There are many sites and fake services looking to scam those looking to make their pet an emotional support animal. They give fake emotional support animal letters and trick customers into paying for an emotional support animal registration, which is not necessary. Avoid falling for an ESA scam and make sure you only pay for a legitimate emotional support letter to avoid any travel or housing issues.
What is an ESA
Many people confuse emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals can go with their owners into any place open to the general public, including restaurants, museums, and grocery stores. Service animals go through extensive training and perform specific tasks for their disabled owners, like a seeing-eye dog. Emotional support animals do not need any training and do not have the same rights as a service dog. They can only go in places open to the general public.
Reasons to Get an ESA Letter
There are two main reasons to get an emotional support animal: housing and travel. An ESA housing letter prevents a landlord (or another property owner) from denying you housing because you have an emotional support animal and they have a strict no pets policy. An emotional support animal is an assistance animal, and they must provide reasonable accommodation. They cannot charge a pet fee or pet deposit, but you are responsible for any damaged caused by your ESA.
An emotional support travel letter allows your ESA to fly with you on planes. They can sit in your lap or in the space in front of your seat. Airlines cannot charge a pet fee, and your pet does not need to stay in a carrier during the flight. They can walk on a leash while in the airport too.
Fake Emotional Support Animal Registration
Legally, there is no emotional support animal registration that you have to register your ESA with. These registries are a way for companies to make money. It often is expensive to register your pet, and they’ll give you a “certification” that shows you’re a member of this ESA registry, and sometimes badges, vests, or other ESA-related goods. The “certification” has no legal standing and is not an emotional support letter.
How to Make Your Pet an ESA
The only way to make your pet an emotional support animal is through a licensed mental health professional. You must have a diagnosed and qualifying condition, and the doctor, therapists, or another mental health professional must evaluate your disorder and whether or not your pet helps you cope with the symptoms of your condition.
If you have a diagnosis for anxiety, depression, OCD, or PTSD and are currently in treatment and have a pet that helps you cope, you can talk with your mental health professional about writing you an ESA letter. Those who are not currently in treatment or do not have a formal diagnosis can start by taking the Certapet 5-Minute Pre-Screening to see if you have a qualifying condition and connect with a licensed mental health professional practising in your state. You do not need to sign up for an emotional support animal registration; all you need is a letter from a licensed mental health professional.
photo credit: Photo by Celine Sayuri Tagami on Unsplash