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ESA & PSD Letter Approvals in 24-48 Hours



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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESA FAQ) and Housing

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a qualified animal companion that significantly benefits people with any emotional or mental disability. The primary goal of the animal is to give support and companionship that helps achieve a positive living. You are protected by specific state and federal laws when you have an ESA letter. Housing providers such as HOAs, Co-Ops, and landlords allow people with an ESA letter to live with their ESAs at no cost.

To qualify for an ESA, you should have an existing psychiatric or mental disability that has been qualified by a licensed mental health professional. ESA letter indicates that you have a qualifying disability and that the ESA helps to alleviate notorious symptoms of the disability.

According to the various stipulated laws, you only require an ESA letter for you to qualify to have an emotional support animal. Housing providers are not supposed to demand licenses, registration, I.D., or certificate for your emotional support animal. Also, the law does not require you to register the ESA in a registry or database.

Emotional support is not allowed in public places such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, or hotels. According to ADA, only psychiatric service dogs performing various tasks are allowed in public places. Restaurants or other public areas are not obligated to accommodate the ESAs. It is essential to check the policies areas such as restaurants or hotels have regarding the accommodation of emotional support animals.

There is so much false information circulating about ESAs on the internet. There is various regulatory framework that surrounds ESAs in the United States. Government agencies and federal law protect ESAs as well. Every ESA owner should adhere to specific legal requirements. To be a legitimate owner of ESAs, you must have a valid letter from licensed healthcare providers.

There are multiple ESA companies on the internet, and you should be cautious when engaging with these companies. Our company, Service Paws USA, is entirely legitimate and will connect you with a licensed healthcare professional and ensure the process of ESA letter acquisition is quite streamlined.

There are a variety of animals that can qualify for emotional support animals. Dogs and cats remain the most prevalent for USA citizens. According to Fair Housing rules, animals such as dogs, cats, rodents, fish, turtles, rabbits, and small birds, among others, can qualify as ESAs.

ESAs are companions for people living with various mental and emotional problems and are not required to undergo training. They are pretty different from psychiatric service dogs (PSD), who are required to undergo specific training to assist in various activities. ESAs are only required to be quite obedient and behave appropriately in public areas.

Yes, you can qualify for more than one emotional support animal. You will require a valid ESA letter that indicates why you need ESAs. Your licensed healthcare professional will determine why you need many emotional support animals. However, you must be able to accommodate the ESAs in your residence safely.

Yes, it is not uncommon for someone to need more than one emotional support animal. You will need an ESA letter that specifies your need for more than one ESA. Each ESA must be covered by valid documentation (multiple recommendations can be contained in one letter). The licensed healthcare professional must determine that you would benefit from more than one emotional support animal. It’s important that if you own multiple ESAs they can all be safely and humanely accommodated in your residence.

It is up to the licensed healthcare professional to determine whether you have a disability that qualifies for an emotional support animal. Common disabilities include things like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. For purposes of Fair Housing rules, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

An ESA letter must be written by a licensed healthcare professional or licensed mental health professional (LMHP) which includes professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical social workers, licensed counselors and other licensed professionals. An ESA letter is technically not a “prescription”. It is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional. Physicians have the ability to write ESA letters, but most ESA letters are not from physicians.

The best person to inquire about whether an ESA is right for you is your existing mental health provider. If you do not have a therapist or are having trouble finding one, Service Paws USA can help connect you to a professional that is licensed for your state. Many people use online therapists for their ESA needs for various reasons.

Yes, many licensed therapists, including the ones that work with Service Paws USA, offer their services remotely without the need for an office visit. Remote therapists are a vital resource for people that are having a hard time finding a therapist in person, paying for a therapist or scheduling a visit because of a busy schedule. Some people have anxieties or phobias about discussing their problems face to face with someone and prefer to interact with a therapist remotely. As long as the provider is a licensed healthcare provider that is familiar with your mental health issue or emotional disability, they can write an ESA recommendation for you. The U.S. Department of Housing has also acknowledged in its guidance that therapists can provide services remotely online.

For housing purposes, ESA letters technically do not have an expiration date under Fair Housing rules. However, some landlords will demand a more recently dated letter if the tenant submits an ESA letter that was issued a long time ago. In addition, if you need your licensed healthcare professional to submit a form or provide verification, they may not be able to do so unless there is a recent ESA recommendation letter on file for you. We recommend renewing your ESA letter annually so you don’t run into any issues travelling or living with your ESA.

