Recent studies suggest that one in four Americans suffer each year from a mental illness, acutely and clinically. Whether that illness takes the form of depression, anxiety, panic, or other emotional distress, untold numbers of Americans are finding that the only way they can function is with the presence of an emotional support animal.
While it might seem strange that having a pet could assist those who suffer from mental illnesses and even physical ailments, studies show that regular contact with pets has significant psychological and physical benefits. Furthermore, beyond having a companion that can help you through a long day, an emotional support animal can allow you to live in an apartment that normally would not accept pets or fly with you when you travel by plane.
Many of those who would benefit from having an emotional support animal (ESA) find it challenging to get that critical psychiatric letter, though, and many mental health professionals do not offer such services. If you are trying to obtain an emotional support animal letter but do not have the time or ability to deal with this, there are many services that can assist you in obtaining a legal and legitimate ESA letter.
Top 3 Emotional Support Animal Letter Services
Why Did We Choose These 3 Services?
Figuring out the best services to provide those suffering from mental health issues with a legitimate ESA letter is a task we did not take lightly. Since emotional support animals provide individuals suffering from emotional problems with an essential service necessary to support healthy mental wellbeing, we were very careful when choosing the following factors to make our list.
- Legitimacy: The first and most important item in our search for the best emotional animal support letter services was their ability to actually provide 100% legal and legitimate ESA letters. Therefore, we only included services in our list that are fully accredited and legal to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those who suffer with mental health issues.
- Accessibility: Not everyone who needs an emotional support animal can get themselves out of the house to get an ESA letter. This is why we chose services that have a variety of ways to obtain an emotional support animal letter.
- Price: Even with the dire need for many individuals to get an emotional support animal letter, sometimes people do not have the funds to obtain one at an affordable price. For this reason, all the services on this list can fit into any budget to ensure that individuals who need emotional support animals can afford one.
After pouring through tons of websites, we narrowed it down to the three sites that we feel provide the best services and help those suffering from emotional and mental health issues by getting the ESA letter they need to lead healthy happy lives.
The 3 Best Sites for Emotional Support Animal Letters
1. CertaPet: Editor’s Choice – Best Overall Service
- Licensed mental health professionals
- Virtual services available
- Support for other animal designations
- Quick and responsive customer support team
- Choose the type of letter you need – home or travel
- Slightly higher price to get both a Home and Travel ESA letter
Why We Chose CertaPet
CertaPet offers individuals a way to get a letter to validate their emotional support animal from a mental health professional in a fast and efficient manner. With a money-back guarantee and 100% compliance on federal and state levels, CertaPet is the premier go-to service for those looking to get an ESA letter.
How it Works
Getting an ESA letter from CertaPet is fast and easy. The website offers confidential and free prescreening to ensure that you qualify. After filling out a few questions, you’ll be matched with a licensed mental health professional that is certified in your state to prescribe an ESA letter for your companion.
Appointments and consultations can be made online or by phone. The practitioner will verify your information and ask additional questions to further determine your medical eligibility for an ESA letter. Once approved, you’ll receive your letter in the mail and can use it to travel with your pet in the cabin or move into an apartment that usually doesn’t allow pets.
Additionally, individuals can also apply for a PSD or Psychiatric Service Dog letter. These letters are ideal for those with a high level of diagnosed PTSD and require emotional support, specifically from a dog.
Compared to other in-person psychiatric services that offer an ESA letter for more than $300, CertaPet is pretty affordable. The total amount is about half the cost of seeing a primary care provider. Additionally, for an extra fee, individuals can request both a Home and Travel ESA letter so they can have documents to use anywhere.
CertaPet offers a fast, easy way to get an emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health professional. The service is affordable and provides excellent value for your money compared to other similar services. CertaPet is ideal for individuals who need an ESA letter for home, travel or both, and for whatever reason cannot meet with a mental health professional in person.
2. Emotional Pet Support: Runner Up
- Same day approval is available
- 1-minute online prescreening
- Electronic ESA letter options
- Mental health professionals are available seven days a week
- Fees paid out of pocket and not covered by insurance
Why We Chose Emotional Pet Support
Emotional Pet Support offers one of the fastest ways to get emotional support animals certified from a licensed mental health professional over the phone. In addition, with their ability to send PDFs of ESA letters, patients don’t need to wait to start using their ESA letters for living or travel purposes.
