Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort and support to people with mental illness. Individuals who suffer from a mental illness may obtain an ESA as a way to alleviate symptoms and help them maintain their quality of life. However, obtaining an ESA is not without its complications.
In order to acquire an ESA, individuals must provide documentation that the animal is trained to assist a person with a mental illness and will perform this function for their benefit. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that disabled people deserve to be protected from discrimination in any spaces and have access to accommodations that allow them to participate in society. This includes being allowed to take their emotional support animals to areas that would otherwise be off-limits for pets.
So, if you’re interested in owning one, you may wonder what kind of documentation you’ll need to provide in order to do so. In this article, we’ll discuss what documentation is required and how you can get it.
Does Your ESA Need Training and Certification?
First things first, does your ESA need training and certification? To put it simply, no, your ESA does not need to be trained or certified.
An emotional support animal falls under the category of assistance animals. Some assistance animals do need training or certification, such as service animals. This is because service animals must perform tasks that a person with a disability cannot do for themselves. Service animals must be trained, for example, to alert a person of a seizure or to perform some other task that they cannot do for themselves.
But, emotional support animals are not service animals. ESA’s are simply pets that provide emotional support to people with mental illness. Your ESA does not need to perform any tasks or alert you of any symptoms. You do not need to register your ESA with the ADA. However, the ADA does require that you provide documentation for the animal. This documentation will tell people whether or not your animal is actually an ESA or just a regular pet.
The Required Documents for an ESA
The only form of documentation you need for an emotional support animal is an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). This letter should state that your ESA is needed to assist you with your mental illness. The letter should also state the type of mental illness your ESA is meant to assist with and the manner in which it will help you.
In order to obtain an ESA letter, you must have a licensed LMHP evaluate your mental health and diagnose you. This is done through a screen test, which can be achieved offline or online. You must then keep this ESA letter with you at all times in order to be able to confirm your animal’s status when entering a business establishment.
Some establishments may ask for other forms of documentation, such as a proof of your animal’s vaccination history. If you are unable to provide these forms of documentation, the establishment may ask you to leave. You should also be prepared to leave if your animal is causing a ruckus or poses harm to others.
KimKim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.
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