10 Things to Know Before Applying for an ESA Letter

Marisa Anderson

Marisa Anderson | Featured Writer
Hi there! My name is Marisa and my dogs are my life! When I’m not creating awesome pet-centric content, I’m enjoying the California sunshine with my two trusty (and equally adorable) yorkie sidekicks, Bella and Rocky.

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What exactly is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter? With so many websites offering ESA services, it can be confusing to know what protection it provides and how to go about getting one from a company that actually connects you with Licensed Mental Health Professionals.
To help you out, here’s a rundown of the 10 most important things to know about ESA Letters:

1. It gives you legal protection against unfair pet fees and no-pet housing policies.

If you didn’t know already, ESA stands for “Emotional Support Animal.” ESAs are animals that give us comfort and relieve emotional or mental stress.
ESAs are considered to be more than just pets, and for that reason, they are entitled to greater legal protection. This includes protection against no-pet housing policies and being able to sit in the cabin with you on flights. An ESA Letter is a prescription letter written by a qualified professional that ensures your ESA can benefit from these legal rights.

Man with his french bulldog in arms

2. An ESA Letter has to be approved by a licensed mental health professional or doctor.

One of the most important things to know about ESA Letters is that ONLY a mental health professional or a physician can prescribe an ESA letter. Moreover, they have to be licensed in your state.
While there are “ESA directories” that claim to be able to register your pet as an ESA, they do not give you any legal protection. Only an ESA Letter from a qualified professional can.
CertaPet has a vast network of Licensed Mental Health Professionals who are able to properly identify you as an individual with a disability and provide you with an ESA letter. When you apply through our website, we will connect you with an LMHP that is legally qualified to prescribe ESA Letters for your state.

therapist sitting on her couch with her chart in hand

3. An ESA is not the same as a service animal.

Service animals are animals specially trained to perform tasks for their owners, like guiding them if they’re blind or alerting them to an oncoming seizure. ESAs provide emotional comfort and a sense of safety to their owners but are not classified as service animals.
This means that, unfortunately, they do not have the same legal rights to enter public buildings, like hotels or restaurants. However, a public building may allow you to bring your ESA in if you ask in advance. If you own an ESA, it’s important to understand the difference between an ESA and a service animal.

Striped cat

4. ESAs do not have to be professionally trained.

Providing love and affection comes naturally to pets. So no training is needed, other than to be well behaved, toilet trained, safe around people, and trained not to bark all night and upset the neighbors. Animals who have a history of aggression will not be considered for ESA approval.
You can find out more about the differences between emotional support animals and service animals in this article.

Woman laid in the floor playing with her siberian emotional support dog

5. ESAs provide PROVEN mental, emotional and physical benefits.

Every pet owner knows how much joy their pets bring. And it’s proven by science, too.
Studies have shown that spending just fifteen minutes playing with your dog or stroking your cat releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain. This includes serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2016/05/26/dog-gazes-trigger-oxytocin.aspx
These chemicals help us feel happier and relieve stress, depression or anxiety. What’s more, studies have found that pets can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This comes from an increase in physical activity that occurs naturally when we care for an animal. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/Owning-a-Pet-May-Protect-You-from-Heart-Disease_UCM_453586_Article.jsp

Man kissing his ESA cat

6. You have to complete a consultation with a Licensed Mental Health Professional for an ESA letter.

We know that you may need an ESA letter urgently for a last-minute flight or an upcoming move into that new apartment or house. In these situations, our support team can work with the therapist to help you get your letter as fast as possible.
You can complete the entire process online on our website without having to visit a therapist in person, which saves you time and money! We can even provide you with a digital ESA Letter in 1-2 business days and a printed copy via USPS priority mail.

Man with his Emotional Support Dog checking his Laptop

7. Your ESA pet can fly in the cabin with you.

If you hate flying, then you’ll be delighted to know that, thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, you can take your ESA in the cabin with you to help calm your nerves.
However, always check with an airline before you fly. They may have their own steps to follow and extra forms to complete before boarding. Telling them in advance will also avoid any confusion with the cabin crew who may not know what an ESA is.
ESA laws only apply to the US. So your ESA Letter will only be valid for flights within the US, not when flying to other countries. However, you may still be allowed to take the pet onboard with you for international flights as long as you contact the airline in advance.

Man with dog at the Airport

8. An ESA can be any breed, weight or size.

An ESA Letter gives you blanket protection for your pet, whatever their breed or size. So even if a landlord normally restricts breeds or dog sizes, with an ESA Letter your legal rights to keeping your pet with you are protected.

Dog at the street

9. You don’t need a special vest or ID tag.

While there are websites offering vests and ID tags for ESAs, they are not legal requirements. All you need is a letter signed by a licensed mental health professional, anything else is just an accessory. So a landlord cannot demand that your ESA wears a special vest or tag as long as you have the proper documentation for an emotional support animal.
Although the vest isn’t a legal requirement, vests can offer an extra sense of comfort and security for ESA owners. CertaPet does offer Emotional Support Animal vests for the customers who want to make sure others in their apartment building recognize that it is a support animal.

Cat sleeping outside

10. You will always have your pet with you.

When you are dealing with emotional or mental issues, having your pet to keep you company can make daily life much easier and comfortable. With an ESA letter you gain the peace of mind knowing that, whether you’re flying or moving to a new apartment, you will always have your pet to give you emotional support.

Dog playing with its owner

Still have questions? Get in touch!

As the world’s leading provider of Emotional Support Animal evaluations, CertaPet has extensive experience in qualifying people for the ESA Letter they need. So if there’s anything else you need to know, you’ll likely find the answers on our website.
If you’re looking to obtain an ESA letter, we make the process quick, easy, and confidential. All you need to do is complete a 5-minute online survey. If you’re a good candidate, you can then request a consultation with a licensed mental health professional who will conduct a more thorough evaluation for your ESA letter. Once approved, you’ll be emailed a copy of your ESA Letter within 48 hours, and you should get the original in the mail in just a few days.

Check out what others are saying about CertaPet!


“Knowing my data is safe is what made me choose CertaPet.
With CertaPet you know your info is going to a real therapist and not some quack who downloaded their diploma from Google images. So my advice to anyone who feels a little guarded about their information, you can put your trust in CertaPet that your application is 100% confidential.”

Read more of their stories here.


“Getting legal protection isn’t something I wanted to take a risk with.
There are so many websites offering ESA letters that it’s difficult to know which to choose.
Luckily, I decided to use CertaPet.“

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