Emotional Support Animal Letter Online
November 13, 2016 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I am in California and would really like an emotional support animal (a small, older dog). My PCP office's policy is not to write letters recommending them at all. I am seeing a new therapist at the end of the month, but in the meantime, I looked at Certapet. Question: Has anyone gotten a letter for an ESA online? If so, how was the process for you? Anything to be aware of, or any specific sites your recommend/don't recommend?
posted by bookworm4125 to Pets & Animals (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For whom is the letter?
posted by bq at 6:42 PM on November 13, 2016

Response by poster: The letter would primarily be for my landlord, as I live in a building (rent-controlled, have lived here for 10 years, do not want to alienate anyone) that does not allow pets.
posted by bookworm4125 at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2016

Best answer: While, I don't have direct experience getting a letter for an ESA online, I do have a prescription/recommendation letter for a psychiatric service dog that was received in-person from my PCP and also signed by my licensed mental health provider (ie: licensed therapist)). That said, my understanding based on lengthy discussions with the aforementioned providers, is that you must have a qualifying emotional, mental and/or psychiatric disability in order to qualify for an ESA. As such, the recommendation for an ESA must come from a certified/licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or other mental health professional. This is because your (presumed) regular, on-going relationship and history with that provider allows them to better determine if an ESA is warranted and how beneficial an ESA will be to your specific condition/situation.

With that in mind, the CertaPet site will likely provide you with a canned and official-looking letter to provide to your landlord to get you what you want (ie: the ability to take a dog into an apartment that otherwise does not allow pets, without having to pay pet-related fees). However, after going through CertaPet's 'screening process' (ie: self-answering common questions PCPs ask to determine depression and/or anxiety), it's easy to see the site is certainly catered to profit off people who just want to take their pets with them everywhere and/or not pay pet-related fees to do so (an increasingly common problem that makes it difficult for those who legitimately have service dogs and ESAs) -- and this may cause suspicion on the part of your landlord if they browse the site themselves. The site charges $200 for a letter your therapist will likely supply you with for free. Additionally, it will charge you for a renewal each year. Since you'll be seeing a therapist at the end of the month, I would simply wait until then to avoid paying more fees than are necessary.

Here's some resources that may be helpful in understanding your rights and the rights granted to an ESA:

(Pacific ADA Center in Oakland)
https://www.nsarco.com/emotional-housing.html (Great info -- but important to note the ADA does not recognize service animal/ESA registries)
http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/CM1201.html (More information about your rights)
http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/548301.pdf (Information about ESAs specific to California)
http://www.latimes.com/style/pets/la-hm-therapy-pets-20150620-story.html (Good LA Times piece on ESAs/therapy pets)
posted by stubbehtail at 8:41 PM on November 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

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