Almost every day we’re asked by travelers, “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, working in travel therapy with a pet is totally possible! 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. Keep in mind, this isn’t a cheat code so you can move four dogs into your apartment; ESAs are federally mandated and regulated to protect both pet owners and landlords. Our pets can play a huge role in our mental and emotional well-being, so we're going over how the ESA’s guidelines for qualifying your pet, the documentation you need for landlords, and how to find a therapist or doctor to help:
A common misconception about ESAs is that they need to be registered in some national database. That’s not the case, there is no national registry for emotional support animals. In order to have your ESA living with you in a no-pet rental, you only need an ESA Housing Letter. Your letter will need to contain 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 alleviate symptoms of the condition and what breed (dog, cat, bird, etc.), and the license information and signature from your healthcare provider. And that’s all! You will find websites that offer to register your pet as an ESA, but that is simply a scam. Once you provide the ESA Housing letter to your landlord or HOA, they will verify the signature, and you’re all set!
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, licensed counselor, or mental health nurse, you can ask them to write an ESA letter for your landlord. You can discuss an ESA with your primary care physician, and they may offer to write you a letter, but most letters do not come from physicians as they’re usually unfamiliar with a patients' mental health or the ESA process. 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. Websites like ESA Doctors and CertaPet can answer any questions you have on the process, help you schedule an appointment with a licensed professional, and provide customer support when needed. 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.