According to the Mental Health Foundation, pets can help mental health by reducing anxiety, boosting confidence, helping add structure and routine to your day, and even help you meet people by meeting other dog owners on walks. A growing trend worldwide is the prescription by mental health professionals of emotional support animals to help those with mental issues who benefit from the presence of an animal. The outright emotional benefits of such animal companionship are many, but the world is also not quite ready to simply accept this trend as the norm just yet.
Since emotional support animals are not yet ubiquitous, documentation of this need by a licensed professional is a helpful, if not outright necessary component. This is where the notion of emotional support animal letters comes in. An emotional support animal letter (ESA letter) is the official document issued by an official clinician that designates an animal and its owner as linked. This link is one part of a mental health treatment plan and is reissued on an annual basis, meaning its veracity is regularly reviewed, lending additional credibility to this document.
A credible, legitimate ESA letter can be pivotal to maintaining your pet’s presence in a variety of circumstances, so it’s important to get one from the right source. This article is a guide to the top three emotional support animal letter providers, so you can do all of your research in one convenient place and keep your much-needed pet by your side.
Top 3 Emotional Support Animal Letter Providers
- Pettable – Editor’s Choice: Money-Back Guarantee
- Certapet – First Runner Up
- Emotional Pet Support – Second Runner Up
In-Depth Reviews: Top Emotional Support Animal Letter Providers
1. Pettable – Editor’s Choice: Money-Back Guarantee
- Reputable, as seen on ABC News, CBS, Newsweek
- Offers Psychiatric Service Dog letters too
- 100% money-back guarantee if ESA or PSD letter is not accepted
- Legally compliant for travel and housing, follows state and federal regulations and laws
- Must pay in full prior to consultation, but money is fully refunded if letter is not accepted
Features of Pettable
Pettable is an online service that assists customers like you in obtaining an ESA letter from a mental health professional for a pet. Licensed mental health professionals are connected with you as a client and they determine if you and your pet are eligible and qualify for an ESA letter.
If the LMHP comes to the conclusion and determination that you do qualify then the licensed medical health professional will write the ESA letter following the state and federal regulations and law for you and your pet stating that your pet is an emotional support animal-ESA.
What Pettable Does
The first step on the Pettable website is to take a 3 minute assessment to determine if you qualify for an emotional support animal. There are simple questions in the determination process, the first few being easy like, do you already have a pet or is this for a future pet? Pettable makes it easy and it’s a nice consideration to obtain an ESA letter for a future pet you plan on making your new sidekick.
After the three minute assessment, you then are able to speak to a licensed mental health professional on a personal phone call to further evaluate and assess your needs to ensure that Pettable is the best option to obtain a legitimate ESA letter. After speaking to the licensed mental health professional and it is determined that you qualify, Pettable guarantees your letter within 24 hours of your assessment phone call.
Why Pettable Made Our List
Pettable leads our list of the best emotional support animal letter options because of sheer excellence in service. Pettable is known for its top-notch customer support services, which is extra important when you consider that something like an ESA is still not necessarily accepted everywhere.
If you need a service to be at the ready to have your back if any challenge to your pet’s status comes up, Pettable has you covered. In fact, Pettable even offers some limited legal counsel as part of its service. Our review team found their 100% money-back guarantee and this level of legal support to be above and beyond, to the point that Pettable is first on our list.
Pettable cares so much for the well-being of pets and their owners that they live by their truth and even offer a variety of scholarships called Pettable Scholarship Programs.
Pettable believes in and supports keeping people side by side with their pets, even in extenuating circumstances or times of great transition in life. They offer two different scholarships as well as a Military grant. The emphasis of these programs are simple: They realize how important pets are to mental and emotional health.
More often than not when moving or when life decides to throw you a speed bump, there are situations that arise where you might not be able to afford to pay deposits or keep your pet and Pettable simply can’t stand for that. Not only do they care for their patrons but they care for the well-being of all of our furry little friends, too. After reviewing this and seeing that they back up their brand with kindness, Pettable absolutely had to be first on our list.
2. Certapet – First Runner Up
- Fully compliant with all state and federal laws
- Straightforward process
- Also offers psychiatric service dog letters as well
- Domestic North American letter availability only
Features of Certapet
One of the most important features of any emotional support animal letter is that it is as applicable and effective in as many places and scenarios as possible. In the case of Certapet, its service is 100 percent compliant with state and federal laws throughout the U.S.
Any service that offers an ESA letter for your pet involves a multi-step process, but Certapet makes this part as easy and straightforward as possible. This is another major positive feature of Certapet. The steps are simple and involve a screening step, consultation step, and ESA letter step.
