Travel Healthcare With Pets: How to Register an ESA

Almost every day we’re asked by travelers, “can I bring my pet on assignment with me?” And the answer is absolutely yes, but it may 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 healthcare 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:

Do I Qualify For an ESA?

Emotional Support Animals are often confused for service animals, but it’s important to understand that 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 do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.” ESAs can be life-changing for those suffering from mental health issues. To qualify for an ESA, you just need to have an open and honest discussion with a licensed healthcare professional about your mental health issues, and whether an Emotional Support Animal could help you. If your therapist or doctor thinks an ESA would benefit you, 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 For an ESA?

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! 

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, 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. 

If you're on the fence about traveling with your pet, learn more about How a Pet Can Benefit Your Travel Healthcare Career

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