Emotional support animals (ESA) are important companions to many individuals who may have certain mental health conditions or disabilities. These animals provide comfort and relief from symptoms with their presence, and it’s often vital for them to live alongside their owners to provide continued relief.
In order to obtain your federally protected rights to keep your ESA with you, you will need documentation to show your need for an ESA. This process must be completed with a mental healthcare provider licensed in your state. Below, we give you more information about emotional support animal certifications and securing your ESA rights.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal Certificate?
An emotional support animal certificate is a certificate that states your emotional support animal is just that – a companion animal required because of a certain condition and disability, and not a pet. Many individuals choose to obtain an emotional support animal certificate or service dog certification so they have papers to show when asked about their support animal. However, these certifications aren’t required for you to take advantage of your support animal rights.
Service dogs are granted federally protected rights by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and emotional support animals are granted rights under the Fair Housing Act. In order to access your ESA rights, you will need an emotional support animal letter, not a certificate. Your ESA letter will need to be written by a mental healthcare provider licensed in your state, and you will need to submit this letter to landlords or rental agencies as part of the process of requesting accommodations.
Are Emotional Support Animal Certificates Binding?
Emotional support animal certificates aren’t binding, as these certificates differ from an emotional support animal letter. ESA certificates state that your companion animal is a support animal. They don’t grant you the legal rights to access emotional support animal accommodations – only an emotional support animal letter grants you this ability.
Most individuals choose to obtain emotional support animal certificates alongside their ESA letter so that they have something to show. A certificate is a personal choice for your emotional support animal, whereas an emotional support letter is essential if you want to request housing accommodations for your ESA.
How Do I Get an Emotional Support Animal Certificate?
If you are interested in obtaining an emotional support animal certificate, you may be able to obtain this online. Keep in mind that a certificate doesn’t grant you access to protected ESA housing rights, but it will provide you with an extra document that shows your emotional support animal is a required companion animal.
Alternatively, you may also be able to obtain a certification for your emotional support animal through the same mental healthcare provider that writes your ESA letter. Speak with your provider to learn your options and decide if an ESA certification is necessary for your specific situation.
What Are My Emotional Support Animal Rights?
Your emotional support animal rights are federally protected by the Fair Housing Act, and once you have your ESA letter, you can request accommodations. Under the Fair Housing Act, you will be able to live with your emotional support animal in any suitable housing unit regardless of any pet restrictions or breed restrictions. You will not be required to pay any pet fees, pet rent, or other pet security deposits for your emotional support animal, and your accommodations request must be granted by a landlord or rental agency unless your animal is aggressive, out of control, dangerous, or destructive.
You can consult the Fair Housing Act directly for more specific information regarding your emotional support animal rights and what to do next if your rights have been denied.
Keeping Your ESA by Your Side
Your emotional support animal is no doubt a beloved and necessary companion, and it’s important to keep your ESA by your side when possible. While an emotional support animal certificate can provide you with additional documentation for your ESA, an emotional support animal letter is the most vital document to have as you request housing accommodations for your companion. Speak with a mental healthcare provider licensed in your state to learn more or find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal.