Emotional Support Dog Letter: Learn How to Get One | ESA Pet

Emotional Support Dog Letter: Learn How to Get One

Updated on October 30, 2023
Written by ESA Pet Staff

fact checked by Esa Pet Staff

At ESA Pet, we understand that having your furry friend by your side can mean the world to you. That’s why we have created this guide to help walk you through the process of obtaining an emotional support dog letter from ESA Pet.

How to Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter From ESA Pet

At ESA Pet, we have made it easy to obtain a housing or travel letter for your emotional aid dog. Just visit our ESA Pet website and click the “Get ESA Letter” button. The rest of the process is as easy as 1-2-3:

Get Pre-Qualified Through Our Screening Process

We’ll begin the process with a brief online pre-screening questionnaire. This confidential survey will evaluate your medical and mental health history, along with any symptoms and treatment. 

Your answers will be forwarded to our licensed therapist to get a clear picture of your needs and eligibility for an ESA dog. Only authorized medical personnel have access to this information.

If pre-qualified, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional in your state for a telehealth consultation. The provider will evaluate whether you could benefit from the companionship and support of an emotional support animal. They will consider your individual situation and symptoms to determine if you qualify for an ESA dog letter. 

Get Your Letter in 24-48 Hours

Congratulations, you’re almost there! If you and your dog are approved, the evaluating licensed professional will generate and sign a legitimate ESA letter on professional letterhead. Valid ESA letters are delivered digitally within 24-48 hours of the consultation. 

The documentation provides all the information to verify your need for an emotional support dog under the ADA. We’ve tailored the entire process of writing ESA letters to be straightforward and efficient so that you can get your documentation in a jiffy.

Benefits of Getting an Emotional Support Dog Letter

Legal Protections

An ESA letter confers you with primary rights under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). A handful of other state and federal laws cover ESA letters, especially when managing mental health issues. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) used to require airlines to honor ESA letters, but the US Department of Transportation removed this requirement in January 2021.

Under the FHA, landlords, HOAs, or property managers cannot deny housing based on disability. It doesn’t matter if you have a physical disability, mental health disorders, or emotional issues. An ESA letter protects your right to reasonable accommodation and to live with your dog even if the building has a ‘no-pets’ policy.

Landlords cannot charge pet fees or deposits for approved ESAs either. This protects you from financial barriers to receiving the emotional support benefits of your dog. Condo and homeowner associations must also adjust any rules preventing you from owning a support animal.

The FHA covers most housing types, including apartments, homes, condos, student housing, assisted living, nursing facilities, homeless shelters, and other residential buildings. The ESA rules apply as long as the housing operation involves five or more units.

The bottom line: An ESA letter for your dog serves as documentation of your emotional disability status and need for accommodation under the FHA and Disabilities Act. It legally establishes your dog’s approved role to avoid conflicts from lack of paperwork.

Helps Addressing Controversies and Misconceptions

Emotional and mental health support animals, including your dog, can bring many benefits. But there’s still some ambiguity, stigma, and controversy around their role compared to regular pets or service dogs. A lack of standardized national registrations, certifications, or documentation for ESAs is primarily to blame. That’s where getting a legitimate ESA letter for your dog will come in especially handy. It’ll serve as legitimate documentation to help clear up many issues. 

For one thing, an emotional support animal letter establishes your dog’s approved status as more than just a pet. It legally designates your four-legged friend as integral to supporting your mental health. More importantly, this designation is legally binding under federal and state laws like the FHA.

Having a legitimate letter clarifies any questions from landlords or property managers about whether your dog is permitted as an emotional support animal. It reassures them you are not misrepresenting a pet as an ESA.

An emotional support animal letter also prevents conflicts from people claiming public access rights for their dogs without proper training or certification. Under ESA rules, you only have housing protections. The legal validity of a dog letter deters challenges from those who do not believe in or understand the importance of support animals. It formally proves the owner has a disability, and this accommodation is medically necessary.

In public situations where pets are not entitled to access, such as stores or restaurants, having a dog letter shows the owner is aware of these rules. It avoids disputes from others who may perceive you as improperly bringing your dog into a no-pets establishment.

Bottom line: a dog letter issued by a licensed mental health professional serves as a clear line of communication between you and housing or travel providers, as well as the general public. It clears ambiguity and resolves uncertainties over your dog’s role and your legal rights while also addressing skepticism about ESAs.

Exemption From Pet Fees, Deposits, and Pet Rent

If there’s one financial perk of getting a proper letter for your emotional support animal, it’s that the document waives all pet-related costs associated with housing. Again, landlords, HOAs, and property managers cannot charge any additional deposits or fees due to your emotional aid dog under FHA.

