What is an ESA?
ESA stands for Emotional Support Animal. Dogs are the most common type of emotional support animal, but cats, chinchillas and many other animals can be emotional support animals. Emotional support animals provide emotional comfort and support and assist with a number of conditions including anxiety, panic attacks and phobias. Emotional support animals do not need to receive any sort of training, like service animals do, but some may be trained to assist with different occurrences. For example, a person that has panic attacks may have their animal trained to recognize the signs of an attack and interfere if necessary.
How do I Qualify for an ESA?
In order for a person to have an emotional support animal, they must be diagnosed with a mental and/or emotional condition. These conditions include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression, Bipolar Disorder, mood disorders, panic attacks, fear/phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal thoughts or tendencies
They must also be evaluated by a mental health professional to determine if an emotional support animal will be helpful. Qualified mental health professionals can then write a recommendation letter for the person. They will need to keep the recommendation letter needs to be kept on file, since it may need to be presented in a number of situations.
Where are ESAs Allowed?
Since emotional support animals are not required to be trained and they are not service animals, they may not be allowed in several public spaces, like restaurants. However, emotional support animals are allowed on airplanes and in rented homes and apartments. Support animals are protected by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Tenants are permitted support animals even if animals are not allowed at certain rental properties; there are also allowed in common living facilities like college and university dorms and residence halls. Similarly, support animals are allowed in airplane cabins. However, it may be required for the landlord or airline representative to see the person's ESA recommendation letter and to verify that it is from a reliable source. Similarly, when emotional support animals are taken into places where there are other people who are unfamiliar with the animal, they may need to be identified. For example, if the emotional support animal is a dog, they may need an esa dog vest. This will help others understand that the dog is working and will discourage them from interacting with the dog without permission.