Almost every day nurses ask, “can I bring my pet on assignment with me?” And the answer is
absolutely yes, it may just be a bit more difficult to find housing. Many rental apartments or houses don’t allow pets on the lease, so if you can’t find a pet-friendly rental you may feel like your options are out. But, classifying your pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) might just be the way to go! ESAs can live in no-pet buildings and aren’t subject to breed or weight restrictions.
ESAs are federally mandated and regulated to protect both pet owners and landlords. Pets play an important role in our mental and emotional lives,
Let’s go over how you can use the ESA’s guidelines to qualify your pet, the documentation you need for landlords, and how to find a therapist or doctor to help:
DO I QUALIFY?
Emotional Support Animals are often confused for service animals, but it’s important to know ESAs are not service animals. According to the ADA National Network, "Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but are not specially trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.” These animals can help those suffering from mental health issues. To qualify your pet as a ESA, you just have to have an open and honest discussion with a licensed health professional about your mental health issues, and whether an Emotional Support Animal could help. If your therapist or doctor thinks you could benefit from an ESA, you can request a signed letter as documented proof of their recommendation, which you can then use to live in no-pet housing.
WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE NEEDED?
A common misconception about ESAs is that they need to be registered in some national database. That’s not the case, there is not a national registry for emotional support animals. In order to have your ESA living with you in a no-pet rental, you just need an ESA Housing Letter. The letter will need your basic information like your full name, a statement that you have a condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a statement that an ESA is being recommended to help with symptoms of the condition and what breed (dog, cat, bird, etc.), and the signature from a licensed healthcare provider. And that’s it. Don’t get scammed with phony websites that offer to register your pet as a ESA, they are looking to obtain your identity information. Just provide the ESA Housing letter to your landlord or HOA, they will verify the signature, and you’re all set!
CONNECT WITH A LICENSED THERAPIST OR DOCTOR
There are two ways you can get your ESA letter, and that’s through connecting with a licensed therapist or doctor in person or virtually. If you currently work with a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, etc., you might ask them to write a letter for your landlord on their professional letterhead. You can discuss an ESA with your primary care physician, and they may write you a letter, but most letters do not come from physicians as they’re usually unfamiliar with a patients' mental health. If you aren’t currently working with a qualified healthcare provider or if yours isn’t familiar with ESAs, there are multiple websites that can assist in this process. If this is something you want to explore, we encourage you to do the research, and talk to the experts who can give you the best advice as to whether or not you qualify.