An ESA letter for dogs exempts you from the following:

  • Pet application fees – Many apartments may require you to pay a fee just to review a pet application. With a letter for your emotional support dog, you can say farewell to pet application fees.
  • Pet deposits – Standard security deposits often charge an additional amount for pets that must be paid upfront. ESAs are exempt from these extra pet deposit charges.
  • Monthly pet rent – Some properties assess an additional monthly rental amount for tenants with pets. This cannot be levied against emotional support animal owners.
  • Pet insurance or liability deposits – If a landlord requires renters to carry pet injury insurance or increased liability coverage, it does not apply to emotional support animals.

Bottom line: These exemptions can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in housing costs over time. It removes financial barriers that could prevent you from receiving the mental health benefits of your dog.

No Breed or Weight Restrictions

Rules barring certain dog breeds or sizes do not apply to ESA dogs. Landlords are also prohibited from limiting approved ESAs to just one animal, even if you live in an urban development with a strict no-pets policy. You can have multiple support dogs if your letter recommends it.

Improved Quality of Life

Having an ESA dog letter from a licensed professional can do wonders for your well-being and quality of life. Here’s how:

  • Reduced stress & anxiety – Interacting with your furry companion lowers cortisol levels and induces feelings of calmness. Petting or cuddling an emotional assistance dog can ease anxiety. The side benefit is that it can lower blood pressure and alleviate symptoms of anxiety like panic attacks.
  • Better mood – There’s nothing quite like the comfort and happiness that having your loving dog around brings. Your dog’s unconditional love and affection can give you a good dose of happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine. They can work magic on your mood.
  • Become more social – Staying cocooned in your home for too long is never good. Having your dog around encourages you to get out of the house more for walks, play, and fresh air. These activities boost social interaction and engagement, which is vital for your mental wellness.
  • Better sleep – Petting or sleeping with an emotional support animal promotes relaxation and a sense of security that helps you achieve more restful sleep. 
  • Exercise more – Walking or playing with a dog ensures light to moderate physical activity, which releases endorphins to naturally lift mood. It also reduces stress through exercise.
  • Improves your sense of responsibility – Caring for an emotional support dog adds purpose and routine to each day. 

Bottom line: Having your emotional support dog in your home can be a game-changer for your emotional and mental wellness.

Can Everyone Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter?

While a mental health support dog can benefit pretty much everyone, not just anyone can obtain an emotional support animal letter. There are specific requirements that you must meet before you can get a letter or note from ESA doctors.

Let’s take a close look at the conditions necessary to acquire a dog letter.

  • You must have a diagnosed mental or emotional disability – To get a letter for emotional pet support, your disability must be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional as defined by the ADA. This covers mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and ADHD.
  • Your disability impacts major life activity – Your emotional or mental disability must significantly limit one or more major life activities. Consider social interaction with others, eating, sleeping, or even learning. Before writing these letters, licensed mental health professionals must ascertain whether the disability interferes with your daily functioning.
  • Medical professional diagnosis – This one is a no-brainer and non-negotiable. You cannot get a legitimate letter to prove your dog’s support service if you don’t obtain a note from a mental health professional stating your disability and need for an ESA. It can be from a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or another mental health professional.
  • Need for your dog as an emotional support animal – There must be a logical connection between the disability or its symptoms and how a support dog would mitigate them. Our licensed therapist must show that your dog will provide emotional assistance.
  • Ongoing treatment – You must show that you are already under the regular care of a doctor, therapist, or other healthcare provider for your condition. Dog letters are not a “one-and-done” solution – continuous medical oversight is required.

Bottom line: Not everyone can get an ESA letter for dogs. To qualify for it, you must have a mental or emotional disability recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

You must also be able to show that your dog provides you with emotional aid that helps you manage your disability. Remember, all info that you provide to obtain a legitimate dog letter must be genuine. If you falsify records, disability, or symptoms to get your letter, you’re looking at fraud.

Do I Need an ESA or a PSD Letter?

While a dog can be either an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service dog (PSD), it cannot be both. That’s why you need to know when you need an ESA or a PSD letter.

While both provide companionship, a service dog must receive specialized training to perform certain tasks directly related to your disability. ESAs only need to provide you with mental health support.

Distinguishing Between ESAs and PSDs

Right off the bat, it’s crucial to note that ESAs and PSDs provide support and companionship for people with disabilities. However, there are plenty of crucial legal differences between the two dogs.

