What are ESAs?

Emotional support animals (ESA) refer to animals that assist individuals suffering from disabilities, emotional disturbances or psychological disorders. They can be used to assist people with impairments, wheel-chair bound people, people suffering from terminal illnesses, such as cancer, people undergoing chemotherapy and people with emotional disturbances, such as chronic stress, anxiety or mood disorders and depression. They are trained to adjust their demeanors and be gentle so that their presence is comforting to the owner. ESA could be dogs, cats or horses. Rather than performing tasks, they serve to provide emotional comfort and companionship.

Do you qualify for ESAs?

If you are suffering from emotional instabilities, anxiety, stress, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, you could be granted permit to obtain an ESA by healthcare personnel in your state. You could get an ESA letter for the following conditions:

  • Phobias
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Depression

If a mental health professional feels that you can benefit from an ESA, you would get a letter. For that, you need to consider the expectations of landlords and airlines.

Traveling with your ESA

Airlines don’t need notices in advance to assist people with disabilities. Airlines cannot limit or refuse transportation for disabled people. However, airlines require advance notices for ESAs, medical kits and wheelchairs. ESA owners need verified identification to board planes with ESAs. If it’s a large animal, the owner may be provided a different seat so that the aisle is not blocked.

Housing Laws for ESAs

Certain housing communities provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ for ESAs. Verified ESA owners cannot be refused housing. Landlords cannot deny accommodation to disabled or wheel-chair bound people. The ESA owner must have a certified notice confirming his disorder and provide necessary documents to landlords.

Property owners cannot charge advance fees for ESAs.  If the ESA is being neglected, or causes damage, the house owner is liable to charge fees. Otherwise, housing representatives cannot deny housing, question the patient’s disorder or require the animal to wear identification as an ESA. Fair Housing Amendments (FHA) provide protection to owners who carefully look after their ESAs. Reasonable accommodation can be denied if there is a financial or administrative burden on the housing representative.

The documents prove that the person’s disability substantially limits his life activities. The person needs to have a disability-related need for an assistance animal. The mental health professional provides certification when he feels that the patient can benefit from the company of an animal and that the animal would help reduce symptoms of the disorder.

Registering for ESAs

There are websites where you could register for an ESA, which is a sham. To own an ESA, you need to be diagnosed with a disorder and need approval of a mental health professional. ESAs are for people who are diagnosed with disabilities. You need to get the ESA certified. Websites trick you into registering and paying for something that is not real. Registration is unnecessary.