Do ESA Letters Expire?
Many Americans living with mental health complexities such as depression and anxiety are finding healing and comfort in the paws of an emotional support animal (ESA). Mental health professionals can provide their patients with a special document called an ESA letter which confirms that their patient's mental disability symptoms are alleviated by the emotional support and companionship of their animal. But exactly how long does an ESA letter last?
The answer to whether or not an ESA letter expires is technically both YES and NO, as it will depend on your circumstances. However, no ESA owner should have to face the embarrassment and inconvenience of being rejected for flights or housing just because they let their ESA letter expire. Find out how DoNotPay can help you request and renew ESA letters with confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions About ESA Letters
An emotional support animal (ESA) can be a dog, cat, or any other pet prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. Unlike service dogs, ESAs are not specifically trained to assist their handlers with tasks. Rather, they provide love and companionship which helps to soothe and alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental traumas. You can prove you require the presence of your ESA at all times with an official ESA Letter.
Here’s a table that outlines the differences between an emotional support animal vs a service animal:
|Definition||A pet, whose presence is determined to be needed for the mental health of a patient. The pet is prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.||According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are dogs that are trained to perform tasks or do work for people with disabilities.|
|Does the assistance animal have access to public areas?||No||Yes|
|Can the assistance animal be banned or restricted when the owner is obtaining housing?||No||No|
|Will the owner of the assistance animal be charged a pet deposit for living with one?||No||No|
|Is the assistance animal allowed on flights free of charge?||No||Yes|
What Makes an ESA Letter Official?
An ESA Letter is documentation that proves your animal is a contributing factor to your overall mental health and wellbeing. In order to be considered authentic, an ESA letter must contain the following:
- The prescribing physician's particular license.
- The date of expiration of that license.
- The date the letter was issued.
- The prescribing physician's contact information.
Who Is Qualified to Write an ESA Letter?
Valid ESA letters can only be written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). Those with the power to approve eligibility requirements for your support animal include:
- Licensed Counselors
- Physician's Assistants
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
How Long Are ESA Letters Good For?
ESA documents are generally good for one year, although emotional support animal owners should take it upon themselves to know when and why ESA letters expire and how to keep ESA documents valid. Different circumstances will dictate whether you are legally obligated to produce a recent letter, or whether an existing letter can continue to stay on file. The two most common purposes for needing to produce an ESA letter are for housing approval and for air travel with an animal.
- ESA Letters for Housing: DO NOT EXPIRE
According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a valid ESA letter allows a person to live with their emotional support animal free of charge, even in buildings that do not allow pets. The U.S. Department of Housing does not have an official rule about whether ESA letters expire, leaving some to argue that a single ESA letter is sufficient.
- ESA Letters for Airlines: DO EXPIRE
Under the updated Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines are not legally required to honor ESA letters. Those that do will require a valid document issued within the previous twelve-month period that proves you meet the criteria for needing an emotional support animal. Airlines may also require ESA owners to fill out additional documents for flying with their emotional support animal, including a Veterinary Health Form and/or a Confirmation of Animal Health form.
Should I Renew My ESA Letter Every Year?
Yes. Because emotional support animals are prescribed by medical professionals, it makes sense that you'd want to keep your prescription renewed just like other medications. There's no reason you should be stuck in a situation where you are denied accommodation by a landlord or airline because of an out-of-date ESA letter. Here's why it's good practice to keep your ESA documents updated at all times.
- Some landlords may argue that an ESA letter for housing is only valid within twelve months of issuance. If your housing provider refuses to accept ESA documentation that is over an old one, you may be legally required to provide them with an updated version.
- As with other medications, ESA patients need to demonstrate a continued need for their support animal. If you let your ESA letter lapse, a new or different therapist may not be able to validate and renew your ESA letter without a diagnosis.
It is highly recommended that all ESA owners renew their ESA letters every year, regardless of their travel plans or housing situation.
How to Get or Renew an ESA Letter On Your Own
If you want to do this on your own here’s what you need to do.
- If you're lucky enough to have regular access to a therapist or a licensed physician that is familiar with your mental health needs, you can directly request a letter after booking an appointment. In today's world, however, that might not be so easy. Many patients find there can be several weeks of waiting for their doctor's next available opening.
- You can try booking an appointment online through an accredited health care provider that is qualified to draft ESA letters. Telehealth appointments may be more readily available, but can be very confusing to navigate, especially if you don't have the right technology.
- There are also various online services that claim they can easily help you renew your ESA letter—for a fee. Be careful about these sites, as it can be difficult to prove they employ state-authorized therapists that issue authentic ESA letters.
Getting Your ESA Letter With a Little Help From DoNotPay
Looking for a hassle-free way to get your ESA letter that's as reliable as your beloved creature? Getting approved for an ESA letter or renewal has never been easier thanks to the Emotional Support Animal product created by DoNotPay. This new service takes care of all your ESA-related concerns and will contact your landlord, your airline, and even your mental health doctor on your behalf!
Follow these 3 simple steps to straighten out your ESA letter writing needs:
- Search for the words "service animal" through DoNotPay.
- Select the type of issue you need help with: contacting your landlord about your service animal or ESA; requesting ESA options from your chosen airline; or asking for service accommodations at other venues.
- Answer our questions about your ESA and the details of your current situation so we can provide the best results for you.
That's all you need to do! Based on your situation, DoNotPay will reach out and handle all your ESA-specific needs, including sending correspondence to your mental health expert requesting your ESA accommodation letter or renewal.
DoNotPay Cares About You and Your Pets
DoNotPay understands that your pets are like your children, whether they act as an official emotional support animal or not. Any individual who relies on the comforting camaraderie of an ESA or other animal will be pleased to learn that DoNotPay offers other pet-specific products and services, including:
- Pet Licenses
- Finding Lost Pets
- Contacting Animal Control
- Reporting Animal Abuse
- Pet Custody Agreements
- Airline Specific Information Regarding Flying with Emotional Support Animals (i.e. Southwest)
As with the Emotional Support Animal service, all the help offered by DoNotPay is easy to navigate and carefully curated to provide you with the best results possible. You'll want to use us to tackle all your problems!
What Else? DoNotPay Does It All
DoNotPay can make your life easier in every possible way. Here are just a few options to consider to get you started:
- Get Help Paying Your Bills
- Clean Up Your Credit Report
- Reduce Your Property Taxes
- Find Free Hotel Upgrades
- Cancel Any Service or Subscription
- Discover Unclaimed Money
- How to Sue in Small Claims Court
While you may not rely on DoNotPay in quite the same way as you rely on your emotional support animal, we're still pretty sure you'll love all we have to offer. Why not log in today?