More people than ever are turning toward emotional support animals (ESAs) as an alternative treatment plan for mental illness. Not only do ESAs have a massively beneficial impact on the mental health of their owners, but they are also protected by two very important federal laws. An ESA letter is key. But, do emotional support animal letters expire after they’re issued? Read on to find out!
Do Emotional Support Animal Letters Expire? Yes!
The quick answer to the question “do emotional support animal letters expire?” is yes. They do. However, it’s a little different if you have an ESA housing letter. If you do not move within the year, you don’t necessarily have to get the letter renewed. BUT in some cases, landlords ask to see a renewed letter after the one year is up, in which you need to comply.
If you are an ESA owner or are thinking of getting an ESA to help you cope with a mental illness, it is very important to know the ins and outs of an ESA letter.
An ESA letter gives you legal protection. However, that only comes into play when you have a legitimate, and more importantly, valid, ESA letter. Let’s have a look at why and when do emotional support animal letters expire.
An Emotional Support Animal Letter is a Prescription
An emotional support animal letter is a prescription. Think of the piece of paper your doctor gives you, prescribing antibiotics, to treat your bronchitis. An ESA letter holds the same value as that piece of paper. The only difference is, the prescription is not for a drug you can pick up from the pharmacy, instead, it is a prescription for a companion animal, which you need to treat your mental illness.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter?
Now, this is very important: only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state, can issue a legitimate ESA letter. ESA fraud is on the rise. Fraudsters, mostly online, offer to “register” or “certify” people’s pets as ESAs for a once-off fee. Any paperwork or documentation from these so-called registries is worth absolutely nothing in the eyes of the law.
When Do Emotional Support Animal Letters Expire?
As we have mentioned, an ESA letter is a prescription, meaning that it follows the rules as any prescription for pharmaceuticals or drugs would: they expire (with the exception of housing mentioned above).
The details may vary somewhat from one state to the other, but your ESA letter gives you and your ESA legal protection for exactly one year. If you have a legitimate ESA letter, that means that you are receiving treatment from a LMHP, and that they can renew your prescription before it expires. People with fake or fraudulent ESA letters will have a harder time “renewing” their letters.
Tightened rules and regulations regarding ESAs are aimed at making it harder for people to misrepresent their pets as ESAs with fake ESA letters. There is no such thing as an ESA “certificate”. The same goes for ESA “registration”!
The Difference Between a Pet and an ESA
An emotional support animal is an animal that provides people suffering from a mental illness or condition with calming comfort through their presence alone. An ESA is a constant companion that helps people cope with the challenges they face because of their condition. Sounds much like what a pet does right? The big difference between the two is an ESA letter.
ESAs are Prescribed as Part of a Treatment Plan
An ESA letter proves that you have a mental or emotional disability. It shows that your animal was prescribed by your LMHP to mitigate the symptoms of that disability. They form part of your treatment plan. An alternative treatment, but treatment nonetheless.
Legal Protection: ESA Laws
There are two federal laws that protect ESAs and their owners. These are the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
The FHA prevents landlords and housing committees from discriminating against people based on the fact that they have a disability, for which they need an ESA. A landlord has to provide an ESA owner with reasonable accommodation! Furthermore, the ESA owner does not have to pay any pet fees or deposits. Because technically, the animal is an assistance animal, and not a pet. Be ready to show your ESA letter stating that you have an emotional disability that a mental health professional is treating you for and that your animal companion forms part of your treatment for the disability.
The ACAA protects people with a disability, who wish to travel with their ESA by plane, and allows them to travel with their assistance animal free of charge. However, because of the increase in the number of ESAs on flights, airlines are working hard to tighten restrictions on ESAs on their flights such as required additional forms. The law states that an airline must allow an ESA owner to travel with their animal, but the owner must follow all the rules and have all the documentation the specific airline requires.
CertaPet is all for people choosing dogs or cats as ESAs. Having an ESA dog or cat makes it easier to get them onto flights or into rented housing!
How CertaPet Helps People Get Legitimate ESA Letters
Whether you are a prospective tenant hoping to rent a place with your ESA in tow or want to fly with your ESA, CertaPet can help you get your legitimate ESA letter. All you need to do to get the process started is to take our free 5-minute online pre-screening.
If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed therapist in your state. They will schedule an appointment with you and assess your need for an ESA. Based on this individual assessment, they may then issue your ESA letter stating that you have an emotional or mental disability and that you need your ESA to live and travel with you.