How it Works
To get an ESA or PSD letter fast, patients need only fill out Emotional Pet Support’s online questionnaire. It only takes about a minute to answer the questions on the form that help the mental health professionals working with Emotional Pet Support to determine if you are eligible for an emotional support animal letter. Once your questionnaire is completed, it is sent to a medical professional who will review your application and contact you to set up a phone or video consultation to further verify whether having an ESA letter would benefit your mental health treatment.
If approved, you can opt to receive your initial letter via email in the form of a PDF. If you aren’t approved for the ESA letter for some reason, Emotional Pet Support will refund your payment back to your credit card.
Emotional Pet Support prices their letters depending on what a patient needs. ESA letters for landlords and no-pet apartments or travel purposes are under $100, respectively. Those that need or want both documents can expect to pay slightly more but still under $200 to ensure that they do not run into any problems renting a place to live or traveling with their certified emotional support animal.
The Bottom Line
Emotional Pet Support is a reliable and convenient service that offers document delivery in as little as one day if you need an ESA letter fast. With a fast turnaround time and mental health professionals available seven days a week, this service is ideal for those that need an ESA letter fast to move into their new place or go on emergency travel with their animal companions.
- Legal assistance to help with ADA violations
- No additional charge for multiple pets on the same ESA letter
- An extensive network of licensed mental health professionals
- User-friendly website
- Consultations are only done by phone
Why We Chose Pettable
With a fast turnaround time and an extensive network of professionals trained in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Pettable offers excellent ESA and legal services to ensure that patients’ rights are not violated.
How it Works
To get an ESA letter from Pettable, patients need to start by filling out their online questionnaire. This allows their vast network of professionals to review the information provided and determine whether they are a good fit for an ESA letter or not. Pettable will contact qualified patients for a federally mandated consultation with a fully licensed mental health professional via phone to further review their needs and determine how an ESA letter can help them.
Once approved, patients will receive their letter in the form of a certificate that must be presented in order to fly on an airplane with an emotional support animal, as well as a wallet card for those who need it to travel with their ESA on public transportation.
Pettable’s pricing is based on each individual service a patient needs. For example, individuals seeking an ESA letter for home or travel will pay under $100 for one or the other. Both letters can be written, signed, and delivered for a discounted fee under $200.
While Pettable’s expedited and legal services come with an additional fee, there is no charge for adding up to two emotional support animals on the same letter.
The Bottom Line
Pettable is an excellent choice for those who need an ESA letter fast and don’t mind speaking with a mental health professional over the phone to receive their certification. Also, with an extensive network of certified professionals, Pettable is the best ESA letter service for those looking for additional legal help to ensure that they are not breaking any laws while traveling or living with their emotional support animal.
What is an ESA and Why Are Licensed Mental Health Professionals Involved?
An ESA, or emotional support animal, is a specialized designation for an animal that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner by decreasing or helping to control the effects of a mental health disability. Emotional support animals are trained to assist their owners through companionship and affection, which in turn helps reduce symptoms of the owner’s disability.
The right to an emotional support animal is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although an ESA is not a service animal, this set of federal protections states that those with disabilities must be given the same opportunities as those without disabilities. This means you cannot be denied essential services such as housing and air travel, as long as you can prove your pet is legally certified as an emotional support animal. In order to prove you have a disability for which an emotional support animal is needed, a licensed mental health professional must certify that you do, in fact, suffer with an emotional or mental health disability.
What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?
Also known as the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark piece of legislation signed into law in 1990. It was designed to prohibit discrimination against those with disabilities as well as ensure equal opportunities for them in public life. Some examples of this include transportation and housing needs, building access, and work accommodations.
My Pet is Well-Behaved. Why Do I Need an ESA Letter?
Unfortunately, those who wish to travel with their pets because they serve a therapeutic purpose aren’t always allowed to, even when said pet is legal to take with them. This is because it isn’t about whether or not their animal is well-behaved; it’s simply about the property owners’ fears regarding insurance, safety, and overall liability.
By having an ESA certification, you will avoid the hassle of having to fight for the right to bring your pet along, or worse – being asked to leave.
What Are the Benefits of an ESA Certification?
While the most significant benefit is ensuring that those who have mental illness can always have their pet with them, certification for emotional support animals also provides the following benefits:
- The ability to travel with your ESA-approved pet in the cabin of an airplane
Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs are allowed to travel with a passenger in the main cabin of an airplane, provided the passenger:
- can provide documentation (if requested) that proves the animal has been designated an ESA by a licensed mental health professional;
- provides 48 hours’ notice that they will be traveling with an animal designated as an ESA;
- has an animal that meets the requirements for travel on an airplane as an ESA (airlines are not required to allow snakes, spiders, oversized & dangerous ESAs on a plane);
- proves the animal has a way to relieve itself on flights longer than eight hours; and,
- is traveling with an ESA that can fit under the seat in front of them.