Some people have an existing pet that they qualify as an emotional support animal. Others obtain an ESA letter and then adopt their ESA. There is no right answer, both situations are very common and permitted.

No, a hardcopy of the ESA letter is not required. The licensed professionals that work with Service Paws USA will provide a digital copy of your ESA letter if you qualify, which you can then use immediately. You do not need an original copy with a wet ink signature. A proper ESA letter will contain the licensed mental health professional’s contact and license information, which a third party can use to verify the authenticity of the letter. If you would still like an original copy for any reason, we can accommodate your request for an extra fee.

An ESA letter will establish that you have a disability for purposes of the Fair Housing Act. A disability that qualifies for an ESA can be a condition such as severe depression, anxiety, phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder. The ESA letter will recommend an ESA to help alleviate symptoms of your mental or emotional disability. Housing providers are not permitted to demand that you disclose details about your specific diagnosis or the severity of your condition. Nor can they request your medical records or insist that a medical examination be conducted. You have a right to privacy when it comes to sensitive information about your mental and emotional health.

A valid ESA letter will be signed and dated by a licensed professional. The letter should also contain the professional’s license and contact information so that third parties can verify the authenticity of the letter and that the professional is actively licensed in their field.

Emotional support animals are not the same thing as service animals. Service animals are specifically trained to assist their handlers with a disability (for example guide dogs for the blind). Service animals have legal rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals have greater public access rights than ESAs. For example, service animals are generally allowed to go wherever members of the public are allowed (bars, restaurants, stores, etc.).
ESAs on the other hand have rights in two places: in residential buildings and on planes. ESAs are given legal rights under the Fair Housing Act and various state laws. Unlike service dogs, ESAs do not need any special training. They are intended to provide mental and emotional comfort to their owners through their companionship.

California instituted a new law for 2022 that requires healthcare professionals to establish a client-provider relationship at least 30 days prior to issuing an ESA letter. This law applies to all residents of California. If you have previously worked with a licensed healthcare professional through ESA Doctors, you may be exempt from the 30 day waiting period.


Almost all housing providers are subject to federal Fair Housing rules regarding emotional support animals. Under Fair Housing rules, emotional support animals are not considered pets. ESAs are assistance animals that help tenants who are suffering from a mental or emotional disability. That means a building’s normal policies regarding pets do not apply to an emotional support animal. Housing providers must accommodate ESAs even if the building normally prohibits pets. Fair Housing rules were designed so housing providers could not unfairly discriminate against emotional support animal owners.

Landlords are never permitted to charge fees, surcharges or deposits in connection with ESAs. Even if the building you live in charges fees or security deposits for all pets, an ESA is exempt because ESAs are not considered pets under federal Fair Housing rules. The lack of a security deposit does not mean however that a landlord does not have the right to collect for damages caused by an ESA. If an ESA causes damage to the property, the landlord can charge the tenant for such damage and deduct expenses from any general security deposit the tenant may have paid. Landlords are also not permitted to charge application fees when considering an ESA request.

ESA owners are always responsible for the actions of their emotional support animals. Even though a landlord can’t charge fees or deposits for an ESA, they can charge a tenant if the ESA causes property damage. Landlords can also deduct costs for any such damages from a general security deposit they may have collected from the tenant.

In situations where a tenant’s pet later qualifies as an emotional support animal, and they had previously paid a special deposit or fee for their pet, they would be entitled to a refund of that deposit or fee. Note however for fees the waiver would only apply for the time the animal companion was considered an ESA. For example, if you were paying a monthly fee for your pet, you would no longer pay that fee going forward but would not be entitled to a refund for past months when the animal was validly categorized as a regular pet.

Landlords do have the right to reject your request to live with an emotional support animal under certain limited circumstances. The housing provider can reject an emotional support animal if they determine that the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others. Note that the housing provider must actually make an individualized assessment of the particular animal. They cannot rely on stereotypes regarding the animal. For example, they cannot reject an emotional support pitbull solely because they believe such animals are dangerous without any evidence the particular ESA in question is actually dangerous.

A housing provider may also reject an emotional support animal if the accommodation would cause an “undue financial and administrative burden” on the housing provider’s operations. One example of this would be if the housing provider’s insurance would be cancelled, or substantially increase in cost, because of the presence of a certain type of animal. Landlords relying on this exemption should substantiate their claims and also consider whether alternative insurance coverage is available.

