Considering an Emotional Support Animal Letter? Caveat emptor.
If you’re one of those people who suffers from anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, addiction, obsessive compulsive tendencies, phobias, panic attacks, attention deficit disorder, or stress related syndromes, you’re not alone.
The fact is that such disabilities are now part of our cultural fabric. In fact, 25% of the population will experience some variety of psychological or mental health challenge over the next year. That’s approximately 8 million people. Among your family members, co-workers, friends, and significant others, someone is quite likely to be affected.
One answer: Emotional Support Animals
There’s no arguing the impact of emotional stress and the disabilities it can create. Many treatments are available, including prescribed medication (drugs) with all their accompanying and sometimes dangerous side effects.
One of the best alternatives to drugs the risks they pose is acquiring an Emotional Support Animal.
The government is on your side
So widespread are these issues and so dangerous are many treatments that treat them, the United States Congress has enacted legislation specifically designed to help people with mood disorders and psychological conditions that may impair their quality of life. Laws are now on the books under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act that enforce guidelines allowing anyone with an emotional or psychological issue to live and travel with their chosen Emotional Support Animal.
That means you can live in the majority of rental properties and fly anywhere in the country on airlines in the company of your designated pet, including cats, dogs, reptiles, and birds. Under these laws landlords are obliged to rent to you without adding any “pet fees” or requiring additional “pet deposits,” and airlines must accommodate your needs by allowing your pet to be with you in the passenger cabin instead of being trundled off into an airplane’s frigid and noisy cargo hold.
What you need to take advantage of the laws
To qualify for the legal protections afforded by the FHA and the ACAA, you must possess a valid and legitimate Emotional Support Animal Letter. This is a document prepared by a state licensed medical or mental health care professional describing your specific symptoms and the palliative benefits to be provided to you by your Emotional Support Animal.
This letter, written on professional letterhead, bearing the prescriber’s state license number and authentic signature, is a legally-enforceable prescription calling for you to live with and/or travel with your Emotional Support Animal. Properly prescribed and administered, this is a powerful tool that guarantees your rights under the law.
A world of hurt: bogus ESA letters
Simply buying the first “ESA letter” you can find—or ordering the “bargain ESA letter” off of a random website—will rarely give you the authority you need to enforce your legal rights. An unprofessionally concocted ESA letter will not accomplish what you need. It may, in fact, get you into a lot of legal trouble, for it’s a federal crime to present false or improper documentation in an attempt to gain housing or travel accommodations.
The law requires that any ESA Letter documentation be created by a state licensed medical or mental health care professional, and that any prescription for an Emotional Support Animal be made only after a thorough evaluation of symptoms. It further requires that you are specifically named and would benefit from “reasonable accommodation” to your disability by way of permitting the presence of your pet named as an Emotional Support Animal.
Remember: you are the patient requiring the accommodation. The prescription is for you and will serve you in the company of any pet you designate as your Emotional Support Animal. Getting a “bargain” or illegitimate ESA Letter simply will not work. When you present it to landlords, they will immediately see that your latter is a fake and you may be denied tenancy from the outset. Presenting a false or insufficient letter to an airline will likely prevent you from traveling that day.
The wrong kind of ESA Letter is not worth the paper it’s written on (regardless of how much you paid for it).
Real or fake: how do you know?
There are a handful of tell-tale signs that indicate the “ESA service” you are dealing with is fraudulent and is merely a paper mill pumping out bogus documents that will not get you the accommodation you deserve. If you see any of these red flags, do not give them your credit card information:
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