The Air Carrier Access Act mandates that those traveling with an ESA on domestic flights cannot be refused boarding as long as these conditions are met. Furthermore, airlines can not request additional fees from passengers traveling with an ESA that meets the requirements above.
However, it should be noted that the rules for international flights regarding emotional support animals vary based on the flight’s destination. In many instances, foreign countries may not allow your ESA to enter the country with you or may require that the ESA be quarantined for up to 90 days before being allowed entry into the country.
- The ability to have an ESA live in a rental property with you
The Fair Housing Act stipulates that a landlord or housing authority cannot refuse a request by a person with a recognized disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act in regards to the use of an ESA.
This means that if a person lives in housing typically deemed “no-pet”, a landlord cannot legally refuse a request for a certified ESA. Furthermore, landlords and property owners can not charge “pet fees” to those living with an ESA in their rental regardless of whether pets are allowed or not. Property types covered under the Fair Housing Act regarding emotional support animals include:
- Apartment complexes
- Retirement Communities
- Nursing Homes
- Assisted Living Facilities
It should be noted that there is no law requiring that ESAs be allowed in public housing or low-income housing. Therefore, if you live in this type of housing situation, the presence of your ESA will be based solely on the rules set forth by the property owner.
It should also be noted that while a landlord cannot ask for specific information regarding the mental or emotional disability that requires a person to have an ESA, they may request documentation proving that your pet is legally designated an emotional support animal.
Who Can Have an ESA?
To qualify for an ESA letter for their pet, a person must be diagnosed with a mental or emotional disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines such disabilities as any disorder including but not limited to:
- panic attacks
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
- eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, and binge eating
- neurodiverse individuals diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, and other non specified mental or emotional disabilities
If you suffer from any of these conditions, you may be able to receive a specialized letter that qualifies your pet as an ESA.
What Pets Are Eligible for an ESA?
Unlike service animal designations that can only be applied to a dog or miniature horse, emotional support animal designations can be applied to any trained household pet, including but not limited to:
- teacup pigs
There is no training requirement for a household pet to be deemed an emotional support animal. Furthermore, there is no requirement for age or size, meaning that just about any household or domesticated pet that provides you with the emotional support you need can be certified as an ESA.
What Service Does My Pet Have to Provide to Become an ESA?
While there is no formal training required and just about any animal that is considered necessary for emotional pet support can be designated as an ESA, there are a few requirements that must be met in order to maintain the certified ESA designation:
- Your ESA can not cause injury or property damage.
- Your ESA must provide reasonable emotional support and comfort.
Additionally, a licensed mental health professional may require that you perform certain therapeutic tasks with your animal to prove that the animal truly does help you cope. Examples of such activities may include:
- The presence of your pet helps regulate your mood and/or your behavior.
- Your companion animal provides you with the strength and motivation to participate in activities.
- The presence of your pet alleviates one or more of your physical symptoms.
As long as your pet meets one or more of these requirements, then it may be possible to get it certified as an emotional support animal. A licensed clinical social worker might help with further questions.
How to Get an ESA?
Getting the legal letter that certifies your pet as an ESA is actually a relatively simple process that is most commonly completed in one of two ways.
- In-Person ESA Letter
Individuals wishing to certify their pet as an emotional support animal can contact their primary care physician. This will involve an in-person consultation with a family medicine specialist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other licensed professional in your state to verify that your pet is, in fact, necessary for the adequate treatment of your mental or emotional disability.
Some common questions you may be asked to prove that your pet is essential for emotional support include:
- What tasks does your pet help you with?
- How long has your pet been providing comfort to you?
- Does your pet’s presence reduce any physical symptoms that you experience as a result of your disability?
- Does your pet’s presence assist you in performing any daily tasks, such as cooking or household chores?
- Do others in your home feel better when your pet is present?
- Do you feel that your pet’s presence decreases your stress levels or helps relieve any anxiety that you suffer from?
- Are there any specific instances or tasks where your pet’s presence has made a tremendous difference in how you cope with daily life?
- Is there anything else that makes it difficult for you to perform daily tasks without the assistance of your pet?
In order to validate your need for an ESA, your medical professional may require you to submit your answers in written form. Furthermore, they may ask that you provide documentation proving your disability and why it is necessary to have emotional pet support. If so, please be sure to bring any documentation you have with you.
No matter what format your medical professional requests, they will ultimately use this information to determine whether or not you need or qualify for an emotional support animal.
