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Are Online ESA Letters Legal?

A girl with brown hair in a red shirt sitting in the grass with her golden retriever
Amber LaRock Author of Are Online ESA Letters Legal

The popularity of emotional support animals (ESA) has grown in recent years, causing people to wonder which avenue is best to explore when it comes to making your dog ESA certified. With so many options available to obtain an ESA letter, it can be challenging to know which options are actually legal and supported.

In this article, we’ll dive into what an ESA is, the details behind obtaining an ESA letter, and whether it’s legal to get your ESA letter online.

What is an ESA?

ESA stands for “emotional support animal” and is used to describe an animal that aids someone with a diagnosed mental or emotional condition that impacts their daily life. ESA’s will assist their owner by providing comfort in stressful situations, and can, in turn, make their lives easier when it comes to coping with their struggles.

Emotional support animals are known to aid in depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, and many other mental illnesses that can cause a person distress. Any type of mental illness can cause anguish in severe situations, giving ESA an important job for those that really struggle.

There are a variety of approved animals that can qualify as ESA’s, including some unlikely candidates. ESA’s can be dogs, cats, pigs, ducks, and even snakes as long as the creature brings their owner comfort. There doesn’t seem to be a set requirement when it comes to species as long as your ESA can be easily contained or controlled in public settings.

Is an ESA a service animal?

While you may hear otherwise due to the upcoming popularity of ESA’s, it’s important to realize that an ESA is not a service animal. While an ESA certainly helps a person work through their struggles, they do not undergo the specialized training that actual service animals do. Service animals are highly trained workers that aid in a specific task, while emotional support animals are more of an animal helper.

Service animals are trained to assist people with a specific, diagnosed physical/mental disability. Service animals assist the human with the daily tasks they would not be able to get through without the animal’s help, making service animals actual professionals.

Due to this, they are allowed into places like hotels, restaurants, and other establishments that would not otherwise allow animals. While it is up to each individual manager, ESA’s do not have the same automatic rights to enter these establishments.

While only a specifically trained animal can be a service animal, virtually any pet can be considered an ESA. An ESA letter is the only approval needed to help your dog become an emotional support animal, unlike the skills training needed to become a service dog. Though ESA’s still serves a great purpose, they are considered more of a companion than a worker.

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What is an ESA Letter & How Do You Get One

An ESA letter is a document from a therapist or doctor that serves as a permission slip for the individual to have a service dog. Your ESA letter is essentially a prescription or recommendation that proves that your condition can benefit from a support animal, giving you the ability to have your ESA in public settings.  

In order to acquire an ESA letter, an individual must be diagnosed with a mental illness, emotional disorder, or disability of some kind by a licensed professional. You must then make a request for an ESA letter to your doctor or therapist, which they will approve if they see fit.

Having a doctor or therapist involved in the process is a way to provide some validity in the process, and ensure that only those who are truly struggling are able to acquire an ESA letter. If you are unable to get a doctor’s approval, you may not be able to move forward with the ESA letter process.

Are online ESA letters legal?

When it comes to getting an online ESA letter, it’s important to be aware that not all online options are legitimate. While you can certainly find an online company that will give you an ESA letter without a doctor’s permission, you can rest assured that this document will not be accepted as an official ESA letter.

Though it may not be illegal, it’s certainly considered a scam. These options often lead to you paying a large fee for a document that is not even eligible.

However, not all online ESA letters are a scam. As long as the company requires an official doctor’s note or online examination by a doctor in order to send you your official ESA letter, you can assume that you are working with a reliable company. As long as the rules are followed, you can assume that you’re taking the proper steps to get your furry friend ESA certified.

Emotional support dogs can change the lives of their owners through their incredible companionship. Make sure to review the tips we’ve listed above for obtaining your ESA letter, and your pup will soon be an official emotional support animal!

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Meet The Author 

Amber LaRock

Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.

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