Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. Such pets are known as emotional support animals (ESAs) or comfort animals.
In order to have your animal qualify as an emotional support animal you must receive a letter from a licensed mental health professional prescribing the need for the emotional support animal.
Unlike a service animal an emotional support animal is not a service working animal but a pet that has been prescribed by a licensed mental health counselor or medical doctor. The pet is prescribed to bring comfort and help minimize the patient’s emotional/psychological disability.
ESAs provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias; however, they do not have the special training required to perform tasks to assist people with disabilities. Although some states have laws that define emotional support animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws that protect the use of service animals.
If you have an emotional disorder, you can legally qualify for an ESA. To do so, you must be certified as having a psychological disorder by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or other duly licensed or certified mental-health professional. This certification should be in the form of a formal, appropriately prescription letter, which should include the date and the mental health professional’s letterhead, including his or her license type, date of license, license number, and the state that issued the license. Some airline personnel and property managers of apartments require this letter in order to bring your ESA with you.
What Disorders Qualify You To Be an ESA Owner?
To help you to determine if you qualify to own an ESA, here is a list of some of the disorders stipulated in the previously mentioned DSM-5:
• Anxiety disorders
• Panic Disorder
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
• Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
• Bipolar disorder
• Substance-related disorders (e.g., alcohol and drugs)
• Cognitive disorders
Animals can qualify as ESAs as long as they do not cause disturbances or undue hardship to the establishments. Although they are not service animals, ESAs do have certain rights in terms of housing and air travel. The Fair Housing Act includes ESAs in its definition of assistance animals. Under the act, people cannot be discriminated against due to a disability when obtaining housing. Therefore, rules such as no pets, species bans, pet-size limitations, and payments of pet deposits do not apply to people who own ESAs.
The Air Carrier Access Act allows service animals and ESAs to accompany their handlers in the cabins of aircrafts. However, an airline might require documentation stating that the person has a disability and the reason that the animal must travel with him or her. If you intend to travel with an ESA, contact the airline ahead of time to ensure that you provide the appropriate paperwork.
Service animals only include dogs, but ESAs include any common domestic animal, for example, dogs, cats, and ferrets. To qualify, the animal must be reasonably well behaved by typical pet standards, such as being toilet trained, and cannot be a nuisance or danger to others.
ESAs perform a critical role in the lives of people with disabilities. It is important to realize that attempting to take advantage of the ESA category so that your dog, for example, can fly with you or live in no-pet housing is an abuse of the system and makes it harder for people with legitimate needs.
On the other hand, if you have an emotional disturbance that limits you in at least one area of your life—and you believe that a dog or other pet would provide you with mental-health benefits, see a licensed mental-health professional about obtaining a prescription for an ESA. Here at Epic Wellness Clinic in Miami Beach, Florida, our therapists can evaluate and write an Emotional Service Animal Letter for you. Please call to find out more about this process.
There’s a lot of mixed information and scams out there. Unfortunately, there are people who claim to register your pet as a support animal but you’re left with the hassle, stress, and embarrassment of a false letter.
Some websites make you dig up proof of a disability or doctors notes. Others provide a fake cheap un-refundable letter that can’t be used because it’s not professionally-approved or from an official organization. They’ll also try to tell you that you need stuff you don’t, like badges and starter kit. So don’t be fooled…
We make it easy to complete the process legitimately.