Have an Emotional Support Animal and Need a Sample Letter for Housing?
The information in this article is current as of January 25, 2022.
There are countless benefits to owning a dog or cat. For example, studies show that domestic animals such as dogs or cats can help relieve feelings of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, the unconditional love and comfort these animals provide can induce dopamine in humans. So, it’s no wonder they make great emotional support animals.
If you require an emotional support animal and are looking for a sample letter for a housing manager, HOA, or property manager, there are a few things you’ll need to know. Read on to learn more.
What Is the Difference Between Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and Service Animals?
An emotional support animal offers their owner support as companions. Experts say they can help with anxiety, depression, gender issues, panic attacks, and phobias. Unfortunately, ESAs are not allowed in as many places as service dogs. Dogs or animals that provide emotional support do not qualify as service dogs.
A service dog or service animal is specifically trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Examples of tasks a service animal can help with are:
- Guide dogs, also known as service dogs, can assist the blind, visually impaired, or visually challenged.
- People with diabetes can have the service dog trained to alert them when their blood sugar reaches high or low levels.
- Someone diagnosed with depression may have a dog trained to remind them to take their medication.
- A person with epilepsy may have a dog trained to identify the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.
Service dogs can accompany their owners to public places such as stores, shopping malls, or restaurants.
Can I Own an Emotional Support Cat?
Cats can be emotional support animals. Any animal that offers therapeutic value can be considered an emotional support animal. However, cats do not qualify as service animals. Only dogs and miniature horses can be considered service animals.
Help, My Apartment or Condo Doesn’t Allow Pets.
If your apartment, condo, or HOA does not allow pets, that rule does not apply to emotional support animals or service dogs. However, your housing manager, landlord, or property manager must make reasonable accommodations for your emotional support animal (if you meet the Americans With Disabilities Act).
Emotional support animals and service animals are not considered pets. If your apartment requires a pet fee, this fee will be waived for an emotional support animal. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes. A landlord cannot deny housing to an ESA owner. However, you will need an official emotional support animal letter as proof that the dog helps manage a mental condition.
Who Can Write or Prescribe an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
- A licensed physician or family doctor
- Licensed psychologist
- Licensed therapist
- Licensed psychiatrist
You cannot write this letter yourself. Even if you think you qualify, you will need an official letter or prescription from a licensed professional to determine if you’re eligible for an ESA. Keep in mind if your therapist or mental health professional is not licensed, they cannot provide you with a letter.
Sample of an Emotional Support Animal Letter
In addition to the letter from your licensed professional of choice, you’ll want to include a letter written by you. This letter will be attached to the official letter. You can use this sample emotional support animal letter for housing to get started.
[Name of Building Manager or Landlord]
[Address of Building Manager or Landlord]
Re: Reasonable Accommodation Request for Emotional Support Animal
Dear [Name of Building Manager/Landlord]:
My name is [your name here], and I live at [your address here]. The Fair Housing Act defines me as a person with a disability. Due to my disability, I am limited in [describing how your disability affects your daily life].
I am requesting a reasonable accommodation to have my emotional support animal live with me to guarantee that I have an equal opportunity to reside in my home. In addition, my emotional support animal helps [describe what your support animal does to help you, such as “reduce my anxiety” or “provide necessary comfort in times of stress”].
Attached you will find verification from my healthcare provider explaining how this accommodation assists me with my disability.
Please respond to my request in writing within the next ten business days. Should you have questions about my accommodation request, please contact me at [your phone number or email address].
Thank you for your time and consideration.
What Are the Obligations of Housing Providers?
If you require an emotional support animal or service dog, you may request that the housing provider make a reasonable accommodation to their pet restrictions. Landlords or housing managers cannot refuse to offer reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when accommodations provide a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home.
According to the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider is required to allow a reasonable accommodation involving an ESA or service animal in situations that meet all the following conditions:
- A request was made to the housing provider by or for a person with a disability.
- The request was supported by reliable disability-related information if the disability and the disability-related need for the animal were not apparent, and the housing provider requested such information, and
- The housing provider has not demonstrated that:
- Granting the request would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider
- The request would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the housing provider’s operations
- The specific assistance animal in question would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the threat.
- The request would not result in significant physical damage to the property of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the physical damage.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
Examples of a reasonable accommodation request for an emotional support animal or service dog may include:
- A request to live with an assistance animal where a housing provider has a no-pets allowed policy or
- A request to waive a pet deposit, fee, or other rules as to an assistance animal
Help for Your Emotional Support Animal
The amount of bills Americans have today can become overwhelming. But, if you, or someone you know, is having trouble affording dog or cat food or needs assistance with vet bills, help is out there! Check with your local food pantry or food bank to find out if they can provide your emotional service animal with dry or canned food. There are also services available to help low-income families with animal care or low-cost veterinary care.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for federal benefits such as SSI, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that allows low-income consumers to receive free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.