ESA Certification in Washington
Emotional support animals are currently recognized by many state and local governments as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. These animals help people with a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism. Such a pet can help by alleviating symptoms of a mental health condition, which in turn can help people lead more productive lives.
While they may sound similar, emotional support animals and service animals are not the same. Service animals are trained to perform a specific task for their handler. These animals are often used by disabled veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other extreme disabilities, such as a blind pet owner who owns a guide dog.
An emotional support animal, in contrast, provides therapeutic benefits and companionship. While the owner may receive help from the animal, an owner does not need to conduct training for the animal to perform a task. They simply provide the pet owner with comfort.
Understanding Emotional Support Animal Certification in Washington
The ADA, the federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, allows individuals to use service animals in many settings under the control of the owner. Emotional support animals are allowed in places that are “public accommodations” such as restaurants, hotels, and offices, even areas that may not normally allow pets.
However, there’s a trend of abled people misusing these laws and pretending that their pets are service animals or emotional support animals. The public and private sectors have to be vigilant about these cases and train their employees accordingly. In turn, pet owners are expected to have an ESA letter to confirm their pet’s status as an ESA.
The certification of an emotional support animal can be done by contacting a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. A business will commonly ask the owner to provide a letter from their LMHP verifying that they have a mental health condition that requires an ESA.
The ESA letter should include the name of the person with a disability, the type of disability, the diagnosis, and the LMHP’s prescription that an emotional support animal will actually help their condition. This process is relatively quick, as you can expect to have one finished within a day or two. However, it is only viable for use for twelve months, after which the letter will need to be renewed.
When you have this ESA letter, you will be able to take your emotional support animal to public places and receive benefits under the ADA. For example, you can take your ESA to a restaurant, movie theater, or any other place that normally would not allow pets.
The ESA letter is also helpful in receiving services under the ADA, such as public transportation and housing. If you are an employee with a disability and need an emotional support animal to perform the essential functions of daily life (e.g., assisting with vision impairments), you can get this ESA letter from your employer so that you can have your emotional support animal with you at home and even sometimes at work.