Legitimate ESA Letter Services (BBB Accredited Sites)
Do you want to certify a dog, cat or other pet online as an Emotional Support Animal in order to exercise your air travel and housing related rights, which are protected by Federal law?
Using the services of legitimate, law-abiding and trustworthy providers is the best way to avoid the risks of being exploited, overcharged, scammed or ripped off.
This list provides information about ESA letter websites approved by the Better Business Bureau, after being thoroughly reviewed by the national consumer organization and successfully meeting all their strict requirements.
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Emotional support animals (ESA) help people who struggle with medically diagnosed disabling mental conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, phobias, and others.
ESAs have become increasingly popular in recent years and although they tend to be dogs or cats in most cases, they are not limited by any specific species and technically could be any animal.
These furry friends provide unconditional love, affection, emotional support, and comfort which is critical to their owner’s daily functioning as well as their capacity to handle life’s challenges.
Their presence has the ability to offer mental health benefits by relieving stress, providing joy and companionship, making people calmer, and minimizing the negative symptoms of their condition.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act provide ESA owners certain rights.
These privileges apply in the context of two situations where pets may not typically be permitted, or even outlawed: housing and air travel.
This legislation enables certified emotional support animals to travel on planes (in the passenger cabin) with their owners.
In addition, landlords and housing providers must accept individuals and their animal, even in cases of pet-free buildings or rented apartments, without any extra fee or pet security deposit.
In order to receive this designation in a legal way, the person must have a verifiable disability.
The pet must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
An ESA letter is a formal doctor’s note which states that the presence of the pet mitigates symptoms of that disability and is necessary for the patient’s mental health and wellbeing.
This official document with the professional’s letterhead acknowledges that the person has been prescribed an ESA. However, without such a letter, neither commercial airlines nor landlords are legally obligated to let your therapy animal in.
The prescription letter can be obtained either by visiting a licensed mental health professional’s clinic for a one-on-one evaluation or by using an online service, in cases where visiting a healthcare provider is either unaffordable or impractical.
ESA websites require users to fill out a detailed multiple-choice questionnaire that asks them about their mental health.
After the online exam is over, applicants speak with a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor, either over the internet or by phone.
The professional asks follow-up questions, listens to the person’s answers, and assesses whether the individual is eligible for an emotional support animal or not.
If approved, the LMHP can write a recommendation for an emotional support animal and the letter is delivered to the patient both digitally as well as physically, in the mail.
Consumer Tips: How to Avoid ESA Letter Scams Online
Just like any other sector that involves consumers, businesses, and money that switches hands, the online ESA certification market also has its fair share of scammers, fraudsters and con artists that operate online and look for potential victims.
Scammers use a variety of illegal, unethical or dishonest ways to capitalize on some of the most vulnerable people in society, who cope with challenging mental or emotional problems.
Some bogus companies sell fake certification or registration services over the internet.
These shady operations often promise cheap printable letters and instant automated approvals without even talking to a professional who is licensed to practice in the applicant’s state.
Needless to say, these unenforceable documents do not have any legal value and not worth the paper they are printed on.
Other fraudsters offer multiple-year ESA letters, which is an obvious scam since a letter must be renewed every year in order to keep it valid.
Some unethical websites market their service as a sophisticated way to abuse or game the system and bypass housing restrictions, avoid travel hassles, save money on certain fees and get pets into places where they are not normally allowed.
Taking these steps will help you to find more credible and reliable companies:
Avoid Shady Sites
Do not use ESA letter mills that approve almost anyone without any significant screening, or pose as a “national ESA registry” – which does not exist.
Use a Service That Offers a Guarantee
Prefer online services that provide a fair refund policy or money back guarantee, in case the application is eventually declined.
Check for Support
A good service must offer good customer support that will help you even after your Emotional Support Animal letter is prescribed and sent.
Make sure the website has the ability to promptly respond to verification requests and to issue Airline-specific authorization forms.
Investigate the ESA Certification Site’s BBB Record
Check the company’s record on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
What you’ll find there will help you to evaluate whether it’s a legitimate business that deserves your money and trust or if you must look elsewhere.
Look for the current BBB rating, customer reviews, complaints, warnings and alerts on their business profile.
Also, learn how long it has been in business – a potential indicator of experience and reputation.
If the company is not even listed with the BBB, this is a very bad sign.
On the other hand, if the ESA letter service is certified as a BBB Accredited Business, it’s an important positive signal.
Pay Close Attention to Red Flags
Learn how to protect yourself better when ordering goods and services on the internet, to avoid scammers and keep safe in general.
Knowing how to check if a website is legitimate or not is the first line of defense.