ESA Letters

ESA Letter Requirements: A Comprehensive Guide in 2024

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can provide invaluable companionship and support for individuals dealing with mental or emotional health challenges. To legally qualify for an ESA, a person must obtain a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, which outlines the specific requirements for an individual to have an ESA.

A proper ESA letter must meet specific criteria to ensure its legitimacy and acceptance by landlords, airlines, and other establishments. This includes information about the healthcare provider, their professional credentials, and the nature of the individual’s need for an emotional support animal. Understanding these requirements is crucial for those seeking an ESA, as it helps them navigate the process and secure their rights under various housing and transportation laws.

Girl sits on yellow couch with her emotional support animals -- her hands around her Siamese cat and Labrador Retriever sits next to them.

Understanding ESA Letters

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter is a legal document issued by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) that distinguishes an assistance animal from a pet. This letter serves as proof that the individual requires the animal for emotional support due to a mental or emotional disability.

To be considered legitimate, an ESA letter must be written on the provider’s official letterhead, include their license number, type, and practice address, and explain the purpose of the animal for the patient. Licensed mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists, are authorized to write ESA letters, but they must be actively treating the person requesting the letter for a mental health condition.

ESA letters are typically used when requesting accommodations for housing. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with ESAs, including allowing the animal to live in pet-restricted housing without additional pet fees. Furthermore, where ESA status is honored, the Air Carrier Access Act permits individuals with documented disabilities to travel with their ESAs on commercial airlines without additional charges. 

Obtaining an ESA letter usually involves having an assessment by an LMHP to determine whether an individual genuinely requires an assistance animal. Some people opt for online services to simplify the process, which typically includes an online assessment followed by a consultation with a licensed mental health professional.

Eligibility Criteria

To obtain a valid ESA letter, certain requirements must be met by the individual seeking the letter. These requirements ensure that the emotional support animal is indeed necessary and will provide therapeutic benefits to the individual.

First and foremost, the individual must have a mental or emotional disorder as recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The request for an ESA letter must be made to a licensed mental health professional who is licensed to practice in the state where the individual lives. This professional should have experience and knowledge in assessing the individual’s mental health condition.

An important aspect of the eligibility criteria is the existence of a mental health condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least six months. This requirement emphasizes the significance of the emotional support animal in improving the individual’s mental well-being over an extended period.

To qualify for an ESA letter, the licensed mental health professional must provide the following information in the letter:

  • Write the letter on their official letterhead
  • Include their license type, date of licensure, license number, and the state which issued the license
  • Provide the date when the letter was written
  • State the individual’s name and date of birth for proper identification

Legitimate Sources

When looking for a legitimate Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter, it is crucial to obtain it from a reliable source. The letter should be written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) who has the authority to issue an ESA letter. The LMHP must be licensed in your state, or the letter will be considered invalid.

There are several steps to legally obtaining an ESA letter. First, you will need to take an online screening test to determine eligibility. Following the screening test, you will be connected with a licensed mental health professional who will assess your condition and determine whether an emotional support animal is an appropriate treatment option for you.

A legitimate ESA letter must contain certain vital information, including the mental health professional’s license number, type, the date it was issued, and the LMHP’s signature. Be cautious of fraudulent letters and websites that offer instant ESA letters without proper evaluation or provide letters from unlicensed professionals.

When approaching your landlord or airline about your ESA, provide them with the legitimate ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that both you and your emotional support animal are protected under the relevant laws and regulations.

Required Information in the ESA Letter

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter is a crucial document for those who rely on their animals for emotional support. To be considered valid, certain information must be included in the letter.

First and foremost, the most critical component of an ESA letter is the original or digital signature from a licensed healthcare provider, as this ensures authenticity. Further, the letter should include the provider’s license number and contact information.

Another key element of an ESA letter is a description of the emotional or mental disability for which the animal provides support. The licensed healthcare professional should briefly describe the condition and confirm that the person qualifies for an ESA based on their disability.

Additionally, it’s essential to include important details about the ESA itself, such as its species or breed, as well as general information about the owner, including their name and address. This helps provide clarity and confirmation that the letter is tailored specifically to the individual seeking support.

It’s important to note that an ESA does not require any specialized training or a specific vest; however, a valid letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional is mandatory for qualification.

The Role of Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals play a crucial role in the process of obtaining an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter. These professionals are responsible for evaluating the individual’s need for an ESA and, if deemed necessary, providing the appropriate documentation.

One of the primary responsibilities of a mental health professional in this context is to assess the individual’s therapeutic need for an ESA. This evaluation must consider several components, including the person’s emotional or mental disability and the specific role the ESA plays in their treatment

According to Younggren et al. (2020), ESA evaluations should consist of four related components: recognition of the emotional or mental disability, assessment of the emotional or mental disability, determination of the emotional or mental disability’s impact on the person’s ability to function, and establishment of how the ESA may alleviate the specific disability symptoms.

Once a mental health professional has conducted a thorough evaluation and determined that the individual requires an ESA, they may then need to provide a written letter supporting the patient’s request. This documentation should briefly describe the emotional or mental disability, specify the therapeutic need for the ESA, and attest to the professional’s expertise on the matter.

Writing an ESA letter is a serious responsibility, as it carries significant implications for the individual requesting it as well as the parties who must make decisions based on the letter, such as landlords or airline personnel. Therefore, mental health professionals must perform these evaluations and provide their support with thoroughness, care, and adherence to the relevant laws and ethical guidelines.

Important Considerations

When it comes to Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter requirements, there are a few key factors to consider. These factors can affect the validity of the ESA letter and access to accommodations for those with ESAs.

Firstly, an ESA letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, stating that the individual requires the emotional support animal as part of their treatment plan. These letters are generally valid for one year from the issue date, especially for housing purposes.

Secondly, the ESA must be well behaved and under the owner’s control at all times. This is crucial for ensuring that both the ESA and the owner are able to integrate into various settings, such as housing or public transportation, without causing disruptions or disturbances.

Thirdly, ESA owners should be prepared to give notice, especially to airlines, before bringing their ESAs onto a flight, as some carriers may have specific requirements or guidelines for passengers traveling with emotional support animals.

Lastly, it’s essential to ensure that the ESA letter is legitimate and not obtained through fraudulent means, as invalid letters can lead to denied accommodations or potential legal repercussions. Therefore, it’s necessary to follow appropriate steps when obtaining an ESA letter, such as consulting with a qualified mental health professional and verifying the documentation’s authenticity.


As we’ve discussed throughout this article, Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters hold a significant role in enabling individuals with disabilities to live more comfortably with their support animals. Ensuring that these letters meet the necessary requirements is essential for both mental health professionals and ESA owners.

When writing an ESA letter, mental health professionals must assess the individual’s disability, evaluate the necessity of the ESA, and provide a clear rationale for their recommendation. Proper documentation is crucial to prevent misuse of ESA provisions and uphold the rights of individuals with genuine needs.

Key points that should be included in an ESA letter are:

  • Identification of the presence of a disability
  • Demonstration of the individual’s need for an ESA
  • Clear statement of the professional’s recommendation for the ESA
  • Professional’s licensure and contact information

In conclusion, understanding the requirements for an ESA letter is essential for both mental health professionals and individuals seeking the support of an emotional support animal. Adhering to these guidelines will help ensure that the therapeutic benefits of ESAs are accessible to those in need while preventing misuse of the system.

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