Owning an emotional support animal can provide you with comfort and peace of mind when confronted by situations that trigger anxiety and other mental disorders. Unlike service dogs, which are trained to help their owners with physical tasks, emotional support animals offer constant companionship and sometimes help reduce the symptoms of mental or emotional illnesses.
Because emotional support animals require a Support Animal Letter to accompany you in places where pets are not usually allowed, learning about this document can help you avoid issues that may arise from having a letter that is outdated, incomplete or otherwise invalid.
What Is an ESA Letter?
Some facilities do not allow animals entry for safety or because of health department regulations. However, if keeping your emotional support animal with you helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, then having a valid letter from a therapist that prescribes the animal can help supersede those rules. This letter, which outlines your need for the animal and that you are currently under the care of a therapist, provides you with proof that your animal is not a pet and is legally entitled to accompany you in a variety of places, including:
- Pet restricted Housing
- Some Grocery stores
- Some Pet-restricted hotels
You can begin the process of registering your animal by speaking with United Support Animals. If you want to register the animal you currently own as your emotional support animal, there are several steps you might need to take before obtaining your letter.
Does Your Animal Qualify?
Emotional support animals are not service dogs in the literal sense, as most are not trained to perform the physical tasks of turning lights off and on, providing balance assistance or picking up dropped items for their physically disabled companions. An emotional support animal provides comfort, reduces feelings of isolation and can stop or interrupt panic attacks if they are so trained. Most any dog can qualify as an emotional support animal, as long as it is well-behaved, housebroken and non-aggressive.
Most emotional support animals are dogs, but cats and other small animals have sometimes qualified. Some airlines restrict the species to disallow exotic animals, especially larger ones that may pose a safety hazard in the cabin of a plane.
Maintaining Your EAS Letter
Once you receive your initial EAS letter, it is important that you maintain it with updates as needed. For example, if you change doctors or therapists, you may want to obtain a new letter with his or her signature and contact information so a travel agent or landlord can easily check the credentials. Emotional support animals and their handlers are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act and cannot be turned away, but a current ESA letter will likely be required before your application is processed.
Keeping your ESA letter current can also help you avoid travel delays. Many airlines require the letter be no older than 12 months and same for housing/landlords. Examine the airline you plan to fly owns criteria.
The Benefits of an ESA Letter
Carrying a current ESA letter can provide you with several benefits, especially if you travel often. You can reduce feelings of anxiety by knowing your letter is current and displays the correct contact information and license details for your therapist. This letter can help to ensure that you will never have to leave your emotional support animal behind, no matter the circumstances. It can also assist you in finding appropriate housing without the worry of having to leave your emotional support animal with someone else.
Traveling with pets can be expensive, especially when you consider baggage and cargo fees. ESA animals usually travel for free, which means cheaper flight fares no matter where you travel.
Your emotional support animal is probably a big part of your life, and taking it with you wherever you go can reduce the troublesome symptoms of mental illness. Register your animal today and provide yourself with peace of mind that you can always keep your very best friend right by your side.
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