All About Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
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What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a person's pet that has been prescribed by a person's licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person's emotional/psychological disability.
What Animals Qualify To Be An ESA?
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!). These animals do not need any specific task-training because their very presence mitigates the symptoms associated with a person's psychological/emotional disability, unlike a working service dog. The only requirement is that the animal is manageable in public and does not create a nuisance in or around the home setting.
How To Qualify
For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Typically, a medical doctor does not qualify because they are not a licensed mental health professional. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor, however.
The letter should state that:
- You are currently his/her patient
- Are under his/her care for the treatment of mental disability found in the DSM IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5).
- Your disability substantially limits at least one major life activity
- He/she prescribes for you an emotional support animal as a necessary treatment for your mental health.
In addition, the letter must be dated, written on his/her letterhead, include his/her license type, number, date of license, and state in which the license was issued.
Do You Have A Therapist?
If you have no therapist or your therapist is unwilling to write such a letter, we recommend using Chilhowee Psychological Services; a licensed mental health services agency that specializes in online/telephone disability assessments and offers letters of prescription to clients who qualify. This agency is approved by the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Transportation (the agencies that govern the laws protecting emotionally disabled handlers and their ESAs): www.cptas.com
What Are Your Legal Protections and Rights?
The Air Carrier Access Act 49 U.S.C. 41705, Dept. of Transportation 14 C.F.R. Part 382, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 are the laws that protect an emotionally disabled person and his/her ESA.
The legal protections an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has are to:
- Fly with its emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in the cabin of an aircraft without being charged a pet fee. Click here for detailed information on Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal.
- Qualify for no-pet housing (that also includes limited sze, breed, or species housing) without being charged a pet fee. Click here for detailed information on Housing Rights For You And Your ESA.
No other public or private entity (motels, restaurants, stores, trains, taxis, busses, theatres, parks, beaches, libraries, zoos, etc.) is required to allow your ESA to accompany you and in all other instances, your ESA has no more rights than a pet. That means they aren't protected by law to accompany you into any public place that does not allow pets. That doesn't mean these places won't let you, it just means that they are not required to, by law.
Flying With Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
Click here for detailed information about Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal.
Housing Rights for You and Your Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
Click here for detailed information on Housing Rights For You And Your ESA.
Why Register Your ESA?
Registration is voluntary; not compulsory. But, registering your pet as an ESA not only legitimizes your ESA (making him/her look official), but eliminates nearly all the hassles and confrontation you'll encounter without it. This is why National Service Animal Registry exists: To make life easier for the disabled!
How To Register Your ESA
To find out more about or begin to register your Emotional Support Animal (ESA), Click Here. We guarantee your life will be enhanced, as a result!