At its core, an ESA is exactly what the name says — a pet that provides emotional support. In this case, your dog is prescribed and not trained to offer emotional assistance. Their companionship and comfort do the trick. You will need a dog letter from a licensed provider to live with your support dog in housing with a no-pets policy.

Service animals must undergo extensive training to perform tasks directly related to helping with your disability or symptoms. For instance, psychiatric service dogs may be trained to interrupt self-harming behaviors, retrieve medications during an episode, or alert to oncoming anxiety attacks.

If your dog merely provides comfort and companionship, they don’t qualify as a service animal. Service animals must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability.

Unlike ESAs, service dogs can go with you into restaurants, stores, and other public establishments. Your service animal will go wherever you go. However, you must have training certification and a PSD letter. You can think of your ESA as a therapy dog that can provide emotional support. These therapy animals don’t require any special training, registration, or certification.

There’s also a difference in the kind of documentation you need. Emotional support animals only require a signed letter from a licensed therapist or a doctor’s note, while PSDs may need additional proof or registration of their public access training.

Assessing Your Specific Needs

If you are unsure whether you need an ESA or a PSD,  we can help connect you to a licensed healthcare provider. They can help you assess your specific needs and determine which type of support animal is right for you. They will consider at least three vital factors:

  1. The symptoms you experience and how they impact your daily life. This could include anxiety levels, depression severity, and ability to function independently. Understanding your mental health disorders and symptoms is critical to selecting the correct documentation.
  2. What specific tasks or support would your dog provide to help manage your disability effectively? For example, does your condition respond better to general dog companionship, or would you benefit from an animal trained to perform certain mitigating strategies?
  3. Your current living and work situation and where you anticipate needing to take your four-legged friend. For instance, if you require public access at your job, a service dog would fit the bill better than an emotional support animal with housing rights only.

Bottom line: If your mental health disability and condition could do with just companionship, getting a valid ESA letter for your dog is the way to go. However, a psychiatric service dog can help beyond your need for an emotional support animal. Owning any pet is a serious commitment, so your lifestyle, support system, and financial resources must also accommodate the animal’s needs.

Benefits and Considerations

When determining whether to get a PSD or ESA letter for your dog, it’s crucial to look at the benefits and considerations of each option.

A dog letter will save money and open doors to better housing for you and your furry friend. You will be exempt from pet fees, deposits, and other restrictions when securing housing. On the flipside, you’ll need to invest your money to train your service therapy dog and obtain all the certifications.

If you’re interested in getting access to restaurants, stores, hotels, and other public areas, a psychiatric service animal will fit the bill. These are rights that emotional support animals don’t offer. A PSD letter can make your life fuss-free if you need psychiatric assistance in various public and private settings, while ESA letters are geared toward people looking for emotional pet support.

Other considerations involve the long-term costs of owning your dog, such as food, supplies, vet care, and any continued training. It would help if you weighed these responsibilities and financial commitments before you decide.

Learn More About ESA Pet’s Services

At ESA Pet, we know having your dog close to you can make a world of difference. That’s why we have tailored an eclectic range of services to help you obtain the proper documentation for your support animal or service dog. This includes emotional support dog letters, PSD letters, and additional supporting documents signed by a licensed mental health professional.

In addition to standard PSD and dog letters valid for one year, we also help you get medical necessity letters, public access forms, letters of recommendation, and documentation for buildings and communities. All documents are signed by a licensed therapist and delivered digitally. We explain all the details of how to get an ESA letter here.

Most Common Questions About Emotional Support Dog Letters

Who Can Prescribe an Emotional Support Dog Letter?

An ESA letter is a legally binding document that can only be prescribed by licensed mental health professionals. We can connect you to a qualified and licensed therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, professional counselor, or social worker in your state.

Can Any Dog Be an ESA With a Letter?

Yes, any dog can be an ESA with a letter as long as it provides emotional or mental health support and companionship to you. Your four-legged friend isn’t required to meet any training, size, or breed requirements.

Do I Need to Register My Emotional Support Dog?

No, you do not need to register your emotional support dog. Unlike service dogs, you are not required to certify, register, or vest your ESA. Besides, there are no national or central registries for ESAs. You only need a valid ESA letter from a licensed medical or mental health professional.

Some landlords, HOAs, and airlines may require you to provide proof of your ESA’s status. You can furnish them with a copy of your ESA letter.

Can I Bring My Emotional Support Dog on a Plane?

No, you cannot bring your ESA on a plane. Commercial carriers and airlines, particularly in the US, are not required to allow your emotional support dog, or any type of ESA, in a plane’s cabin. However, some of these airlines have pet-friendly policies and will let your dog travel with you.

