If you are suffering from emotional and mental disturbances, you need some sort of support to keep you destructed from any negative thoughts that might cross your mind. Medication does work well, but one of the most effective methods is adopting an emotional support animal. Think of it as your emotional support buddy!
A support system offers you a solution to your mental disturbances, and this is where an ESA proves to come in handy.
This guide provides actionable steps to help you in the process of adopting an emotional support animal.
Now, let’s take a look at what’s on the table for you.
Let’s get straight to our guide.
Chapter 1: What’s an Emotional Support Animal?
Some know them as “assistance Animals”; others simply as “ESA.”
Simply put, an emotional support animal (ESA) is a special type of animal that’s considered as a support provider by healthcare specialists. This animal provides you with the much-needed companionship to help you avoid mental trauma.
ESA offers a source of comfort if you need attention. The animals help you stay focused on your goals and overcome tough conditions that you would have otherwise experienced if you stayed alone.
Is an Emotional Support Animal Same as a Pet?
Many people often confuse these animals with their usual pets. You may get a pet for different reasons. It could be you want to get another member of the family; maybe adopt an abandoned pet, or simply get one just because you love animals.
It’s different with Emotional Support Animals. These animals are a necessity for their owners. People who have mental conditions such as depression and anxiety get comfort and emotional support from these animals.
Additionally, unlike pets, emotional support animals are recommended even in places where animals are not welcome. You can take the animal on board in areas/places where there’s a strict rule against bringing pets.
Where Can an Emotional Support Animal Go?
An ESA is a special kind of animal. You won’t face any difficulties or hassles taking it inside places where pets are typically not allowed.
Some of the places your pet can enter include:
If you are taking a flight, you don’t need to worry about leaving your ESA behind. You can take the animal with you without paying more. That’s right! There are no extra charges when you take an ESA onboard a flight.
If you are in college or visiting someone who is, your ESA can also accompany you to the dorms. Awesome, right? Well, the rules that no pets are allowed in the dorms can’t apply with an emotional support animal. When you have mental disturbances, you might find it difficult to adjust to the new environment or even make new friends. You can find emotional balance and get rid of the anxiety with the comfort of an emotional support animal.’
Houses and Apartments:
Some landlords have strict rules against keeping pets on their premises. If you have one, they will keep on threatening you with an eviction notice – either directly or indirectly. If the pet you have is an ESA, this should be the least of your worries. And do you know why? Well, as per the Fair Housing Act, no one can stop you from having an ESA in your house or apartment. Better yet, your landlord can’t even restrict you from keeping a particular breed.
All you need to do is acquire an ESA letter, which serves as a permit to allow you to keep an Emotional Support Animal.
What Places Do Not Allow Emotional Support Animals?
You know where your ESA can accompany you, right? Well, it’s also vital that you know about areas/places where you are not allowed to take any pet, including your ESA. Generally, many businesses do not allow you to bring any kind of animal.
What businesses, you ask?
When we talk about businesses, we mean private ones like restaurants, motels, hotels, and malls, among others. Let this not bother you, though. You see, in most cases, you visit these private businesses temporarily, and this means you can leave your ESA back for a while.
If you work in an office setting, you might also want to rethink it because the office is also classified as a business.
Check first with the business to determine if they do allow pets and particularly Emotional Support Animals. Talk to the management and see if they can allow you to take your ESA to their business premises. There’s a chance they will allow it, but to even consider your request, they will need to see the ESA letter. This letter provides clarity that you have the permission to take your Emotional Support Animal wherever you go. We have covered details on ESA letters in this guide.
Chapter 2: What is an ESA Letter and How Can it Help You?
So, what exactly is an ESA letter?
In simple words, an ESA letter is a legal permit that gives your Emotional Support Animal privileges that other pets don’t have. As we mentioned, if you suffer from emotional and mental conditions, you will need a support companion everywhere you go. With this letter, you can be able to access or enter places such as planes and college dorms, where pets are not allowed.
Why is it essential to have an ESA Letter?
