'l for assistance. John wants his 120-pound German shepherd approved. Since there's no disability, he was denied.

Emotional support animal letter for travel.

An emotional support animal provides comfort to support a customer’s diagnosed mental or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals need not have specific training for that function. All must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Acceptable ESAD Int'l emotional support animals are limited to dogs and cats. Your animal must behave appropriately in a public environment. If your 10-pound Chihuahua acts like Cujo, running around the airport on attack mode, the "best ESA letter in the world" won't matter. To qualify, an individual must have a health professional verify:

  • A mental health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
  • A need for the emotional support or psychiatric service animal to remedy the disability’s effects during air travel and activity at your destination

The passenger/client must be currently under the care and treatment of a licensed professional. To comply, Travel Pro 2020 provides a clinical session between client and an in-state licensed provider. Read: ESAD Int'l's service dog fraud policy.

Getting Pre-Qualified.

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act.

An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

Individuals Seeking an ESA

  1. Must have a “disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal” that can be verified.
  2. Has a disability that meets the law’s definition as having a “major impact on a life activity,” commonly referred to as a functional limitation.
  3. Usually experiences the effects of the disability through difficulties with sleep, focus and social interaction.
  4. Has an animal (and ESAD Int’l only considers dogs and cats) that relieves the symptoms of the disability and its effect on major life activities.

Learn more about qualifying for an assistance animal.