Screening Step – First, you answer a free screening questionnaire about you and your dog or other type of ESA (cat, bird, etc.). The quiz only takes about five minutes and the purpose is to ensure that your circumstances meet the standards needed in order for your pet to be certified as an emotional support animal. This confidential step is intentionally fast because Certapet values your time and knows that it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that your life and scenario fit the needs of the program so you can be sure to get your letter.
Consultation Step – Next, Certapet arranges a meeting with a licensed mental health professional from your state. This approach ensures that you’re not only considered in an official capacity, but also that you’re seen by a mental health professional from your own state and who is therefore more familiar with the circumstances that are specific to your own state laws.
Letter Step – Upon finding a determination in favor of granting an ESA letter, the Certapet licensed professional will outline the details specific to the situation between you and your pet.
In addition, the Certapet professional will outline a treatment plan to assist with the mental health and emotional needs related to the scenario as well. As part of this step, you will be issued an emotional support animal letter that you can either choose to print yourself at home or have issued as an official document that is mailed to you separately. Both are acceptable and viable options.
What Certapet Does
People the world over suffer from emotional support needs. For those in the U.S. and Canada, Certapet is able to screen and recommend treatments for these needs, including issuance of a legitimate ESA letter or a Psychiatric Service Dog letter.
Why Certapet Made Our List
Certapet conducts the emotional support animal letter service both often and well, if its more than 65,000 reviews at a five-star rating are any indicator. Certapet also makes it an easy one stop shop by providing a definitive guide for emotional support dog vests. They provide you with an easy measurement guide, a valuable list of resources explaining why a vest is a good idea to have with your emotional support animal, and then with a link option to purchase a vest. Certapet’s simple and effective process keeps patients and pets happy and makes Certapet one of our top ESA letter picks.
2. Emotional Pet Support – Second Runner Up
- Full refund within 30 days of purchase if not satisfied
- Open 7 days a week with including a licensed healthcare professional
- Offers a bundle discount when purchasing an ESA letter and a PSD letter for travel
- No legal support
- Currently does not support a shortlist of specific airlines
Features of Emotional Pet Support
A great feature that Emotional Pet Support has is offering their clients not only formal documentation of their ESA letter but also provides .pdf downloads as well as ID cards for on-the-go access. Emotional Pet Support also offers a money-back guarantee if submitted within 30 days of the original purchase of the ESA letter. This refund holds true as well if one of their licensed mental health professionals does not approve your request for an ESA letter. Another great feature of Emotional Pet Support is they have 7-day-a-week availability.
What Emotional Pet Support Does
Emotional Pet Support is a service that provides an ESA letter for your emotional support companion. This service makes it fairly simple and straightforward, giving you the first step which is the initial screening process directly on their homepage. Filling out the exam questionnaire and deciding on which purchase options you would prefer is all that is needed for your information to then be looked over and consulted by a licensed mental health professional.
After your online exam is reviewed by a professional, and it is determined that you are in need of an ESA letter, a secure link is sent to your email address and that gives you access to your ESA letter and other documentation in .pdf form.
If you are requiring other documentation, such as a Department of Transportation form for a PSD for air travel that is filled out by a dog trainer, Emotional Pet Support prides themselves on offering their online Psychiatric Service Dog trainer service. This program takes about a month to complete and is completely online. A professional dog trainer engages with you and with your dog to learn basic commands that are also the requirements needed to be considered a PSD.
Is your dog already trained and you just need documentation stating so? Well you are in luck because Emotional Pet Support services offer this easily as well. The path for this is quick and easy, starting with watching two videos provided by Emotional Pet Support on their website to use as a guide and compare if your dog is at the same trained level as what is considered to be trained.
If you feel that your dog meets the criteria then it is your turn to show it to your pooch and upload a video like the proud owner you are of your dog following the basic commands. Emotional Pet Support will then assign you a trainer and they will provide you with all the necessary documentation needed for the Department of Transportation forms so you can complete them and have them professionally signed off by your personally assigned and professional trainer from Emotional Pet Support.
Why Emotional Pet Support Made Our List
Emotional Pet Support made our list as a top three ESA letter service because of the ease and user friendly platform they have to offer. They also provide such quick ESA letter documentation within the same day of determining eligibility that it takes the stress and worry out of wondering if you are going to get the documentation you need.
The company also provides additional training resources and documentation for PSD needs which makes handling all the necessities for your specific dog-related needs in one easy spot and for bundled prices! Emotional Pet Support definitely supports their patients and we couldn’t help adding them to our list.
