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Emotional Support Animal Letter
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal which is prescribed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional to an individual with a disability. The ESA’s purpose is to alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s disability. Ideally, the person with the disability should have an established relationship with a mental health provider prior to being prescribed an ESA, and the person should be receiving some sort of ongoing treatment (e.g., therapy or medication) in addition to the ESA.
What type of animal can an ESA be?
Any type of animal could be considered an ESA – a dog, cat, bird, snake, etc. ESAs are not required to have any specialized training. Per the Fair Housing Act, ESAs are only permitted within the owner’s dwelling.
Since an ESA is not a task-trained Service Animal required to help carry out tasks associated with daily living, it is not required nor able to accompany a person with a disability at all times.
Do I need to register my Emotional Support Animal, purchase a certificate, or get a vest?
There is no centralized ESA registry nor registration process (no, that listing that appears in your search results is not required and is not a valid way to claim your animal is an ESA!). Vests, ID tags, certificates, etc. are not required for Emotional Support Animals. What may be needed is an assessment and letter from a qualified provider to ensure that an individual meets the criteria of having or being regarded as having a disability and a nexus is identified between the disability and the animals ability to help alleviate one or more of the individual's disability-related symptoms.
What rights are given for Emotional Support Animals?
Emotional Support Animals do not have specialized training and do not carry out tasks associated with daily living, and, therefore, they are not required nor permitted to accompany a person with a disability at all times. Per the Fair Housing Act, ESAs can be requested as a reasonable accommodation and permitted within the owner’s dwelling.
Previously, under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines were required to permit certain ESAs (which meet the airline's requirements for age, type or size) to travel on an airplane to/from certain destinations as a disability accommodation. A final rule was released on 12/2/2020 which amended the Air Carrier Access Act and details that airlines are now only required to accept trained Service Animals (with required documentation and notice) as disability accommodations provided criteria are met for travel. As of 1/11/2021, most major airlines are no longer accepting ESAs as disability accommodations; however, many will still transport your animal per their pet policy. Consult your air carrier for policies and details.
What Emotional Support Animal policies apply for an assessment or letter?
Stone Counseling & Consulting Services offers select assessments or evaluations, including disability and emotional support animal assessments. Assessments may include any combination of clinical interview, client screenings or assessments, and/or records review from other treatment professionals. In cases of Emotional Support Animal or Disability Accommodations, it is counselor’s duty to determine whether client is assessed to meet the legal definition of having or being regarded as having a “disability,” and to identify whether related criteria are met, prior to rendering any decisions. It is important to understand that you may not qualify. It is also important that you be fully informed about what this decision and determination means for you, and what your rights and responsibilities are, should you decide to utilize and/or disclose this information to a third-party for any reason.
For disability and/or emotional support animal accommodations, some organizations such as colleges/universities may have specific requirements related to evaluation, the length of treatment, etc. It is your responsibility to consult with the organization regarding their requirements and to fully understand those requirements.
These assessment services are available only to individuals who are established counseling clients with Stone Counseling & Consulting Services, or an established client at another mental health practice with recent documented clinical records released to business/counselor from their primary clinician. To ensure a full assessment, first-time mental health clients are not eligible for this service until they have completed at least 3 appointments. Clients who are established at another mental health practice and have released records to counselor may be able to be assessed in less than 3 appointments.
Fees for the process are the same as standard counseling appointment rates, and insurance may be billed (if it is an in-network insurance plan, or a super bill may be provide for out-of network). If indicated, a report/letter fee will also be charged for the ESA letter.
Disability endorsement, Emotional Support Animal letters, and/or assignment of reasonable disability accommodations by an organization cannot be guaranteed by business/counselor and are subject to applicable laws, rules, and/or policies/procedures. Emotional Support Animal letters are typically considered valid for one year. Recommendations for continued treatment or other options will be provided by counselor. Client should seek legal counsel or representation as needed.
Looking for more info about Emotional Support Animals?
Check out my ESA blog posts!