Think of an ESA letter as an ID card for your support buddy. Think of it as a way to verify that you have a mental condition.
This letter lets you travel and stay with your comfort partner without the worry of restrictions put in place about carrying pets.
This document verifies that you are suffering from a mental illness. It also shows that you are following the guidelines of a healthcare professional. The ESA is part of your recommended treatment, and you have to take it with you wherever you go.
The Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) gives you the right to live with your ESA in any apartment or house, whereas the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) allows you to take your support buddy on a plane as you travel. To enjoy these privileges, you need to provide your ESA letter, and it must come from a doctor or healthcare specialist who’s licensed to issue it.
How Do You Get an ESA Letter?
Now that you know what an Emotional Support Animal letter is and the privileges it gives you and your comforting buddy, let’s take a look at how you can get yourself one. For this, you’ll need to follow some simple steps. You can choose to get the Emotional Support Animal letter by applying online or visiting your nearest healthcare center. It’s a challenging process, but you can get the letter if you have a mental condition.
If you are looking to obtain an ESA letter, the first step is filling a questionnaire from your nearest health care center or an online form. You’ll only be required to enter some basic information as well as your medical history.
Don’t rush to fill the forms to get your ESA letter. The details need to be accurate because it’s those that your healthcare provider will use to issue you with an ESA letter. Make sure to counter check the details to make sure they are correct and avoid providing misleading information. The healthcare providers will know if you are trying to fake the situation to get the letter or not.
You have your questionnaires or form filled, right? Well, the next step you’ll need to have a person-to-person or a video meeting with a healthcare provider so that they can examine you further. During the meeting, they will assess your signs and symptoms to verify that you are suffering from a mental illness.
Now, the last step! After you meet your healthcare professional, you just sit back and relax as you wait for the decision – whether or not you will be granted the Emotional Support Animal Letter. The doctor might get back to you with an immediate response, but not always. Sometimes this might take longer as they look at the provided details to provide a more informed decision. In some cases, you will receive a soft copy before the hardcopy arrives.
What are the Advantages of Having an ESA Letter?
Having an Emotional Support Animal letter comes with several benefits. Firstly, and most importantly, you get to keep your emotional support companion no matter what. You also get a chance to have a new comforting buddy by your side to help you deal with the mental illness.
Chapter 3: Are You Qualified to Get an ESA?
You have learned about the process of obtaining an ESA letter. The next thing you need to know is whether you are qualified to get an Emotional Support Animal or not.
Now, there’s a common myth that we will break here. Many people have this notion that only people with anxiety and depression issues are eligible for having n ESA. This is not true!
We wish to make it crystal clear that the only people that qualify to get an ESA are those that have been assessed by a healthcare professional and given the green light. Only people with verified metal conditions or disorders need to have an Emotional Support Animal.
The phrase “Mental Disorders” is broad than many would perceive. You see, mental disorders comprise of many conditions. To help you better understand it, we are going to break them down.
Mental Conditions that Qualify You to Get an ESA
Before we get to the list, get a pen and a paper so that you can write them down. If you are suffering from any of them, you can contact your healthcare professional for an assessment.
The medical conditions that give you the right to enjoy the privileges of an ESA include:
- Bipolar Disorder
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
- Panic Attacks
- SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia)
- Panic Attacks
- Emotionally Overwhelmed
- Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Why Do You Need to Adopt an Emotional Support Animal?
There are many reasons why one would want to have an ESA. This companion becomes your buddy; your partner in times of need. The animal chases away your loneliness and gives you the much-needed comfort. It gives you a good feeling about your state.
So, Should You Take the Step to Adopt an ESA?
Now that you understand the qualifications to get an ESA, you can assess yourself first and see whether you suffer from any of the medical disorders we have listed above. If you do, you’ll be happy you decided to welcome a new comforting friend in your family.
If you decide to kick start the process, consider consulting a healthcare expert so that they can further assess your condition. If they believe you need an emotional support system, they will recommend that you adopt an Emotional Support Animal.
Chapter 4: Which is the Best Animal to Be Your ESA?