It’s not uncommon for landlords to initially reject an ESA request from a tenant. Some landlords are simply unaware of what Fair Housing rules regarding ESAs actually require. Other landlords will sometimes confuse emotional support animals with service dogs. It’s important to have a constructive, but friendly dialogue with your landlord. The Department of Housing’s guidance states that landlords should engage in a good-faith interactive process with tenants to resolve ESA issues. It may be helpful for you to point out the relevant housing rules to your landlord if they are denying your ESA without merit. Many times landlords are simply just unaware of their obligations under Fair Housing rules and will acquiesce once they are confronted with the facts.

In rare situations where a landlord is completely uncooperative even after multiple attempts to amicably resolve the situation, tenants do have the right to file a complaint directly with HUD. That should always however be a last resort option. Housing providers should be aware that many landlords have been sued by the government for the failure to comply with emotional support animal housing rules.

We recommend clearing your emotional support animal with your housing provider prior to bringing your ESA home, particularly if you live in a no-pets building. You must request accommodation from your landlord for your ESA and submit your ESA letter. The landlord must get back to you promptly and, if they are rejecting your ESA request, must give you valid reasons for denial. If your ESA is already living with you because it was a pet that later qualified as an ESA, then you would submit your ESA letter to your landlord as soon as possible.

If you inform your landlord of your ESA after bringing home your ESA in violation of building rules, under HUD guidance the landlord must still consider your request. However, that timing could upset your landlord and work against your favor. The bottomline: it’s always best to be honest and transparent about your ESA. Remember, a tenant’s right to an ESA is protected by federal and sometimes state law.

Landlords must reply to ESA requests “promptly”, and within 10 days of receiving the tenant’s request for accommodation. Landlords cannot just stonewall tenants who submit requests for their emotional support animal. The Department of Housing encourages landlords to engage in a good-faith interactive process with tenants regarding ESA requests. That means that landlords should have constructive dialogue with tenants to address any concerns regarding a tenant’s emotional support animal.

Yes, HOAs and co-ops are subject to Fair Housing requirements and must also reasonably accommodate valid ESAs.

Maybe. The Fair Housing act applies to most types of housing. There are however some exceptions. The following types of housing do not have to comply with the Fair Housing Act’s rules regarding emotional support animals: 1. owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, 2. single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, 3. housing operated by religious organizations, and 4. private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
Note that although certain landlords are not legally obligated to accommodate emotional support animals, some will do so anyway as a courtesy. It’s best to check with your landlord to see what their policy is regarding ESAs.

Under Fair Housing rules categorical breed restrictions are not allowed. Housing providers can’t deny a tenant’s ESA request solely because the ESA is a certain breed. The housing provider can however turn away the ESA if they have good reason to believe the particular animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or has caused property damage. They would need to determine the animal is a threat based on actual evidence, and not just stereotypes about the particular breed in question.

Under Fair Housing rules categorical breed restrictions are not allowed. Housing providers can’t deny a tenant’s ESA request solely because the ESA is a certain breed. The housing provider can however turn away the ESA if they have good reason to believe the particular animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or has caused property damage. They would need to determine the animal is a threat based on actual evidence, and not just stereotypes about the particular breed in question.

Housing providers must allow tenants to be accompanied by their emotional support animal “in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.” That may include places such as a recreation room, a community garden, a pool area or a courtyard.

Landlords are not allowed to charge tenants or prospective tenants any type of fee in connection with the consideration of an ESA request. That includes fees for applications.

You can request accommodation for your ESA verbally or in writing. There is no special language needed when making this request, but it can be helpful to inform the landlord that you are seeking reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal pursuant to Fair Housing rules. We recommend submitting the request in writing so you have a record of when your request was made. You should also submit your ESA letter to your landlord when making this request. Your landlord has the right to request documentation for your ESA, and the only legitimate form of ESA documentation is a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

There is no rule that requires ESA owners to be with their emotional support animals all day. Most ESA owners do not have their ESA with them at all times during the day. Like any other animal companion, your ESA should be properly attended to and depending on the type of ESA may be able to be left at home for short periods of time. ESA owners like all pet owners are responsible for feeding, maintaining, providing veterinary care for, and controlling their assistance animal. ESA owners can enlist the help of friends, family, volunteers and service providers (such as dog-walkers) to help them care for their animal.

