February 18, 2019

How a Fake ESA Letter Ruined My Vacation (Updated 2019)

Fake ESA letter online offering ESA dog registration

Photo: iStock.com / Yuri

Fake Doctor Online: Not All ESA Letters Are Created Equal

Having a mental or emotional disability can be every bit as challenging and debilitating as a physical limitation.

But sadly, many people underestimate the severity of mental and emotional disabilities, simply because their symptoms often go unnoticed.

However, that doesn’t make them any less important.

Many people do not understand the significance or prevalence of these disabilities, and many are still unaware of alternative forms of treatment, such as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).

Additionally, many landlords and airlines are still resistant to ESAs.

ESA Letter Scam: One in Four Americans will experience mental illness in a given year!

Thankfully, however, the United States government has been working towards further protecting disabled individuals from discrimination.

The primary laws concerning ESA owners are the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Laws like the ACAA provide specific guidelines for individuals traveling with an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal to which an ESA owner must present a legitimate Emotional Support Animal letter.

The ACAA requires airlines to allow individuals with ESAs to fly with their ESA in the cabin, for free, rather than requiring them to check their animal in as cargo like a pet.

However, in order to qualify for these protections, individuals must have a valid ESA Letter, which serves as a prescription for the ESA, and possibly additional forms based on the specific airline, like Delta.

See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

There are many sources to obtain an Emotional Support Animal Letter online, but unfortunately, not all of these sources are legitimate or in full accordance with the law.

Fake Emotional Support Animal Registration: Approximately 18% of American adults live with some form of mental or emotional disability

The Day Everything Changed

Six years ago, I was in a nasty car wreck and endured a very personal loss.

To this day, I still suffer from depression and anxiety, and as part of my recovery process, my doctor suggested I get a cat, to serve as an Emotional Support Animal.

“But how would I train it?” I asked. I’d never owned or cared for an animal before.

She smiled.

Being a cat owner herself, my doctor assured me that cats are relatively low maintenance creatures and that a cat would probably be quick to “train me.” She insisted that a companion animal was what I needed.

She pointed me towards a local animal shelter, and that’s where I met Tigger.

For the last six years, my cat Tigger has been my faithful companion and closest friend. He’s been there for me through everything and has helped me cope with my disabilities.

Emotional Support Cat Registration


How a Fake ESA Letter Ruined My Vacation

Recently, Tigger and I decided to take a much-needed vacation.

I decided to get an Emotional Support Cat letter so that he could fly with me.

Wading through all the laws and airline regulations became very tedious, and I hastily chose an online ESA registry that was quick to promise that all I had to do was pay them and I’d get my ESA Letter.

No questions asked.

I didn’t know any better, so I did it. I quickly paid them and within a few days, I received a letter that I believed to be completely legitimate.

A week later, Tigger and I headed to the airport.

I couldn’t wait to work on my tan.

esa letter online scam - emotional support dog goes to miami beach

“Miami here we come!”

But when we got to the airport, something was wrong.

The airline attendant locked her lips as if trying not to smile and quietly shook her head “no” as she reviewed my ESA Letter.

Was Tigger on the No-Fly List?

My gut sank.

After speaking to the airline’s customer service managers, I learned that the letter I bought wasn’t in accordance with all the current Emotional Support Animal laws or airline policies.

In fact, further investigation revealed that the “doctor” I bought my letter from wasn’t even a Licensed Mental Health Professional, who can only write an ESA letter.

I was pissed.

Although my letter stated that my cat offered emotional support, the law required that it show a diagnosis of a mental or emotional disability, and it had to be from a Licensed Mental Health Professional, such as a clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, mental health counselor, psychiatrist or a licensed psychiatric, or mental health nurse practitioner.

See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

Additionally, the letter must indicate that the animal is a “reasonable accommodation,” i.e., assistive aide, benefitting the individual.

The Emotional Support Animal letter that I got met none of those ESA letter requirements, and I didn’t know what to do.

thought my letter would protect me from being discriminated against and would allow Tigger and I to fly without incident.

