Learn About ESAs
We know your pet is more than a pet. They’re family. That’s probably why you’re on this page; you want to make sure they can remain with you at all times, wherever you may move and wherever you travel! Here are our FAQs:
What is the legal definition of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development describes ESAs as “trained or untrained animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.”
How is an ESA different from a service animal?
Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for their owner, usually to assist them with a physical disability or serious medical condition. ESAs, in contrast, most commonly provide emotional support or assistance to individuals with mental health concerns.
What laws support ESAs?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants who have disabilities. This law states that landlords must make reasonable accommodations for tenants who have ESAs. This law still applies, regardless of whether the apartment or house has a pet restriction or no-pets policy.
The Air Carrier Access Act is a federal which that prohibits airlines from discriminating against flyers who travel with their ESAs. Under this law, ESAs are allowed to accompany their owner in the cabin of the aircraft, without incurring any additional fees.
IMPORTANT: The U.S. Department of Transportation passed new regulations on January 11, 2021 which allows individuals airlines to have more legal flexibility in their allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights. While most dogs are generally allowed, this may vary from airline to airline. Please inquire with your airline regarding their current Emotional Support Animal policy.
Additionally, many states offer additional guidelines and latitudes that allow ESAs to accompany you in other venues besides homes and airplanes.
How do I know if my pet will qualify as an ESA?
It actually has less to do with your pet and more with how your pet helps you with your disability. Many people with physical and/or mental health conditions find amelioration from the support their ESA provides them, and so our evaluation will ask you about the nature of your disability, how it impacts your daily functioning, and the ways your ESA provides you with relief or support.
What kind of animals can be ESAs?
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recently-updated guidelines on January 28, 2020, the following animals may qualify as ESAs:
- Dogs (most common)
- Small birds
- Hamsters, gerbils, or other rodents
However, from the new Department of Transportation guidelines, it is likely that only dogs will be allowed to travel on airlines (specific guidance is unique by airline company; please contact your airline in advance to inquire about their specific ESA policy).
Does my pet need special training to be an ESA?
ESAs are not required to attend formal service animal training or obedience school training. However, we will ask you about any basic training your pet may have, such as the ability to follow simple commands.
In addition, we are offering a unique virtual training service that will assist with basic behavioral training, in the event you want to obtain a certificate showing your animal has undergone training (dogs only).
Why do I need an ESA letter from a medical professional?
This is a requirement of the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Only a licensed medical or mental health professional can determine whether your ESA provides adequate support for your identified disability needs.
What does an ESA letter do for me (and my pet)?
An ESA letter provides medical documentation of a person’s need for an ESA to provide therapeutic emotional support. It allows you to request reasonable accommodation–and prohibits unfair discrimination–under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.
What this typically means is that your ESA will be able to live with you in your rented house or apartment, you’ll be able to waive pet deposit fees with your landlord, and your pet will be able to stay with you when you fly.
How do I communicate with my landlord about my ESA?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently updated their guidelines for how landlords must respond to ESA requests:
- There are no breed/weight restrictions for ESAs
- Landlords cannot charge fees or deposits for ESAs
- Landlords must respond to ESA requests within 10 days
- Landlords cannot ask you about your specific medical condition or disability related to your need for an ESA
- HOAs and Co-Ops must abide by ESA laws
- Tenants can use the help of third-parties to care for their ESAs
- Pet registries or pet licenses legitimately qualify an ESA
- ESA letters may be provided by medical professionals online
What medical or mental health professionals can provide me an ESA letter?
Any licensed medical professional can validate your need for an ESA. This includes primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Many of these medical and mental health professionals now provide this service remotely, saving you an in-office visit (and bill) and improving access to this service.
What kind of online scams should I be looking out for?
What you DO need: a letter from a licensed medical or mental health professional validating your need for an ESA.
What you DON’T need: ESA pet registry documentation, an ESA certificate, an ESA vest or collar, etc.
At ESA Provider, we’re not looking to scam you. That’s why we offer services for everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
Do you guys actually provide me with an ESA?
No, sorry. You must already have your own pet.
In which states does ESA Provider offer this service?
Our ability to provide this online service depends on the states where our psychologists are licensed to practice. Currently, we are able to serve individuals who reside in:
- New Hampshire
- New York
What are the new airline rules?
As of 12/02./2020, the Department of Transportation has changed their guidance to the following:
- Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
- No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
- Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
- Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
- Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
- Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;
- Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;
- Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;
- Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;
- Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;
- Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and
- Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.
What does this mean if I want to travel with an ESA?
Essentially, it means that airlines can require a passenger to fill out several forms and submit them at least 48 hours before the scheduled flight. These forms vary by airline, but generally include:
A statement of health of the animal (may require signature of the Veterinarian)
A statement from the Mental Health Provider (may require signature of Provider)
A statement or certification of animal behavior training
The GOOD NEWS is that esaprovider.com can assist with 2 of these requirements! your ESA letter should meet criteria for the mental health provider statement (please send in to airline at least 48 hours ahead of time, if for any reason the airline requires the additional form, our providers will ensure that your form is filled out at no additional charge!), and our NEW service will provide a certificate of behavior training upon completion of the course!
Do I also need to apply for an ESA registry?
Quite simply, no; an ESA registry is not a legitimate thing. Showing your pet has been placed on an emotional support animal registry does not confer any special or additional privileges, other than having a fancy certificate. A letter by a licensed medical or mental health professional, however, does!
ESA Provider employs psychologists licensed in your state to evaluate your unique situation and, if you and your pet qualify, provide you with an ESA letter–fast. We comply with all state and federal laws pertaining to ESAs and telehealth, and our legally- and ethically-compliant practice is based on the best available peer-reviewed evidence and published literature.
Got additional questions? Feel free to contact us here.