University housing such as dorms and university sponsored apartments are subject to Fair Housing rules and its provisions regarding emotional support animals. However, universities are known to be more stringent about ESA accommodation than typical landlords. Many of our clients have successfully used their ESA letters for college housing, but some have also faced an uphill battle dealing with difficult administrations. We will be available to provide support but cannot guarantee outcomes regarding whether a housing provider accepts your ESA or not. Our recommendation is to check with your school to see what their specific policy is regarding ESAs.

Under HUD guidelines, a licensed healthcare professional can issue an ESA letter. Most ESA letters are generally not from physicians, although a physician is capable of writing an ESA letter. Examples of licensed professionals given by HUD include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants. In addition, tenants are allowed to use licensed providers that work remotely through online services. It is not necessary to have an ESA letter from a therapist who evaluated you at an in-person session.

Generally, housing providers in these situations will understand that tenants who have recently moved from another state will have an out of state ESA letter. The important thing is that you were evaluated by a therapist who was licensed for your state at the time of the evaluation. There is no requirement under Fair Housing rules that an ESA letter be issued in the same state where the tenant is requesting accommodation from their landlord.

Under Fair Housing rules, landlords are not permitted to request detailed information about a tenant’s condition. They cannot request medical records or insist on a medical examination. Your therapist is also bound by obligations of confidentiality and generally cannot reveal details about your condition beyond what is stated in their ESA letter. However, your landlord does have the ability to confirm your therapist wrote your letter for you. A valid ESA letter should have the therapist’s license information which the landlord can verify on your State’s website for licensed professionals. A valid ESA letter will also contain contact information for your therapist which your landlord can use for confirmatory purposes.

If you have a landlord who is blatantly disregarding your right to be accompanied by an emotional support animal and they have failed to engage in constructive dialogue with you regarding your ESA, you can file a complaint directly with HUD. It is not uncommon for landlords to get in trouble with government agencies for discriminatory practices against the disabled. This should however be a measure of last resort. We always recommend and encourage having an open and friendly dialogue with your landlord about your ESA needs. Most landlords are reasonable and will comply with their Fair Housing obligations.

Canada does not have a legal framework for emotional support animals similar to one in the United States. In the U.S., ESA rules are enshrined in federal law and apply to every State. Various States in the U.S. also have laws that protect ESAs. Many landlords in Canada however will accommodate emotional support animals as a courtesy if you have an ESA letter. There may also be local rules that pertain to emotional support animals. We can help connect you to a therapist licensed to work in Canada to help you assess whether an ESA is right for you.

The only way to qualify an ESA is by possessing an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. Landlords cannot request certificates, registrations or ID cards as a condition to accommodate an emotional support animal. In fact, such items do not confer any legal status on ESAs. Some landlords are confused about this issue and are under the mistaken impression that there is an officially sanctioned certification or registration process for ESAs when there is not.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding ESAS and Air Travel

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued new rules for ESAs on flights that went into effect on January 11, 2021. As a result of these new rules, airlines are no longer legally obligated to accept emotional support animals. U.S. airlines no longer accept emotional support animals on flights. However, there may still be international airlines that will accept emotional support animals with proper documentation. For a list of airlines that are still accepting ESAs, please click on this link. It’s important to check with your airline before your flight to see what their current policy is for ESAs.

Psychiatric service dogs are still allowed on board flights free of charge.

For airlines that accept ESAs, to fly with an emotional support animal the passenger generally needs a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter establishes the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (such as depression or anxiety) and that the ESA is needed as an accommodation for air travel and/or activity at the passenger’s destination. An ESA letter must be signed and dated by the licensed professional and contain their licensing information.

General Information about Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD Faq)

A psychiatric service dog (or PSD) is a type of service dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks relating to a handler’s mental, emotional or learning disability. Psychiatric service dogs have the same rights as other types of service dogs which assist handlers with physical disabilities. Service dogs have special access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. They are allowed to accompany their owners in the home, on-flights and in places where members of the public are generally allowed to go.

A psychiatric service dog is not the same thing as an ESA. The primary difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal is that a PSD must be fully trained to perform tasks relating to a disability. A PSD in training does not yet qualify as a service dog. In contrast, ESAs are not required to have any specialized training. ESAs primarily provide comfort to their owners just through their presence and companionship. An ESA also requires a letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional.

