How to Get a Legitimate Emotional Support Animal (or ESA Letter)

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By: Prairie Conlon Updated: July 1, 2021

The Bottom Line.

  • An emotional support animal (ESA) alleviates symptoms of an emotional or mental disability through companionship and affection.
  • An ESA can only be prescribed to a patient by a Licensed Mental Health Professional or Medical Professional. To learn about the process, click here.
  • You can take a quick and free screening test to know if you could potentially qualify for an emotional support animal.
  • You can learn more about ESA Letter for Housing here.
  • If you have a question, check out the FAQ section of this article.

An emotional support animal is a dog, or cat, or other pet that helps alleviate symptoms of an emotional or mental disability through companionship and affection.

Emotional support animals have improved and changed the lives of so many, and for those truly in need, having one of your own is only a letter away.

Can't Wait to Get Started?

The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

Once you receive the result, you can choose and pay for your desired ESA letter consultation.

CertaPet understands that all animals can provide emotional support, but our policy is to work with only dogs, cats, and rabbits.

In order for your dog, cat, or rabbit to be accepted as an ESA, you must have an Emotional Support Animal Letter (ESA Letter, sometimes called an emotional support animal prescription) from a Licensed Mental Health Professional or Medical Professional.

Emotional Support Animal Letter

As mentioned, an Emotional Support Animal letter can only be issued by an LMHP or medical professional, and should recognize that you are a patient under his/her care for mental and emotional disabilities.

The letter should prescribe an emotional support dog or cat for you as a necessary reinforcement for your mental well-being.

Letters are usually issued under the LMHP's letterhead and include licensing details and information for further correspondence with the LMHP if required.

Appropriate Emotional Support Animal

There is no set rule of what animals can or cannot be considered ESAs; however, many airlines, landlords, and, most importantly, licensed mental health professionals will not allow or write an emotional support animal letter for a pet who does not provide you with the proper care you need for an mental/emotional condition.

The animal must be beneficial for your health and not put you or anyone else in harm's way.

Overall, most dogs and cats are recognized as appropriate emotional support animals with the exception of a few outside breeds.

Be aware though, there are airlines that have banned specific dog/cat breeds for the safety of other passengers and flight attendants as well as for the breed itself. For example, brachycephalic breeds (short skull/snub-nosed dogs and cats) are not allow to fly on some airlines due to the fact that their nasal passages are packed; and therefore, have serious respiratory problems more so than other breeds.

Also if specific breeds have show signs of aggression on past flights to either the crew, passengers, or even you, airlines can and do ban these dogs from boarding as emotional support or service animals.

Make sure to always check with your airline before you fly.

But before you go to book your flight or move into a new apartment with your animal, there is one main document you need: an ESA letter signed by an LMHP.

The ESA Letter Consultation options at CertaPet are as follows:

  • ESA Letter Consultation for Housing
  • ESA Letter Consultation for Travel
  • ESA Travel + Housing Combo Letter Consultation 

ESA Letter for Housing

Like the name suggests, an ESA letter for Housing, or an ESA Housing Letter, is written specifically for your housing needs in reference to the Fair Housing Act and relevant regulations in your state.

The ESA letter for housing enables access for your emotional support animal even in a no-pets housing complex, and helps you avoid pet fees and deposits if there are any.

The cost to get an ESA Housing Letter Consultation through CertaPet is just $149.

The price covers screening, evaluation, therapist consultation, treatment planning, check-ins, and free shipping - everything involved in getting an ESA Letter delivered to you.

You may also choose to get the House + Travel Combo letter for just $199.

Physical letter delivery not available in Canada.

To learn more about the Fair Housing Act, click here. 

If you are considering getting an ESA Letter for Housing, start by taking the free screening test here.

ESA Letter for Travel

The ESA letter for Travel, or ESA Travel Letter, is written specifically for your flying needs.

