The emotional support offered by an animal companion is no great secret to pet lovers. These days more and more doctors are also acknowledging the therapeutic benefit that pets can play in treating psychological and emotional problems with their patients.
But even as pet restrictions by property managers and landlords become more common, it can be difficult to keep an animal companion without breaking the terms of their rental agreement. That is where an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter comes in.
Unlike a service animal, an ESA isn't required to be specially trained. An ESA simply provides you with emotional support. That means any animal can qualify as long as it doesn't cause a disturbance or undue hardship for your property manager.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter isn't the same as a prescription, but it does allow you to legally keep a dog, cat, bird, or other animal companion even if the terms of your lease otherwise forbids pets.
You can request an emotional support animal letter in-person with your therapist or online using an ESA service.
It's important to remember not all medical professionals are legally qualified to write an ESA letter. Only certified mental health professionals are able to write an ESA letter. If you request one using an online service, make sure that it follows all ESA regulations.
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What Conditions Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
In order to qualify for an ESA letter you must be certified as emotionally disabled by a licensed and certified mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or therapist.
Diagnosed conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar personality disorder, along with many developmental disabilities allow you to qualify for an emotional support animal letter. Ask your mental health professional if you aren't sure if your condition qualifies.
What Information Does an ESA Letter Contain?
A valid ESA letter must contain the following information about you:
- You are a current patient of the mental health professional that signs the letter.
- You are receiving professional care and treatment for your disability, which is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders Version IV or V by the American Psychiatric Association.
- You are limited in performing or participating in one or more common activities because of your disability.
- Your mental health professional has designated your emotional support animal as part of your treatment plan to help you cope with your condition.
The emotional support animal letter must be written on your mental health professional’s letterhead. It should include the type of license they hold, the date it was issued, the license number, and the state that issued the license. Your ESA letter should also have the date it was written.
Emotional support animals don't need special training like service animals, but they are still more than just pets. Your emotional support animal is there to bring you the comfort and confidence to help you live a full, rewarding life.