Instead, I learned not all ESA Letters are created equal.

Emotional Support Dog Letter from certapet counters the fake and scam letters sold by shady esa doctors

That’s When I Found CertaPet

Since that unforgettable day, I did end up finding a better place to get my ESA Letter online.

This time, I found one that’s both completely legitimate and fully recognized by every domestic airline.

Naturally, I was more than a little jaded after my first experience with buying an ESA Letter online but this time, I did my homework.

Instead of paying for some bogus Emotional Support Animal registration that’s absolutely meaningless, I decided to do it right.

This time, I used a highly recommended company that connected me with an actual, Licensed Mental Health Professional; one with verifiable credentials.

That’s when I found CertaPet.

This time, I was required to complete an online mental health screening, and unlike my previous experience, I knew that a Licensed Mental Health Professional would personally manage my prescription for an ESA and write my official letter.

I did my homework and obviously, so had they.

I sighed with relief, knowing my money was well spent.

Now I can travel with confidence and ease, thanks to CertaPet…

…and life’s never been better.

 esa letter online scam by fake esa doctors

If you think you could benefit from having an Emotional Support Animal, click below to see if you qualify.

See If You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal

Updated, 2019: How to Tell if an ESA Service is NOT Genuine

1. Letters are NOT written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).

A Licensed Mental Health Professional can be a clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, mental health counselor, psychiatrist or a licensed psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioner.

Depending on your state, a primary care physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner may also be considered an LMHP.

2. They don’t have an LMHP licensed to practice in your state.

For your letter to be completely valid, your LMHP must be licensed to practice in the state you are living in. We often notice landlords declining an ESA letter for housing, citing that the letter was not prescribed by a professional licensed to practice in the same state.

CertaPet works with 39 LMHPs who are licensed to practice in all 50 US states. They will always connect you with an LMHP who practices in your state.

3. There is NO screening.

A mental health screening ensures that you are indeed qualified to receive an Emotional Support Animal letter, and the LMHP issuing the letter knows about your disabilities and believes an ESA would come to your aid.

If an ESA service is awarding letter to anyone without any screening, rest assured that the letter will be questioned and likely declined when you are producing it to request reasonable accommodations, be it your landlord or an airline.

4. The Service calls itself a ‘registry’ and asks you to sign up for it.

There is no such thing as an “official Emotional Support Animal registry.”

This also goes for sites with names similar to “United States dog registry, “US Animal Registry,” and “Service Dog Registry of America.”

Again, to confirm, there is no national or state or city level registry for Emotional Support Animals. An ESA is absolutely not required to be registered anywhere! Same goes for “certification” and getting your ESA “certified” as an Emotional Support Animal! It is not real.

Any service having the words “United States”, “US”, “National” added to the word “registry” is basically trying to fool people into thinking that their pet gets added to an ‘official registry’ or a legit ESA registration (tell me about easy-money)! They often provide shiny add-ons such as a ‘framed certificate’, an ID card for your dog, dog tags containing the words ‘Emotional Support Animal’, etc.

While the swags may be nice to have, they do not make your pet an ESA.

In short, a registry is not real and does not benefit you or your Emotional Support Animal.

5. There is no follow-on service.

You must make sure that an ESA service has a good support service that will help you even after your letter is delivered. They must be able to respond to verification requests, or be able to deliver follow-on services such as an Airline-specific authorization form. Check out Delta’s new policy here.

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

  • Stacey says:

    Thank you. I will be visiting my doctors office on Monday. And obtaining that letter.

  • Whitney says:

    You obviously have never met a pit. My two service animals are pit mixes and literally save my life on a daily basis. I suffer from severe anxiety and depression and no other breed would or could be as good at what my animals do as they are. Biased, biased, biased! Go to a shelter and interact with one, you will see how affectionate, loving and attentive they are. Small breed dogs are MUCH more likely to be aggressive. Anyone I’ve ever spoken to that works or owns a pet supply store has shown me scars or told me stories of how they have been attacked at one time or another – and guess what size animal. I had a store owner go as far as saying that she would restrict small animals from entering her store if she was bitten once more. A HUGE mistake people make is picking up their small dog when they see a large dog, fearful of the large breed animal. This communicates to the small animal that they should be fearful of the other, and so they become frightened and aggressive. I’ve seen Service animals in the form of pigs and chickens – as long as the animal helps the individual with their disability it matters NOT what breed it is.