For so many years, dogs have been considered man’s best friend because of their loyalty, unmatched companionship, and close relations that they have been able to create with humans. For this reason, when thinking of adopting an Emotional Support Animal, many people incline towards dogs. It is a natural reflex, yes, but this does not mean that other animals cannot be part of your support system.
Dogs may score higher, but other animals also have a fair share of comfort. Emotional Support Animals do not require any form of prior training; neither do they perform any specific tasks. They are companions, and just like any other ally, they do have privileges, which are slightly above the entitlements that regular pets enjoy.
Animals That Can Be Your Companions
It is important to note that people have different tastes and preferences as well as choices. For this reason, there is no specification when it comes to adopting ESAs; every individual has the right to go for an animal(s) that they like. Here are some animals that you may choose from:
There is a reason why dogs are christened man’s best friend. Unlike any other species in the animal kingdom, dogs have the ability to communicate with humans in a special way. They are able to sense your emotions, by analyzing your scent. They will know when you are happy, apprehensive, or sad. They can read facial expressions and more often than not, they tend to mirror your emotions. Dogs also adapt to routine very fast; they know when it’s time to eat or go for a walk. They are teachable as well.
If the kind of emotional support you need is a heartwarming feel, then rabbits are your best bet. They are not only cute and tiny, but they are such charmers. They are little and easy to maintain and manage without so much expense. These floppy-eared animals can fill up your emotional jar with their warmth when it starts to run low.
There is no perfect emotional support animal as everyone goes for what they desire, but in a family of rodents exist a cute hamster! They are inexpensive to acquire and maintain, and they have the most innocent face ever. They use their cheeks as a storage factory, making them appear chubby and adorable all at the same time.
Horses are incredibly amiable, obedient, and submissive animals, especially when trained. They, too, love having companions; therefore, they can make a perfect friend for you. You might have seen them in the wild traveling in a herd; they never walk alone. They are effortless to keep, particularly if you have a big house with a spacious backyard.
Cats are tender and loving animals. They are amusing and goofy most of the time; we see them all over the internet goofing around. They provide emotional support to their owners even when they can be a little grumpy sometimes; they have their own way of showing love and tenderness.
There is a myriad of bird species that you can choose from; talking birds like parrots or chirping and whistling birds. Birds are fascinating and make for a perfect emotional support companion, specifically the ones that talk. They can keep you busy and entertained with their little chit chat. In other words, birds are just as social as human beings and can greatly help you come out of your emotional turmoil and mental stress.
Animals You Can’t Have for Emotional support
Animals are beautiful, but not all of them are friendly. Some animals are wild, aggressive, hostile, and too dangerous to adopt as an Emotional Support Animal. Some animals cannot live in the natural environment of your home. Such animals include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, lions, hyenas, and others. Their habitat is different, and usually, the community around where you live does not accept them because they are dangerous to co-exist with.
In this chapter, there was a lengthy discussion on the types of animals that you can adopt as your ESA and those that are too hostile to have around your home.
Chapter 5: How to Consult a Mental Healthcare Provider?
It is important to understand the need to consult a doctor before adopting an ESA. As time goes, society is slowly acknowledging the elements of mental disorders and is looking towards solutions for the same. Emotional stress was not a commonly discussed topic about two decades ago, but things have changed now, and people are embracing and learning more about it, and probably trying to find lasting solutions.
Why is it Important to Consult a Doctor?
A lot of people are caught up in difficult situations that lead to emotional stress, but a lot more people are still living in denial. Probably because they fear the stigma that may come with it when people realize what you are going through. A clear sign of emotional stress is a change in mood and behavior. Even with this glaring sign, it is unfortunate that there are people who still ignore these signs and refuse to accept that their mental health is deteriorating.
Neglecting all the red flags lead to some dire consequences that may be irreversible. For instance, partial lack of sleep may eventually turn into full-blown chronic insomnia. Loss of interest in different things may develop into severe depression, and you may start having hallucinations. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a doctor when you notice the first signs.
Who to Consult?