It’s important to note that airlines are still legally required to allow PSDs to board flights in the plane’s cabin as service animals.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Live in No-Pet Housing?

Yes, your ESA can live in no-pet housing if you have a valid ESA letter. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits landlords from discriminating against you for having an ESA. If you have more than one support animal, consider getting multiple ESA letters.

Does an Emotional Support Dog Letter Expire?

Yes, emotional support dog letters do expire, usually renewable after one year. In some buildings, you don’t have to show a renewed ESA letter if you’re not planning to move. However, landlords can legally ask for a valid letter.

Can I Get My Dog’s ESA Letter Online?

Yes, you can get an ESA letter online for your dog. However, you must be careful not to fall prey to shady sites that sell fake ESA letters. Be sure to choose a reputable website with a good BBB rating.

Get your Official ESA Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

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Is It Legal to Have an Emotional Support Dog in Public Places?

Yes, it is legal to have an Emotional Support Dog in public places that are pet-friendly. While landlords and HOAs must allow emotional support animals with ESA letters, other public areas can refuse access. These can include hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and stores.

Can My Landlord Deny My Emotional Support Dog?

No, your landlord cannot deny your emotional support dog. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants with disabilities. This includes tenants (you) with ESAs. Landlords cannot deny your request or charge you pet fees due to your dog’s ESA status.

Can I Use an Emotional Support Dog Letter for Multiple Dogs?

Yes, you can use an ESA letter for up to two emotional support animals. It can be two dogs or a dog and another animal. Still, it’s crucial that you talk to a licensed mental health professional to approve you for a valid ESA letter for your dogs.

Can My Employer Deny My Emotional Support Dog at Work?

Under the ADA, employers are not legally required to accept emotional support animals at the workplace. That’s where PSDs come into play.

Do I Need to Disclose My Disability to Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter?

Yes, you need to disclose your disability to get an ESA letter for your dog. At ESA Pet, we keep this sensitive information confidential per HIPAA regulations.

Can I Train My Own Dog to Be an ESA?

Yes, you can, but your dog does not need task training to be an ESA. 

Can I Get an ESA Letter for a Cat or Other Animal?

Yes, you can get an ESA Letter for your cat or other animal. While dogs are common for obvious reasons, any animal can be an ESA as long as it provides emotional support to you.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Be of Any Breed or Size?

Yes, your emotional support dog can be of any breed, size, and weight.

Do I Need to Carry My Emotional Support Dog Letter with me?

No, you are not required to carry your letter for your dog everywhere. However, it’s wise to have it handy, especially when traveling or moving.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an Emotional Support Dog Letter?

An online pre-screening evaluation and your dog’s ESA letter can cost between $100 and $200. In-person appointments with therapists may charge standard consultation rates, which can be higher.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Be Evicted for Bad Behavior?

Yes, your emotional support dog can be evicted for bad or dangerous behavior. However, your landlord must first provide you with a written notice of the eviction and an opportunity to correct the problem. If you don’t, your landlord may evict you and your ESA.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Stay in a Hotel With Me?

Yes, your emotional support dog can stay in a hotel with you. Hotels must follow ADA regulations for fair accommodation. That includes allowing your support dog to stay with you in your guest room if you have a signed ESA letter.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Go to School With Me?

That boils down to your school’s policy. If the FHA and ADA cover your school or university, they must evaluate your request to live with your ESA pet on campus on a case-by-case basis. More often than not, you must obtain an ESA letter or a note from ESA doctors and other licensed healthcare providers.

Can I Claim My Emotional Support Dog on My Taxes?

No, emotional support animals, including dogs, do not qualify for tax deductions.

Can My Emotional Support Dog Be Denied Access to Public Transportation?

No, your dog cannot be denied access to public transportation if it serves as your emotional or mental health support animal. This counts if you’re traveling by bus or train with an ESA letter. Federal and state laws guarantee your rights of access.

What Should I Do If My ESA Letter is Denied or Challenged?

You must contact your local fair housing organization or attorney for guidance. Make sure you have a doctor’s note or dog letter handy.

The Bottom Line

An ESA letter can provide a number of benefits to pet owners, including legal protections, exemption from pet fees, and improved mental and emotional health. A dog letter provides legal protections under the Fair Housing Act that allow you to receive the mental health benefits of dog companionship while protecting your rights to housing and accommodations.

To qualify for an ESA letter, you must have an existing mental health condition or disability diagnosed by a licensed medical provider. At ESA Pet, we provide a streamlined process to connect you with licensed mental health professionals for an online evaluation and potential ESA letter.