Keep in mind that each airline maintains its own regulations about the allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard a flight. Be sure to always contact your airline of choice before you travel to ensure you're aware of any requirements the airline mandates, such as a pet fee or a specific type of carrier for your animal.  

The cost to get an ESA Travel Letter Consultation through CertaPet is just $149.

You may also choose to get the House + Travel Combo letter Consultation for just $199.

The price covers screening, evaluation, therapist consultation, treatment planning, check-ins, and free shipping - everything involved in getting an ESA Letter delivered to you.

Physical letter delivery not available in Canada.

If you are considering getting an ESA Letter for Travel, start by taking the free screening test here.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter

The process to obtain an ESA letter is simple.

Behind every letter is a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP), such as a Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or Psychologist, or a medical professional, evaluating, working with, and testifying to their patient’s need of an emotional support animal.

An Emotional Support Animal letter will typically include the name of the patient plus details about the animal (name of the animal, breed type, etc).

Conditions that may qualify you for an emotional support animal.

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fear/phobias
  • panic disorder/panic attacks
  • mood disorders
  • personality disorders
  • seasonal affective disorder
  • social anxiety disorder
  • CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that helps you get connected with a LMHP in your state and receive your ESA letter Consultation in as little as 48 hours right from the comfort of your home. CertaPet LMHPs are experts about animal-assisted therapy and understand the benefits emotional support animals bring to people in need.  

    certapet process

    To better clarify, watch the process and see just how CertaPet helps you get the treatment you need. The right way.

    An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:

    • Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
    • Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
    • Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within 48 business hour

    Once you receive the letter, you are free to use it whenever you travel or live with your animal.

    That’s it.

    Read: CertaPet Reviews
    Wondering what customers say about CertaPet?

    How much does CertaPet Cost?

    The cost to get an ESA Travel Letter Consultation or an ESA Housing Letter Consultation through CertaPet is just $149.

    You may also choose to get the House + Travel Combo letter consultation for just $199.

    ESA TRAVEL LETTER CONSULTATION 

    USD

    149

    99

    • Letter for air travel.
    • No airlines fees for your ESA*.
    • ESA flies in cabin, size permitting.

    * Check your airline's policies based on changes made by DOT as of Jan 11, 2021

    ESA HOUSING LETTER CONSULTATION

    USD

    149

    99

    • Letter for housing complex.
    • No pet deposits.
    • No monthly pet fees.

    Ready to Apply? Get Started Here

    The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

    Once you receive the result, you may proceed to choose and pay for your desired letter consultation.  After payment, you will receive access to your account and will be put in connection with your therapist right away.

    About Emotional Support Animal Registration Services

    Emotional support animal registration or emotional support animal certification is not real or legitimate.

    You do not need to register your ESA in any database to be a legal emotional support animal owner.

    All assistance animal registration and certification should be avoided at all costs. No matter if it is called “national service dog registry”, “emotional support dog certification”, or any of the like, stay clear.

    However, you do need an Emotional Support Animal Letter. It needs to be issued by a Licensed Mental Health Professional in your state. To learn how to get an Emotional Support Animal letter, click here.

    Read: Who can write an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
    What is an LMHP? Can your doctor write an ESA Letter for you? We answer these questions and a few more in this article.

    We have detailed the ways you can identify a fake ESA Service in the following section. Click to expand it.

    How to Identify a Fake ESA Service

    Many online communities and websites take advantage of individuals with a mental or emotional disability by not providing them with a letter for a fee without a clinical assessment or structured interview with a clinician. This can result in the individual obtaining a fake emotional support animal letter, and therefore can be possibly denied the animal or denied the benefits of travel and housing that comes with it.