You may be wondering who exactly you need to consult when you decide to acquire an Emotional Support Animal; or where do you get the ESA letter. You need a licensed practitioner like:
- A Mental Health Practitioner
- Your Primary Healthcare Provider
- A General Practitioner
- A Mental Health Therapist
The above mentioned must be license holders for them to be eligible to provide you with an ESA letter. You need a licensed professional in order to get a legit examination to ascertain whether you truly need an ESA. Furthermore, you will be cushioned against online scammers that sell you ESA letters.
How to Approach a Doctor for an ESA Letter?
Now that you know who can issue you with an Emotional Support Animal Letter, the next task is how to approach the doctor. Follow the steps mentioned earlier in chapter 2 to acquire this letter. But here is a reminder of the importance of an ESA and also the importance of reaching out to your doctor.
Mental health is a vital element of your life; therefore, you should normalize talking to your doctor about it as that is the best way to deal with this situation. If a doctor affirms your mental or emotional condition, they are likely to suggest you adopt an ESA, which is one of the prescribed treatments for mental and emotional stress. The earlier you reach out to the doctor, the faster you tackle your situation.
You need permission to adopt an ESA that is according to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). That is why it is important to get a legit letter from a licensed health practitioner. This letter confirms your mental and emotional condition and gives you the right to have an ESA to help with your condition.
Chapter 6: How to Adopt an Emotional Support Animal
Realizing that you need an ESA is a great step to gaining your mental health, and it is the right decision to make. Having an Emotional Support Animal does not equate to increased responsibility; instead, it is a path to recovery. You gain a trusted companion who will keep you away from negative thoughts or feelings of loneliness or being unwanted. ESAs provide essential comfort and a sense of warmth.
How to Know Which Animal to Adopt?
Knowing which animal to adopt depends on the magnitude of your condition. Do your research on the available ESAs and find one that is more suitable for you. Find animals that match your personality to some level and the amount of space you have in your home. For instance, if your house is not spacious, you can opt for a bird or a hamster. They use less space, and you won’t have to take them for walks if walking is not your preferred activity.
You also need to put other things like your school or work into consideration. You need to know who will take care of your ESA while you are away at school or work, especially if your institution or workplace policy does not allow you to come with your ESA. Keep in mind, however, that some schools do allow ESAs because they are concerned about their students’ mental health.
Without a back-up plan on how to take care of your animal while you are away, you may want to halt the adoption for a while because this might stress you even more, and it won’t be helping your mental health. But if you have a plan, then you are free to register for adoption; this way, you will not have any anxiety or panic attacks while you are away from your house.
What are the steps of adopting an ESA?
There are several steps that you can follow when you want to adopt an ESA. This adoption is a complete process that has been conclusively addressed in chapter 2. Some mental and emotional health conditions require the use of anti-depressants, but some people prefer not to use such drugs. Instead, they resort to adopting an ESA.
Moving forward, it is necessary to understand that an ESA will become your therapy animal, and is technically like a member of your family. They will keep you company and lift your moods. So when looking out for an ESA, check out the suggestions in Chapter 4 and get ideas from there.
Adopting an animal requires the same process as any other adoption. This chapter has covered crucial topics regarding the adoption of an ESA, including the vital steps that you should follow in the entire process.
Chapter 7: What Legal Rights does an ESA Have when You Adopt it?
ESAs have rights that govern their use. Since these animals have feelings just like humans, protection of their rights is essential.
Disability doesn’t have to be physical; there are other forms of disabilities, such as mental and emotional disability.
Mental disability is quite different from a physical disability. When one is mentally unhealthy, they are easily distracted since concentration is quite low. As one’s mental health deteriorates, their brain function weakens. In the long run, mental disability may impair one’s overall abilities.
However, adopting an ESA may prevent the degradation of one’s mental health. Healthcare practitioners highly recommend the adoption of an ESA for people with mental disorders such as OCD, PTSD, ADHD, depression, bipolar, or any other related conditions.
ESAs provide companionship, which contributes to the owner’s mental stability. It’s, therefore, essential to understanding the rights of these animals to ensure peaceful co-existence.
