For many people with mental or emotional disabilities, dogs, cats, or other animals are more than just pets – they’re emotional support animals (ESAs). By providing unconditional love, snuggles, and comfort, emotional support animals can help their owners cope with challenging symptoms of mental illness. In exchange, these animals are protected by ESA laws so they can better serve their humans.
Although they don’t need to have any special training like service dogs do, ESAs have similar legal protections. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), an individual may keep an emotional support animal in their home even in places with pet restrictions. Additionally, landlords aren’t allowed to charge extra fees for ESAs. Some airlines also recognize emotional support animals and allow them to fly in the cabin at no extra charge. This is especially true for people who need a psychiatric service dog to help them cope even with the most mundane tasks.
So can any pet be an ESA? In one sense, yes. The law doesn’t restrict ESA status to specific species or breeds, so you could have an ESA miniature horse or bird. But most ESAs are emotional support dogs or emotional support cats.
However, you can’t just declare your pet to be an ESA in order to get housing protections. The law requires you to have a medical “prescription” for an emotional support animal. This document must be written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) who has evaluated you and determined that you have a diagnosable emotional or mental disability and that an ESA should be part of your treatment plan.
While you could ask your primary care physician to write you an ESA Letter or schedule a consultation with a local LMHP, it’s usually faster and easier to go through an online company. These ESA services are specifically created for this purpose, so their processes are already streamlined and way efficient than a local provider's. There are several online providers of ESA Letters, but some are more legitimate than others. Both will allow you to acquire and register your support animals as quickly as possible, although they have very minor differences that you should take into consideration. Here’s a look at two ESA Letter companies: Pettable and ESA Doctors.
What Is Pettable?
Pettable provides official ESA Letters to individuals who are eligible to receive one. The company connects customers with LMHPs who can conduct a mental health evaluation and write a legitimate ESA Letter that meets the legal requirements for FHA housing protections.
How Does Pettable Work?
Pettable makes the process of getting an ESA Letter quick and simple. The service connects each client with a mental health professional who is licensed to practice in the client’s state, which is required for an ESA Letter to be valid. Here are the basic steps of the Pettable process:
- Take the online pre-evaluation quiz. It’s a short questionnaire that only takes a few minutes to complete. You’ll answer screening questions about your mental and emotional health. If your answers indicate that you may have an emotional or mental disability that qualifies for an emotional support animal, you can move on to the next step.
- Complete your payment. If you “pass” the quiz, you’ll go to Pettable’s payment page to choose which type of letter you want.
- Sign the forms. After you choose and pay for your letter, you’ll receive an email with a few documents to sign. After filling out and signing these forms, Pettable will send you a link to schedule a consultation with an LMHP. For an ESA Letter to be valid, it must be written by a licensed medical professional who has completed a “live” in-person or telehealth evaluation of the patient.
- Talk with a medical provider. During your evaluation, you will discuss your mental and emotional health and symptoms to see whether you have an eligible mental or emotional disability. If so, the LMHP will determine if an ESA would help you and will write a recommendation letter.
- Get your letter. If you meet the eligibility requirements for an ESA Letter, you can get it via email in as little as 24 hours. If you don’t meet the requirements, your money is fully refunded to you.
Pettable’s ESA Letters meet all federal and state requirements and FHA standards. The company also offers a full satisfaction guarantee. If you meet the eligibility requirements but your letter doesn’t work as intended, you can get all your money back.
How Much Does It Cost To Get an ESA Letter From Pettable?
With Pettable, you can get an individual letter designed for a housing provider or an air carrier. You can also get both in a discounted package. A single letter costs $149, which includes the cost of the mental health evaluation. The set of both letters is $199.
Is Pettable Legit?
Yes. Pettable connects clients with trained, licensed providers who are able to write and sign official ESA Letters. The company offers a money-back guarantee if you pass the pre-evaluation but don’t meet the eligibility requirements during your consultation. Additionally, there is a satisfaction guarantee. Pettable will refund all your money if your document doesn’t work as intended.
Here are some of the best advantages of Pettable:
- Satisfaction guarantee even after you receive your ESA Letter
- Prequalification quiz avoids confidential personal details
- Quick and easy process
- Ongoing customer service that will answer questions and even talk with landlords who question your letter
- Available for patients in all 50 states
- No additional charges for multiple pets
- Available express service provides your letter in 24 hours
- Excellent value
Overall, Pettable makes it easy for eligible individuals to get a valid ESA Letter.
Here are some of Pettable’s disadvantages:
- No upfront pricing information
- Pre-screening quiz requires your email address for marketing purposes
- Must pay in full before your consultation
Although these issues are somewhat annoying, we have no concerns about Pettable’s legitimacy or their satisfaction guarantee.