Visit EmotionalPetSupport.com for more information
How Our Best ESA Letter Providers Were Chosen
We made this list of the best emotional support-ESA letter providers by consulting a panel of experts. These experts run the gamut from pet experts to clinicians to owners of ESAs themselves. Taken into account was everything from features to pricing and from process to accessibility and reputation. Of all the legitimate ESA letter provider brands we reviewed, what remains here are the top three brands available on the market today.
What Are Emotional Support Animals and ESA Letters?
Uses for ESAs include, but are not limited to, comfort, soothing, and helping with dealing in difficult or upsetting circumstances. ESAs can even teach humans how to interact with other animals. They can aid people with sadness and other mental disorders including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Emotional support animals, although they are not recognized as service animals, still fulfill a similar purpose by giving individuals in need comfort and company. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must allow ESAs to live with their owner regardless of any no-pet rules or extra fees for pets in place.
Authorities frequently require an ESA letter to formally reflect the therapeutic need for such an animal before allowing an ESA to accompany a person into various public spaces or places of business.
As you can see, an ESA letter is incredibly useful for those who benefit from having their emotion-balancing pet pals around everywhere they go. To make sure one is qualified for the numerous benefits connected with such a designation, an ESA letter is required.
Advantages of such an ESA letter include:
- Readily available official records for your pet friend.
- Per the U.S. Fair Housing Act, regardless of animal policies at any given domicile, you can ensure access to the dwelling of your choice.
- Freedom from animal-related rent fees (under the Fair Housing Act).
- Some transportation benefits (though it should be noted that travel rules have changed recently – see your preferred airline’s policy prior to travel to be sure).
- Peace of mind from knowing you have all the necessary verification components, should the need for proof arise.
An ESA letter is, in essence, a note authorizing the possession of an emotional support animal that enables people with disabilities to keep one at home regardless of a landlord’s pet policies (per the Fair Housing Act) and to take it with them most everywhere they go, including to public spaces and privately-owned establishments.
As the only official documentation for a situation where a person wants to bring an ESA into a location that otherwise does not accept animals or pets, an ESA letter is a crucial document. That’s why it’s important to ensure you obtain an ESA letter from a reputable source, such as one of the brands on this list.
An ESA letter should look professional because it is an official document. Make certain that any letter you receive regarding an ESA includes, at the very least:
- The ESA letter should be written by a licensed mental health professional (and signed), all on official company letterhead from the issuing organization.
- A license, clearly stated, that the mental health professional possesses, together with any identifying information regarding that license, such as a license number, license issue date, license expiration date, and the state that provided the license.
- The date of issuing should be clearly visible (including the letter’s specific and individual issue date).
- A clear explanation of how the animal is essential for success in daily life.
- A simple suggestion that the patient utilize an ESA. Note: it is important to avoid using the phrase “prescription” here, because the issuance of an ESA letter is not a prescription. Instead, this is a suggestion from a knowledgeable mental health professional for an ESA as part of a treatment plan.
The ESA letter should also mention that the applicant has tried to make other accommodations, such as medication, therapy, or changes to their living situation, but they have not been successful in alleviating their symptoms. Even though they are not necessary under the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act, information about your emotional support animal, such as color, breed, kind, name, and size, gives the ESA letter more credibility.
Remember: an emotional support animal letter’s validity is only slightly more important than its perception. It has to not only be official, but also physically appear to be so, as well. You want to work with a reputable brand such as those on this list of the best ESA letter providers to ensure you get both.
How Do I Qualify for an ESA Letter?
An emotional support animal letter is a document that is issued by a licensed mental health professional. An ESA letter will state that the person in question has been diagnosed with a mental health condition and needs an ESA to help them with their symptoms.
In order to qualify for an ESA letter, you must have a mental or physical disability certified by a physician. You will need to undergo an evaluation by an organization qualified to issue an ESA letter, such as those on this list. During such an evaluation, you will be asked to provide documentation that your disability is recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, or other government agency.
This type of letter can be used as proof when applying for housing, applying for school, or in some travel scenarios. It can also be used to provide access to public spaces and facilities if the person in question has been granted permission by the establishment.
What are the Benefits of an ESA?
More often than not, individuals who are seeking out the companionship of an emotional support animal are looking for comfort and solace from an animal. They have chosen to help cope with whatever psychiatric difficulties they are currently experiencing and/or recovering from by utilizing an ESA as a recovery asset tool. The benefits of an ESA have a wide range of positive improvements on a person’s life mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Trauma seems to be a leading factor in today’s society for the need of an ESA. Being able to bond with an animal and create a sincere and personal companionship with an animal can improve mental health in a positive way. Significant increases in quality of life have been documented with individuals who have emotional support animals to care for, including being more productive in their day to day routines and less likely to fall back into the debilitating ruts of depression or other mental health issues.
