Millions of Americans have pets that bring them joy and comfort. But did you know that many people rely on animals for support to manage physical or psychological symptoms, maintain optimal functioning, or to help assess potential danger?
To qualify for an emotional support animal in public places, there must be a letter from a mental health professional stating that you have a disability and the animal provides necessary therapy for your condition.
Before we get into writing a letter, let’s clear up a few things. Most people think that the different categories of animals are interchangeable. To clarify the misconceptions, we have described each to broaden your knowledge and options.
However, remember that we currently only provide letters for Emotional Support Animals (ESA).
- Emotional Support Animals
- Service animals.
- Comfort Dogs
- Animal Assisted Therapy
Emotional Support Animals
An Emotional Support Animal or ESA is an animal that provides emotional benefits if you have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. An ESA can be an existing pet or one adopted for that purpose and does not require specialized training to assist you with your condition, although owners should ensure they’re well-trained in public. The animal’s job is to support you and your well-being. It is essential to mention that your emotional support animal does not have automatic access to every place a service dog (see service animal description below) may go. Therefore, it is best to ask establishments such as restaurants, shops, or malls whether your animal is allowed or if an exception can be made. Although ESAs do not have the same protections under the ADA as service animals, they may receive special consideration. Housing providers, however, must reasonably accommodate ESA owners even if they have a strict policy prohibiting pets. As of January 2021, emotional support animals are no longer recognized as service animals and are prohibited from flying with their owners unless as a pet.
Service animals are dogs, regardless of breed or type, that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a person with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. A psychiatric service dog requires extensive training to perform tasks related to a person’s mental health disability. Psychiatric service dogs are afforded greater access and rights than emotional support animals.
Organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) frequently use comfort dogs in disaster response. Comfort dogs offer a calming presence and provide a needed distraction during a disaster or crisis. These animals and their owners are usually volunteers prepared for disaster response settings. Dogs are deployed to shelters and other sites to comfort individuals and families affected by the disaster. The difference between comfort dogs and emotional support animals is emotional support animals support just one owner. In contrast, comfort dogs offer support and comfort to the public during catastrophic events such as natural disasters, fires, or mass shootings.
Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention incorporating an animal into a treatment plan. Although various animals are used in animal-assisted therapy, the most common are dogs and horses. Animals perform intentional, goal-directed activities to complement traditional therapeutic interventions. Unlike service animals, who only work with one individual, therapy animals work with many individuals. Animal-assisted interventions are used for various therapeutic goals, such as to improve trust and attachment wounds, promote social development and socialization skills, reduce isolation, fight obesity, combat bullying, battle PTSD, and enhance physical health.
What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter?
Only a licensed professional in the mental health field can write a letter for you. Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters are an official recommendation from a qualified, licensed mental health practitioner stating your need for an animal to assist you in your daily living. Therefore you must have a chronic mental illness that impairs or limits functioning in one or more life domains. The letter prepared for you will demonstrate that the ESA is therapeutically necessary to improve the impact of your disabling symptoms and reduce distress.
Is an ESA for me?
For an animal to be legally recognized as an ESA, you must demonstrate a need for an emotional support animal to alleviate symptoms or improve overall functioning.
What animals qualify?
Please note that our ESA letters are for qualifying dogs or cats only. The type or breed of your cat or dog does not matter as long as your pet is not aggressive and is well-behaved. The assessment does not validate the safety or appropriateness of your animal in other settings. Additional charges apply to multiple animals.
Can you explain the process?
There are four steps to the process. The process can move smoothly and quickly.
Here is what you need to do.
STEP ONE: Contact us.
STEP TWO: Schedule an appointment.
STEP THREE: Meet with one of our evaluators to conduct an assessment (with your animal).
STEP FOUR: Receive a signed ESA letter from a licensed mental health practitioner on our company letterhead.
Is it in-person or virtual?
Our assessments are virtual. This means that you won’t have to travel to our office. We have experienced telehealth professionals who work via secured teleconferencing platforms for your convenience.
How long does it take?
The mental health assessment can last between 60 and 90 minutes.
How much does it cost?
Your assessment and ESA letter is $250.00. For a 48-hour turn-around time, the cost is $275; for a 24-hour turn-around time, the cost is $300.
When will I get the letter?
We need up to seven (7) business days to prepare and send your ESA letter. However, letters can be expedited under certain circumstances. For a 24-hour turnaround time, additional costs will apply. (see fees above).
Do you work with people in my local area?
Currently, we can work with Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Utah residents. So that you know, you will need to validate your residence.
Do you know if the letters are renewed annually?
Yes, most employers, schools, and residential properties require annual renewal letters. A reassessment is required annually to determine your current mental health status. Fees will apply.
Do you offer refunds?
We do not offer refunds.
What do I need to do to prepare for the evaluation?
Please ensure your pet is present during the entire assessment time. Upload a picture and indicate the name, age, sex, color and breed of your animal.
How do I get started?
To get started, please complete the contact form below!