Laws Governing the Rights of an ESA
Americans with Disabilities Act, a comprehensive policy document that contains all the civil rights of people living with disabilities, clearly stipulates the rights of an ESA. To avoid any lawsuits, one has to adhere to the guidelines provided in the ADA strictly.
The two laws in the ADA that touch on ESAs are FHA and ACAA. These two laws allow you to have and move around with a support system.
What Does FHA Say?
Fair Housing Act, FHA, seeks to protect the rights of people with disabilities in residential areas. According to the Act, once you adopt an ESA to live with you, both your rights are protected.
The essence of the FHA lies in the fact that not everyone is privileged to own a house or an apartment. Some are living in rented homes that have limitations and restrictions that have been imposed by the landlord. Such restrictions are usually contained in the tenancy agreement.
If your healthcare provider has recommended adoption of an Emotional Support Animal and your landlord doesn’t allow it, then FHA is there to protect you. The Act seeks to protect your rights and those of the ESA regardless of the tenancy restrictions. Don’t deny yourself the much-needed services of an ESA because of strict tenancy rules. As long as you have a valid document certifying that you need an Emotional Support Animal, then you have a right to live with one.
Always ensure that you get documentation (a letter/ note) from your doctor showing that you need an Emotional Support Animal, and you will still be legally protected.
Precisely what’s contained in the FHA? Let’s explore a summary of the Act that will help you understand your rights and those of your ESA.
According to the FHA, your landlord doesn’t have the right to:
- Ask for extra rent since you are living with an ESA
- Dictate the age, breed or type of Emotional Support Animal that you should get
- Ask questions regarding your disability
- Demand for other documents relating to the ESA other than the letter from your healthcare provider
- Demand that you offer training to your ESA to make it habitable with other tenants
You will find that some landlords deny entirely you these rights. While some of them may do so from the point of ignorance, most pretend or ignore that these rights exist. You must familiarize yourself with these rights and ensure that the landlord is aware that they exist and must be respected.
What are the Benefits of ACAA to an ESA and Its Owner?
The Air Carrier Access Act, ACAA, was formulated to protect the rights of Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. Previously, most people were unaware that such laws existed, but lately, more and more people are benefitting from it.
Flying from one place to the next for people with disabilities can be quite hectic. From finding a comfortable seat to moving around the airport, it can be stressful. Of course, there’s always the option of going by road or rail, but in some cases that may not be possible. Not to worry. Did you know that the ACAA was created for such situations? According to the Act, you can bring your ESA with the airline carrier charging you extra for it.
As is the case with the FHA. You need a certified document from your healthcare provider showing that you are allowed to always have an ESA with you. With this document, you can board any flight with your ESA without incurring extra charges.
Here’s a summary of the ACAA
- The carrier must provide passage to the person with disabilities regardless of their actions; whether voluntary or involuntary
- The airline has no right to limit or deny the number of people with disabilities boarding the plane
- The airline has no right to refuse a person entry into the flight due to their disability
- The carrier should provide the person with a disability the necessary information just like any other passenger
- As long as the person with the disability provides a certified letter, they are allowed to board with their ESA
With two Acts, your rights and those of your Emotional Support Animal will always be protected. People with disabilities deserve comfort and safety without the fear of being discriminated against due to their conditions. It’s unfair for your ESA to be termed as cargo when boarding a flight. Familiarize yourself with the ACAA; you have a right to a safe and comfortable flight.
Our detailed ESA guidebook has provided you with all the details touching on Emotional Support Animals. From tips of which animal to adopt to find the most compatible one to have with you. We have even provided you with a summary of your rights as a person with a disability and those of your ESA. With this handbook, you will be informed and armed with all the knowledge touching on your condition and your life with the ESA.
The Takeaway: Make sure you keep track of all that’s happening around you. Staying alert and mastering your daily life will ensure all goes well and even improve your well-being. In case you notice or feel something is off about your behavior or mental health, consult a mental health professional immediately. We hope that our guide will be helpful and contribute significantly to your mental well-being.