Emotional Support Animal FAQ

When it comes to emotional support animals, or "ESAs" -there's no shortage of questions to ask, or misinformation to wade through. Here, we'll attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions and to clear up the most common misconceptions concerning emotional support animals. If you still have any unanswered questions after reading the articles below, please send them to [email protected], and we'll be sure to add them to our list.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet that provides companionship to a person who suffers from symptoms of an emotional or mental disability such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and more. Unlike a service animal, an emotional support animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation.

An ESA is an animal that is not specifically trained to perform tasks for a person who suffers from mental and/or emotional disabilities. Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an emotional support animal is viewed as a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit that has a “no pets” rule for its residents.

Everything you need to know about emotional support animal laws, requirements, and registration scams. Start you ESA Research here.

The 2 laws that matter: Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act explained for ESA owners.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal?

In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, you need a letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) which outlines your need for the animal. 

CertaPet is a platform that connects you with an LMHP in your state. We have streamlined the entire process so that you can get a completely legitimate ESA letter from the comfort of your home in the quickest time possible.

What is an LMHP? Can your doctor write an ESA Letter for you? We answer these questions and a few more in this article.

Laws Regarding ESAs

What are the benefits of having an emotional support animal?

As an owner of an Emotional Support Animal, you can enjoy two legal benefits:

  1. you can fly on a plane with your ESA at no additional cost (note: keep in mind that airline companies have their own policy of what type of animals you can bring on board)
  2. you can live in housing at no additional cost (no matter how strict the general pet policy is)

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. In essence, the ADA does not apply for ESAs and their owners.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which prevents landlords from discriminating against people with disabilities.

What is the Air Carrier Access Act?

The Air Carrier Access Act protects owners of emotional support animals from discrimination by commercial airlines, and allows them to bring their ESA’s in the cabin of the aircraft free of charge, even if the airline does not normally allow pets. However, though ESAs do not have to be trained or do certain tasks like service dogs, they are expected to act appropriately and not cause any disturbance or harm to other passengers or animals.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows travelers to fly with their ESAs without paying pet fees. Read this if you are looking for an ESA Travel Letter.

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.

About CertaPet and Our Process

"Is CertaPet Legit? How Do I Know It’s Legal?"

CertaPet has helped over 65,000 pet owners, just like you, get an Emotional Support Animal. We have over 1,500 reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and ShopperApproved.

We can assure you that all of our mental health professionals are licensed. Our Licensed Mental Health Professional network covers 50 states.

Additionally, CertaPet is BBB Accredited.

There are two main federal laws that apply to ESAs: the Air Carrier Access Act, and the Fair Housing Act. Our ESA Letters are fully compliant with these laws and are all approved by fully qualified mental health professionals. This ensures our letters are 100% legal.

Still unsure about CertaPet? Just call us at (877) 207-0561 and speak with a member of our customer support team. Or read some of our stellar reviews here.

Must Read: CertaPet Reviews

Wondering what customers say about CertaPet?

I just completed the screening. What’s next?

First, you need to select which ESA Letter is best suited for you: Housing, Travel or Combined.

You then need to purchase a consultation with a mental health professional.

You will then fill out a more in-depth assessment and your assigned mental health professional will determine whether or not you would benefit from an ESA. If approved, they will personally write a recommendation for an Emotional Support Animal.

How long does the approval process take?

If approved, you will get a digital copy of your emotional support animal letter within 2 business days and a physical copy will be sent via USPS Priority Mail within 5 days. If you do not hear from us within this time, please contact our support team.

What is the refund policy?

Your consultation is protected by CertaPet’s Money-Back Guarantee. If, for any reason, your application is not approved by the Licensed Mental Health Professional, your fee will be refunded, excluding a USD 35 consultation fee.

What kind of Licensed Mental Health Professional will sign my letter?

Our LMHPs consist of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors, and Licensed Mental Health Counselors.

All of our Licensed Mental Health Professionals are fully qualified and have passed board exams. The LMHP we select will be one that is legally qualified to approve ESA Letters for your state.

Which ESA Letter should I choose?

If your pet lives with you then you should get the Housing letter. If you expect to fly at least once in the next year, then we recommend getting the combined Housing and Travel letter. This combination will save you the most money. If you own your own home or already have a Housing letter, then you should get the Travel letter on its own.

What does the letter look like?