  • Kathy says:

    Your a miserable human being that should use a different type of transportation. Not everyone is bogus! I truly feel sorry for you and your bogus allergy scam against people who have medical problems.

  • Power to the people says:

    Wealthy people have no problem, they simply buy their homes, planes, etc. the housing crises and the pauperization of the American middle class has made many of us clinically anxious. I owned all my homes until 2012. Now I have to claim a diagnosis to live with my animal family, ESA letters for tenants are class discrimination. If we as a culture tolerate children and what passes for parenting, then we can tolerate the childless, who prefer dogs and cats to kids.

  • I eat dogs and cats too! says:

    The sign leaving the Florida airport also says “Firearms class forming daily”, then there are pawn shops all over the place with signs “GUNS”
    The animal activist and the gun nuts deserve each other!

  • I eat dogs and cats too! says:

    So you bought the pit?

  • Sherry secrist says:

    I have lived at my residence for a year, 11 months of which I have gone from suffering deep depression and anxiety, insomnia and PTSD, that is until I adopted Raleigh June 8th, 2016. I have physical disability which is the basis for the emotional suffering and am on SSI for the physical aspect. It seems as I should be a prime candidate for Raleigh being an ESA for me. Will I be able to present a letter to my landlord in Portland, OR who is also an attorney and be able to not pay anymore pet rent/fees? Living on SSI and SNAP leaves me with almost no $, just eking out an existence. Since I adopted Raleigh, I have genuine joy in my life, we are together almost 24/7, the longest we’ve been apart is when I had surgery last year & was gone for about 8 hours. He sleeps with me, my constant companion and my most adored and prized ‘possession’. I do not know what I’d do without him!

  • Nicole says:

    Oh my gosh I totally agree!!! I’m tired of paying for pet fees. My pet is quiet, doesn’t make a sound. I wish they would start charging baby fees. Tired of hearing crying on my flights!

    • I eat dogs and cats too! says:

      I am sick of all the animals allowed in the PASSENGER portion of the plane.
      A woman had a dog in the carrier by her seat, as soon as the plane took off the animal was out the carrier and on the tray. I quietly ask the flight attendant to have the animal returned to its carrier. She loudly told me that there was nothing she could do!
      I began to act like a real human and they threatened to land at the nearest airport. I told them if they didn’t cage that animal, we wouldn’t make it to the nearest airport!
      They cage the animal.
      I have begun to fight back!
      I have submitted more documentation from doctors and specialists concerning animal allergy, to all the airlines that I use. It’s time to reassert our rights to be animal free!
      End the bogus therapy animal sham!

      • HQuinn says:

        You sound like c*nt. Oh noes, someone has their dog out, I’m going to act like a horrible person because of it!!

        Thank goodness I’m not an airline attendant, I would have booted you from the plane without a parachute, as that sort of twatwaffleish behavior is entirely more disturbing than an uncrated dog. Please don’t fly again if this is all it takes to set you off…and don’t breed. Please don’t breed.

      • Delilah says:

        The FAA already recognizes people have allergies, they also recognize that you cannot ever be allergen free because pet owners have the allergens on their clothes and person, where it gets into the air regardless of any animals presence.

        If it is that bad sit far away from the ESAs or wear an allergen mask. You would need it either way if it is that bad.

  • savanna says:

    My Dr is willing to write a letter for my ESA what all does it have to contain does it have to have the dog’s name and breed and what else does it have to have

  • Stacia Lowe says:

    What happens if the wife suffers from anxiety and the husband suffers from PTSD. Can the certificate be assigned to both or do we need to purchase separately?