Our Review of Pettable
With its simple process and helpful pre-screening quiz, Pettable simplifies and speeds up the process of getting an official ESA Letter. The site clearly states that its documents meet all FHA and HIPAA requirements, as well as those related to the Air Carrier Access Act. Unlike some other online ESA providers, Pettable doesn’t say you need to register your ESA or get them into a database (which you don’t). Pettable also doesn’t sell any unnecessary services, such as ESA certificates.
What Is ESA Doctors?
ESA Doctors is another online provider of ESA Letters. Like Pettable, ESA Doctors provides truthful and accurate information about ESA regulations on its website. The ESA Doctors site discusses ESA Letter eligibility requirements and doesn’t sell unnecessary services like ESA registration.
How Does ESA Doctors Work?
The process to get a letter from ESA Doctors has a few steps:
- Fill out an online questionnaire designed to assess your mental and emotional health.
- After completing the questionnaire, pay the full fee for your letter.
- Once you have made your payment, your information is sent to an LMHP. The ESA Doctors site says it works with licensed, independent medical professionals in various states.
- If you meet the requirements for an emotional support animal, you will get an ESA Letter that is signed by an LMHP.
While Pettable clearly states that you must complete a telehealth evaluation with an LMHP before getting your letter, the process for ESA Doctors is less clear. The ESA Doctors site states that the LMHP uses your questionnaire answers to evaluate your condition. Some review sites say that ESA Doctors doesn’t require patients to go through a live consultation.
For an ESA Letter to be legitimate and valid, the LMHP who writes it must have evaluated the patient in person or in a telehealth environment – they may not make a determination just based on questionnaire answers. So it’s unclear whether a letter from ESA Doctors meets legal requirements.
How Much Does It Cost To Get an ESA Letter From ESA Doctors?
ESA Doctors offers three different pricing plans. A digital letter designed for use with housing providers is $159. The Plus package also includes a hard copy of the letter and “priority support” for $189. ESA Doctors also offers PSD Letters for psychiatric service dogs. It costs $199 to get a PSD Letter.
Is ESA Doctors Legit?
It’s unclear. If the service does facilitate telehealth evaluations with LMHPs prior to providing ESA Letters, then it is probably a legitimate service.
However, it is unclear from the ESA Doctors website whether this type of evaluation happens or whether the LMHPs simply use the answers from the online questionnaire to diagnose patients and evaluate their need for an ESA. If this is the case, the service cannot be considered legitimate.
ESA Doctors Pros
Here are some benefits of ESA Doctors:
- Offers PSD letters for patients who are eligible for specially trained psychiatric service dogs
- Similar price point to other online ESA Letter providers
- Donates a portion of profits to animal rights groups
- Fees for additional services (like automatic annual renewal) are clearly stated
These benefits make ESA Doctors easy to work with.
ESA Doctors Cons
However, we do have some concerns about ESA Doctors:
- Evaluation process (and therefore, letter legitimacy) is unverifiable
- No phone support
- Full refund is offered if you don’t qualify for an ESA Letter, but there is a $39 fee if you cancel your order
- Order is nonrefundable after 24 hours or signing the consent form
- Additional fee for “priority email support”
While ESA Doctors may be a legitimate provider, it does charge more fees than Pettable. It doesn’t offer phone-based customer support, which may be challenging for clients with unreliable access to email.
Our Review of ESA Doctors
We like a lot of things about ESA Doctors – there’s no attempt to sell meaningless services like ESA registration, and they do offer a PSD Letter option. However, we can’t verify that the documentation is legitimate, because the evaluation process is not explained. If LMHPs are writing letters solely based on the online questionnaire, their ESA Letters may not hold up to legal challenges.
Pettable vs. ESA Doctors
With similar price points and processes, Pettable and ESA Doctors both make it easy to get an ESA Letter. Neither one tries to make money by offering unnecessary services like registration in a database or emotional support animal certification.
However, there is a significant difference between Pettable and ESA Doctors: the evaluation process. Pettable clearly states that each client must complete a phone consultation with an LMHP to determine eligibility. We couldn’t determine whether ESA Doctors has the same requirement, which may mean that a letter from ESA Doctors is not valid.
There are few extra things that Pettable provides. It offers a complete money-back guarantee, even after patients receive their ESA Letters. Pettable also provides ongoing phone support, so customers can have resistant landlords call Pettable directly to discuss ESA Letters and FHA regulations.
With its clearly defined evaluation process, satisfaction guarantee, and comprehensive customer support, Pettable is an excellent choice for online ESA Letters. If you need help with your ESA registration, you can weigh in between these two and pick the one that's most convenient for you.
No matter which ESA letter service you choose, ensure that you are following the state's regulations where you are a resident. Every state has slightly different requirements for getting an official ESA letter. For instance, to get an ESA letter Colorado will accept, you must arrange for a live appointment with a licensed mental health professional, meaning that a therapy chat service would not be applicable. As you navigate an ESA letter service, reviewing your state’s requirements in advance will ensure that you are correctly following the procedure.