How to Qualify for an ESA Letter
Unfortunately, we all deal with stress in our everyday lives. From the anxiety about change or the stress about a new job interview, these sort of feelings are normal.
However, millions of Americans experience emotional anguish that goes far beyond daily stress. It impedes them from doing even the simplest of tasks, leaving them scrambling: it can ultimately become a disability. While medications and therapies can help, more and more individuals are opting for a more comforting solution: an emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal can be a dog, cat, bird, or other domesticated animals that bring comfort to an individual with a mental or emotional condition that hinders daily activities to the point of disability. Emotional support animals differ from service animals as they are not trained or required, but they are adopted for warm companionship and comfort to the disabled individual. They play an important role in an emotionally disabled person’s life, providing stability and companionship.
Since the most common emotional support animals are dogs, we’ll focus on them here. It may be hard to believe that having a dog alone can help alleviate negative feelings. Nervousness, anxiety, and panic attacks are powerful emotions. However, when these furry friends are around, life can get easier for those affected by emotional wounds or traumas.
Who Can Receive an ESA?
Understanding how important emotional support dogs are is just a part of the qualifying factors in your decision. Although emotional support dogs differ from service dogs as service dogs are better trained for physical disabilities, they are still reserved for those individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act has a broad definition of disability, stating that any emotional, physical or mental conditions that make life difficult – ranging from mild to severe – for an individual may qualify as a disability.
While disabilities can range from invisible to physical, there are a few deciding factors. A disabled individual will have a physical or mental impairment that disrupts major aspects of his or her life, and have a record that their impairment has created this disruption. A disabled individual should also be generally regarded as having this impairment.
In terms of emotional support dogs, the qualifying severity of any emotional condition determines what can be considered a disability. An emotional disability is any psychological or mental disorder that often make everyday function difficult, and so an emotional support dog provides a calming presence or brings help as needed. You will need to speak to your doctor directly to ask about any specific emotional or mental disability, as a comprehensive list under physical and emotional disabilities can be lengthy. Learning disorders, autism, mood disorders, severe stress problems, gender identity or body dysmorphia, social phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and anxiety, and intellectual disabilities are just a few of the conditions individuals live with everyday.
Obtaining an ESA Letter
In order to obtain a letter for your emotional support dog, you must get approval from a psychologist or therapist, not a medical doctor or family physician. If you are too embarrassed to talk to your doctor, you can access resources in order to get an emotional support animal online. However, it is nothing to be ashamed of: a caring furry friend can be just what you need to achieve peace of mind.
Responsibilities as an ESA Owner
If your doctor sees fit to prescribe a canine emotional support animal to your treatment plan, you become responsible for the dog as you would any other pet. Its primary care and supervision are the handler’s responsibility, the handler being the disabled individual in needs of its support. Any public place can ban a dog that behaves badly from their premises, even if this dog is your emotional support. Ensure that your emotional support dog is well-trained and can handle being, and serving you, in any public place.
There are a few general rules that apply to having an emotional support dog in public. The dog should be housebroken with up-to-date vaccinations. You should be able to control and handle it and make sure it does not bark or snap at others, bite or bother others in any way while providing you with emotional support. There are cases where a service or support dog may not be under complete control due to an individual’s condition, and this is a case where the ESA letter will dictate the dog’s importance and allow it to stay.
An ESA letter is more than a prescription for an emotionally supportive dog, but your right to keep it with you. While some try to get by without an ESA letter, it is a crucial part of protecting your rights as a disabled individual with a support dog. An ESA letter will also ensure that your pet is able to live with you in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, and travel with you in accordance to the Air Carrier Access Act. Your emotional support dog may not be allowed in certain non-pet-friendly public places, but you cannot be barred from keeping it in your arm or flying with you if you have an ESA letter stating your disability and your genuine need for it.
Getting the Treatment You Need
It is important to seek treatment for any emotional disability, and there is no shame in weighing your options for doing so. With the help of an emotional support dog, you gain much more than the companionship and comfort of a well-behaved dog. An emotional support dog will help you take your life back.