- Online Services
For those who need an ESA designation fast but don’t have the ability to visit their primary care physician (or their PCP won’t write the letter), online services like CertaPet, our top recommendation, or others on our list can provide you with an ESA letter quickly and usually at a discounted price.
These services operate seven days a week and are ideal for those who need an ESA certification faster than going to a physician in person. To use these services, individuals must fill out a pre-screening application (typically free), set up a phone or video consultation that verifies the applicant has a disability as defined by the federal Fair Housing Act, and then purchase an ESA letter.
Many online ESA letter providers, like CertaPet, also offer expedited and legal services for those at risk of losing their housing. Be sure that the online service you use is not only reputable but also follows all legal compliances mandated for the state you reside in. If your online service is not registered as an emotional support animal letter provider with the state government, they cannot write a legitimate ESA letter. Ask them for proof of their registration before you hire them to avoid legal issues.
How to Register an ESA
Once you have received your letter that designates your pet as an ESA, you’ll need to register it with your landlord or travel carrier to ensure that your pet will be allowed to stay with you regardless of typical policies.
If you are registering your ESA with a landlord or housing agency, you’ll need to provide the signed and certified ESA designation letter in addition to any other documents that prove you are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you plan on traveling with your ESA, you will need to ensure that your travel carrier accepts that particular animal as an ESA aboard their carrier and provide a copy of your ESA designation documents.
It is very important to note that the documents needed to certify your pet as an ESA for home is different from the one you will need to designate your pet as an ESA for travel. Be sure that when obtaining your ESA certification, you request the correct letter to meet your needs. Fortunately, many services offer discounts for purchasing both documents at once.
Do ESA Letters Expire?
Federal laws in the USA dictate that a signed and certified ESA letter is valid for one year from the date that it was issued. After the expiration, pet owners will need to renew their letter by scheduling another consultation with a licensed physician in their state of residence. Some online services like CertaPet offer discounts on renewal letters and, generally, they can be done up to three months before the letter expires.
Renewing your ESA letter every year is very important because once it expires, a landlord or airline is not required to recognize your pet as an ESA, making it difficult to secure a new lease or commit to specific travel plans.
What Happens if My ESA Rights Are Violated?
US law is very clear on the fact that discrimination against those with physical or mental disabilities is illegal. If you suspect that your landlord or travel carrier has violated your rights regarding an ESA, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to file a complaint by sending them an email at ADA.firstname.lastname@example.org or calling their information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TYY).
If HUD determines that you have experienced discrimination, they may provide financial compensation for damages, including but not limited to legal fees and emotional stress. Additionally, many online ESA providers also offer legal consultation services for those who feel their ESA rights are being violated.
What Can I Be Asked If I Am Traveling Or Living With An ESA?
If you are, or plan on, living or traveling with an animal certified to be an ESA, there are only a few questions that can be asked of you to prove that your pet is an ESA, such as:
- Can you provide current and legal documentation that your pet is certified as an ESA from a mental health provider?
- Can you describe what service your ESA performs?
- Can you explain how the ESA performs this service?
- What training, if any, has your animal received to perform this service?
These questions are legally allowed to be asked by any landlord or transportation agency prior to allowing your ESA to live in an environment or travel with you. However, landlords and transportation agencies may not ask any questions regarding what your mental disability is, how you became disabled, or any other types of questions not listed in the four examples above.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between an ESA and a service animal?
An ESA is any household pet with no special training that provides comfort, affection, and companionship to an individual with a documented mental health condition. ESAs are allowed to travel with owners on airplanes and live with them in homes designated pet-free. However, they are not allowed into other public spaces such as hotels, restaurants, or grocery stores.
Service animal designations are only given to trained dogs and horses. These animals can accompany an owner into any public space.
2. Are ESA’s allowed in movie theaters?
No. ESAs can only be taken on airlines or in locations that have been pet-free designated by the landlord or property owner.
3. Can I certify multiple pets on the same ESA letter?
That depends on the provider. Some will allow it while others will not. When allowed, be aware that an additional fee per pet may be added to the cost of the letter.
4. How old do you have to be to be eligible for an ESA?
Any person of any age can request an ESA letter from a mental health provider. Regardless of age, however, the person will still need to complete the consultation and pay any fees associated with receiving an ESA letter.
Make Your Life Easier With An ESA
Having an ESA can make your life easier in a variety of different ways. They are allowed to live with you, travel with you, and help you when you need it most. So take the time to certify your pet as an ESA to ensure that they are there to comfort you when you need them.
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