    Further, many states are cracking down on fake emotional support animal letters and fining the person who might have been in sincere need of an ESA but was misinformed by these illegitimate websites. Please make sure you are working with a legitimate therapist or clinician licensed in your state so you do not have to endure the fines, fees, and stress of this unfortunate situation

    A fake ESA Service commonly exhibits one or more of the following traits:

  • The individual’s emotional support animal letter is NOT written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
  • The medical health professional the individual seeks qualification through doesn’t have an LMHP licensed to practice in their state.
  • There is NO screening to qualify the individual for an emotional support animal.
  • The Service that provides the individual with certification for an emotional support animal calls itself a ‘registry’ and asks them to sign up for it.
  • There is no follow-on service, meaning that the place in which the individual obtained the certification for the emotional support animal fails to keep in contact with them throughout the process, or for regular check-ups.
  • Are Emotional Support Animal Registration Sites Legitimate?

    We’re often asked if ESA registration sites are real.

    The answer is NO.

    If you see a site claiming to be a “national service animal registry,” “emotional support dog registration,” “official service dog registry,” "US emotional support dog registry," or a “US service dog registry” they’re handing out false information and only wanting you to pay for a “fake” document.

    What is an Emotional Support Animal 'Certification'? Do I need to get my ESA 'certified'?

    No, you do not need to get your Emotional Support Animal certified. Frankly, it’s not possible.

    Like the misconception of registering your ESA into some database online, Emotional Support Animal certification is just a piece of paper with no real use.

    To be a real Emotional Support Animal owner, you must have an ESA letter awarded by a therapist after you have taken an assessment of your qualification to own one.

    Many sites, as well as people, claim they sell official Emotional Support Dog certification or offer legitimate Emotional Support Animal registration, but remember all you need is an ESA letter from a LMHP.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Support Animals

    Do emotional support animals require training?

    Unlike service animals, HUD does not require any special training for ESAs. However, we strongly encourage you make sure your pet understands basic commands, behaves well in public setting and is trained for travelling if you chose take it on a flight.

    Is the ESA letter all I need to become an emotional support animal owner?

    Yes.

    What happens when the airlines staff or landlord ask to see my proof that I’m an ESA owner? Are they just asking for my ESA letter?

    Yes! Just that!

    Can my landlord reject my ESA?

    If the patient requiring an emotional support animal is renting, the landlord is legally required to allow the renter to have an emotional support animal on the property. This means that the patient cannot be evicted or charged for requiring the aid of an emotional support animal under any circumstances.

    All patients and their support animals are protected under the FHA laws.

    Does my ESA need a vest?

    No, there are no laws or regulations regarding an emotional support animal that states the patient must clearly identify them as an assistance animal.

    While it is not required for an emotional support animal to wear a vest, many individuals are more comfortable have the identifying vest on while in the airport. This is personal preference and completely up to you when making a decision if you want to put an identifying vest on your dog, but the only thing legally required is the emotional support animal letter.

    Can an emotional support animal go anywhere?

    No. An emotional support animal is not accommodated the same rights and privileges as a service dog and cannot go into any establishment where a dog or any other pet is not allowed.

    Can one person own two ESAs?

    Technically yes, but this is a very rare situation. The majority of airlines have a one ESA policy and we typically stick to that. If you believe you might be one of the rare exceptions, please speak with your doctor or mental health professional regarding this situation.

    Who can prescribe an emotional support animal?

    An emotional support animal can be prescribed for treatment only by a licensed mental health care or medical professional in your state.

    Can an emotional support animal application be denied?

    Yes. An LMHP will not recommend an ESA for you unless he/she is sure that owning one will bring significant improvement to your mental well-being. In case your application is denied, CertaPet issues a refund on the fees you paid.

    Can you bring an emotional support animal to school or college?

    Yes, they are allowed to accommodate an individual who needs an ESA to live with them in on-campus housing, and their designated pet relief area which will be discussed when you are working with student disability services.

    However, ESAs are not allowed to go to class or through campus.

    Discuss with student disability services where you are and are not allowed to bring your dog. You never know, your professor might welcome having a well-behaved animal accompany you to your class. Make sure to ask as this will be on a case by case basis.

    Can you bring an emotional support animal to work?

    No, places of work do not fall under the Fair Housing Act.

    Does an emotional support animal have to be certified?