In recent years the number of soldiers returning from war-prone areas suffering from PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder has increased. Soldiers who had sleeping issues prior to having an ESA were able to fall into more stable and routine sleeping patterns and maintain them consistently with the companionship of an emotional support animal. ESAs that are by a soldier’s side have also been shown to help with startle response management, effectively assisting in coping with understanding they are in a safe place and cognitively recognizing sooner that the situation is in fact not a threatening one.
Pets That Qualify as an ESA
Emotional support animals are defined as an animal that provides emotional support for individuals with psychiatric disabilities by providing companionship. Naturally, it is easy to think of domestic animals first like dogs or cats. In regards to obtaining an ESA letter, licensed mental health professionals do need to make the determination that the animal you are seeking the letter for provides you with a more stable emotional state. But it can really be any animal, not limited to domestic creatures.
Keep in mind if you so choose to go towards more exotic breeds of animals like snakes or lizards, it does get more difficult to get public acceptance in places of business where there might be some push back on if certain types of animals are welcome.
It should also be noted that an ESA is one that is also manageable in public and is not a nuisance. You might have your heart set on taking your pet ducks Duckleberry Finn and Duck Norris everywhere with you, but unless they are properly trained and eagerly follow your directions and commands it might be a tad difficult for them to nab a seat next to you in a movie theater.
Extraordinary scenarios aside, nearly any well-behaved (and well-named!) animal has the potential to qualify as an emotional support animal.
Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal
ESAs are there to support owners who are in need of exactly that, emotional or mental health support. People who are living their life coping with a mental health disability can depend on an ESA to help deal with the symptoms they have with a mental or emotional disability like anxiety or depression. Simply being in the presence of their support companion animal friend helps individuals feel calmer, safer, or other positive effects from their ESA.
A service animal, on the other hand, provides a service to a disabled individual, being professionally trained to carry out daily tasks that a disabled person (physically or psychologically disabled) is unable to do for themselves. For example, a person that is wheelchair bound might have a service dog that assists them in turning on household lights for them that are out of reach, or be trained to retrieve items that were dropped on the floor. There are also seeing eye guide dogs, specially trained for years before they are assigned to a person that is visually impaired.
Psychiatric Service Dogs are also classified as service dogs if they have the appropriate documentation from professionals.
What documents may be needed for passengers traveling with ESAs?
Airlines and other travel-related businesses or services could ask for proof of your animal’s good manners, as emotional support animals must exhibit social graces and demeanor appropriate for a support animal in public (including the requirement that the animal not be a nuisance to others).
In addition to an ESA letter, a note from a veterinarian attesting to the pet’s good health and good behavior may also be required.
What rights does an ESA letter entitle me to?
Emotional support animals are a growing trend in the United States, but they can be a tricky topic for landlords and airlines (as well as trains, buses and other public transportation). The U.S. Department of Transportation defines an ESA loosely as ‘an animal that provides therapeutic benefits to an individual with a mental or emotional disability’. An airline will almost always require an ESA letter in order to allow you to travel with your ESA. This can be a challenge, especially if you are flying on short notice.
An ESA letter is a letter from a mental health care professional that certifies your emotional support animal will provide you with therapeutic benefits. They might also require you to fill out some other forms, such as the Department of Transportation’s online form for passengers traveling with animals or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s online form for transporting animals in cargo.
ESAs are not the same as trained service animals and they shouldn’t be confused with therapy dogs. A therapy dog usually works with a professional and is trained to assist people with disabilities in a much more physical way than emotional support animals, whose primary function is to support emotion, not physical needs.
It is rare, but sometimes not required to provide documentation for your ESA, but you’ll have a much easier time if you are ready to provide this documentation. This preparation ensures that you are not caught without a way to ensure it’s clear that your ESA is a clinical need and not just a household pet that you’d prefer to have around.
An emotional support animal does not need to be trained or licensed in order to be allowed on airplanes with you, either, though these guidelines have changed in recent years. In early 2021 the Department of Justice in the United States updated the rules of the Air Carrier Access Act, or ACAA. This update unfortunately removed some of the rights previously afforded to ESAs. The difference is that emotional support animals are now designated as “pets” in terms of the policies that apply to them on airlines.
Allowance of your emotional support animal may now be more limited than it once was, and may also carry a price tag that it may not have previously. We highly recommend checking the pet policies of the airline you are considering before travel to ensure you know what to expect.
Understanding how to obtain a legitimate ESA letter can be confusing. We compiled this list to make the process seem less daunting and ensure that it is relatively quick and easy to assist you in finding the best option that works for your needs.
This article has been supplied by Originated Media, a paid advertiser. Content has not been independently verified by Los Angeles magazine.