The ESA Letter comes directly from a LMHP with their license number and their contact information. The letter will come on the professional letterhead of the licensed mental health professional and have everything legally needed for an ESA prescription within the body of the letter.

Does the ESA Letter expire? How often do I need to renew?

Your ESA Letter will last for one year. You can then have the opportunity to renew your ESA Letter via CertaPet at a discounted rate.

Can I use this for on-campus housing?

Yes, to use an emotional support animal letter for university housing, during the Assessment you can select the option for Campus Housing Letter.

If you are need of an ESA letter for college, click this link to get started!

"Can I get a letter for more than one ESA?"

It is very rare that a therapist would agree to approve more than one ESA. This is mostly due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to justify more than one animal being clinically necessary.

Additionally, airline companies and housing authorities seem to push back hard if there is more than one ESA. 

ESA Travel Letter

Can you fill out customer airlines forms?

More airlines such as Delta and American Airlines have started requiring custom forms in order to fly with your ESA so be aware if you need additional documentation.

Please note that custom forms must be filled out by the same LMHP who prescribed the ESA letter for you.

If you are a CertaPet customer, you can request custom forms through your user account. To log into your account, click here.

Find more ESA Policy for specific airlines such as Jetblue, Spirit, and more here

ESA Housing Letter

"How do I submit my ESA Letter to a landlord or airline?"

We send you copies of your ESA letter both digitally and in the mail.

For landlords, we strongly recommend that you present the letter immediately in-person. Nearly all landlords are extremely accommodating.

For airlines, you must call the airline during booking or at least 48 hours prior to your flight.

"What rights do I get with an ESA Letter? Where can I take my ESA Letter?"

Your rights depend on which ESA letter you applied for.

Because HUD states emotional support animals require "reasonable accommodation", the Housing ESA letter entitles you to qualify for no-pet housing (in apartments with more than 4 units and houses where the landlord owns multiple properties). This means that even if an apartment is listed as not allowing pets, you are legally protected to have one. You also won’t have to pay a pet deposit and can’t be charged a pet fee by the owner.

With the travel letter, you will also be able to fly with your pet in the cabin with no additional fee.

Common Misconceptions

Do I need to use a “registration” site to make my pet as an ESA?

NO! The ESA letter signed by a mental health professional is all you need. Registering your pet on a “registry site” is not a legal requirement for ESAs.

Read more about ESA registration here.

Do I need additional accessories like an Emotional Support Animal vest or ID card?

The letter, signed by a Licensed Mental Health Professional, is the only thing that is legally recognized.

Vests, ID Cards, and tags are accessories that may make it easier to identify your ESA but are not necessary. Still, many of our customers find the accessories very helpful for letting others know you have an ESA.

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

  • Abigayle says:

    Does having an ESA affect the ability of having a firearm?

  • Jeff says:

    In a large condominium building, can the Association Board of Directors demand that my Emotional Support dog be carried and/or muzzled in the common areas of the building including elevators. I am being informed that people who are fearful of dogs are from time to time being forced to share a tight space, in particular elevator space.

  • Cynthia Snyder says:

    I have an ESA but have lost his papers. I have sever PTSD, sever anxiety disorder and I’m bipolar 1 with psychosis. I’m interested in the letters but don’t have the money right now. Can you please tell me more? Is there a program that helps someone with low income pay for this service? Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Cynthia Snyder

  • Drea says:

    I live in NJ and have a firearms ID license. Will having an ESA affect my right to keep my firearms?

  • Debra says:

    Thank you, you answered all my questions. However the cat I’m going to have is a stray I’ve been feeding, I’m staying at a room & board now as I’m on the waiting list for a senior disability housing. I will take him with me. I would love to bring him inside but he has fleas like the other cats that belong here

    • Cynthia Snyder says:

      Debra original (blue) Dawn is great for killing fleas. You can use a flea comb on your cat then clean off the fleas in a container with water & Dawn dish detergent. The fleas can’t escape. Also vaccinated everything at least once a day. It’s a lot of work but I’m sure your cat is worth it. You both will be happy. Btw empty your vaccinated outside once you’ve vacuumed. Best wishes

    • Cynthia Snyder says:

      Vacuum not vaccines.haha autocorrect

  • Beverly Chapman says:

    My dog will be my ESA and not considered a pet, the apartment complex allows one pet, so?? am I able to have my cat as a pet? Paying the required deposit as a pet.

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