    No. The LMHP’s letter is all you need for your ESA.

    You do not need to certify it anywhere.

    You do not need to register it anywhere.

    Please beware that there are a lot of fake Support Animal Registry or Certification sites that try to lure people into registering/certifying their pets.

    Can I take my emotional support animal to a no-pet hotel?

    Hotels do not fall under the Fair Housing Act as it is considered short term housing. Therefore, hotels do not have to honor an ESA letter. However, many hotels have personal policies that do allow ESA’s.

    Make sure to ask when booking a hotel room, just be aware that if they deny you, they are legally able to do so as they do not fall under the Fair Housing Act.

    Are emotional support animals allowed in restaurants?

    Restaurants are considered public places, and emotional support animals do not have any rights to enter. However, some restaurants are pet-friendly by choice. Make sure to ask if an ESA is allowed before entering a restaurant.

    Emotional Support Animal Rights


    Housing Laws 101: The Fair Housing Act

    The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA) states that apartments or housing communities that do not allow pets must make an exception for emotional support animals and make suitable accommodation for them and their owner.

    • ESA owners must be legally allowed to keep their support animal even in no-pet housing.
    • ESA owners are exempted from pet deposits or pet fees.

    The landlord of the apartments or housing community may require a proof of documentation indicating that the patient is in the need of an emotional support animal due to their mental or emotional disability. This documentation is an emotional support animal letter or ESA letter, which is written a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).

    Read this: ESAs and the Fair Housing Act
    The FHA allows tenants with mental or emotional disabilities to request a reasonable accommodation for their Emotional Support Animals. Read if you are looking for a housing letter.

    Do Not Confuse Emotional Support Animals with Service Animals and Therapy Animals

    ESAs, service animals, and therapy animals all provided different aid to specific disabilities or situations. Learn the key difference between the three!

    While therapy animals do give comfort and care, they do not have individual owners but rather are used in retirement homes, nursing schools, hospices, disaster areas, and more. Because of this, they are not eligible to receive the reasonable accommodations commonly extended to service dog or emotional support animal owners.

    Registries often (deliberately, we might add) confuse service animals and emotional support animals.

    While an emotional support animal helps ease the pain of a mental or emotional disability through companionship and affection, a service animal (including psychiatric service dogs) is any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled person.

    ESA are NOT service dogs.

    We don’t advertise as so and is important for you to understand if you are wanting to obtain an ESA letter.

    How to Ask Doctor for Emotional Support Animal Letter?

    If you are significantly limited by a disability and believe that an emotional support animal will help with your mental well-being, feel free to confidently approach your doctor and request a letter. From there, they will determine if you benefit from an ESA.

    If you are not seeing a doctor or a licensed mental health professional, CertaPet is always here for you.

    Get connected with a LMHP today, and you could receive your ESA letter in as little as 48 business hours!

    And remember - emotional support animals are more than just pets; they’re family.

    Ready to Apply? Get Started Here

    The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

    Once you receive the result, you may proceed to choose and pay for your desired letter.  After payment, you will receive access to your account and will be put in connection with your therapist right away.


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  • My dog’s CertaPet ESA letters, issued by an Oregon licensed therapist, expired in July and I have since moved to another state (California). Do I need to start the process from the beginning, and do I need a California licensed therapist to use it for housing? I can’t find a record of my account on the website, nor can I find any email notices that the ESA certification was about to expire, or a notice to renew. Thank you.

  • There are service dogs that are very necessary that have never been “trained” to perform their duty. Also, ESA dogs are as necessary as some “service dogs”. Why is there such a distinction between “service’/” and “ESA”? To me, my ESA is just important as a “service animal”! They should be one in the same “SERVICE ANIMAL”!

  • Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this information. It’s detailed and has all that I was looking for. But I have there’s something I’d like to know: Can I get an ESA letter online?
    Thanks

    • Yes, payment plans are available. Please reach out to Customer Service via phone or email and they should be able to help you.

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