PSDs and ESAs also differ in terms of their access rights. ESAs have the right to live with their owners free of charge (even in buildings that prohibit pets) under federal Fair Housing laws and various state laws. PSDs have greater access rights under the ADA and ACAA – they can board flights as well as places generally open to the public like stores.

The other major difference between ESAs and PSDs is that an ESA can be a wide range of animals but a psychiatric service animal can only be a dog.

In order to qualify for a PSD, the handler must have a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. That can include things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, learning disorders and autism. A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to determine whether you have a qualifying condition.

If your animal provides comfort for your mental or emotional health issues just by being present and does not perform any specialized tasks to assist with your disability, it is more likely an ESA. A PSD by definition must be individually trained to perform at least one task relating to a mental disability. If the dog is not trained to perform a task in relation to the disability, it is not a PSD but may be an ESA. In addition, if your animal is not a dog, then it cannot qualify as a psychiatric service animal but may qualify as an ESA.

A PSD letter is a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional that can help you determine whether you have a qualifying condition for a psychiatric service dog. It’s important to note that a PSD letter does not certify or verify that your animal is a psychiatric service dog, it only addresses whether you have a psychiatric or emotional disability. Representing that a dog is a fully trained PSD is a responsibility that ultimately falls on the handler. A PSD letter is intended to help someone understand whether they may have a qualifying disability and provides peace of mind. Unlike an ESA letter, it does not need to be submitted to the landlord, airline or another third-party for accommodation of the assistance animal.

No, a third party cannot ask for documentation such as a license, certificate, PSD letter or ID card to prove a dog is a psychiatric service dog before allowing it entry. Other accessories like vests and harnesses are also not required. You have probably seen these items used in public however by owners of service dogs. Many service dog owners use these items to help signal to the public that their dogs are on duty, but they are not mandated by the ADA. ADA guidance specifically states that you do not need certification or registration documents for a service dog, and that these documents do not convey any rights under the ADA.

Under ACAA guidance from the Department of Transportation, airlines are allowed to look for indicators such as harnesses, ID cards, tags and vests to help determine whether a dog is a service animal. However, these items solely by themselves are not enough to qualify a dog as a service dog. They are just one factor airline staff can weigh in determining whether a passenger has a valid service dog.

Unlike emotional support animals which can be a wide range of animals, only dogs can serve as psychiatric service animals.

Under new rules that went into effect in January of 2021, PSDs can board the cabin free of charge as long as the handler submits the Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to boarding the flight. The form requires the handler to self-certify that their animal is a trained psychiatric service dog. It also requires information regarding the dog’s trainer (which can be the handler) and veterinarian. Only the handler is required to sign the form.

PSDs perform an incredible variety of tasks for their handlers. There are far too many to list here, but these tasks include things like:
• Helping to ground and reorient a handler that is experiencing an anxiety or panic attack.
• Interrupting OCD and self-destructive behaviors.
• Reminding the handler to take their medication.
• Using tactile/pressure stimulation to calm a handler.
• Retrieving medications for the handler to take.
• Preventing the handler from oversleeping and helping to maintain a healthy routine.

The ADA allows for service animals to be trained by the handler or through a professional. If the handler is confident and capable of training their psychiatric service dog, they are allowed to do so. It is not necessary to use any organization or professional trainer, although those alternatives may be useful for owners who are not experienced in training dogs.

If you are at a public establishment, third parties can verify your dog is a PSD by asking two questions: 1. is the dog a service dog required because of a disability? and 2. what work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?

As a PSD owner, you do not have to provide details about your disability. Third parties also cannot ask you to demonstrate the task your PSD has been trained to perform.
If you plan to fly with your PSD, you will need to submit the DOT’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to boarding the flight. The form requires the passenger to self-certify that they have a psychiatric service dog that has been appropriately trained to perform tasks and behave in public settings.

A PSD can be denied entry if it is behaving in a way that poses a threat to the health or safety of others. A PSD can also be denied if it is not under the control of the handler. For example, a PSD can be prohibited from boarding a flight if it is out of control, barking or growling repeatedly at other passengers or animals, biting, jumping on or causing injury to others, or urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area. A fully trained PSD should be capable of behaving in many kinds of public settings and should always be under the control of their handler.