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Emotional Support Animal Gimmick?
Over the past couple of years, there has been a significant increase in emotional support animal letter requests. With this surge of requests, some landlords question the legitimacy of tenants' condition and need resulting in denials and legal actions. Unfortunately for those who have legitimate mental and emotional conditions, which are or would benefit from an emotional support animal, they are put in unnecessarily distress, heightening their mental and or emotional symptoms.
For instance, I have had many clients in the past that have been very emotionally distraught during their assessment, having crying spells, some genuinely devastated even to think that their pet might not be accepted. In some cases, the properties might accept a pet, but there is a 25lb limit. And, for some pet owners, this is a significant problem, as their pet/ESA may be over the 25lb limit, like a German Shepard. Some would say the solution is to get a smaller dog, but what many fail to realize is that like take the case example of the German Shepard dog, he is considered a part of the family, that's brought his owner comfort for years; being in-tuned and responding to his owner's feelings, helping alleviate distressful mental and emotional symptoms.
Some people that seek an ESA letter may already have a pet that they have owned for years that might be providing them with some mental and/or emotional symptom alleviation, but never knew or perhaps didn't need an assessment and letter to support their need of such a pet to be accepted in their dwelling that do not permit or have restrictions on pets. And then there some the get a pet after being assessed and diagnosed with a mental and/or emotional diagnosis recognizing the potential of having a pet can have on their well-being, though studies have conflicting findings some report there is no conclusive support that pets do in fact help with mental or emotional distress, and at the same token many cannot disprove it either. The benefits of an animal having on a person's mental or emotional well-being varies (case by case).
There are definitely different types of supportive pets that provide different levels of alleviation and help to their owners; in fact, they have different titles, though some are used interchangeably, like services dog, animal assistant, and ESA. The significant difference is that some of these are actually trained more than others to perform actual actions on behalf of their owner, given certain limitations, like assist with walking, getting things, turning on and off things, provide a certain level of protection for safety and comfort, etc. The benefits of these "pets" and what they offer is subjective, as they are personal and unique relationship.
Many may argue, of course, pet owners love their pet/s and feel they are like family, but that does not, therefore, mean they are qualified to be recognized as an ESA, and I would say that is true. When assessments are conducted, first and foremost the professional is assessing for mental and emotional symptoms to determine if the client meets the requirements of a mental health diagnosis, as well as further assessments into the clients' relationships (family and social), work, traumas, attachments, etc. providing another layer of understanding about their needs and coping abilities, challenges and strategies, support, and resources, etc. Lastly given the intention is to determine if the clients meet the requirements to obtain an ESA letter, the professional would explore the clients' relationship with his or her pet (for those that already have one) to determine if the pet provides an alleviation of mental and or emotional symptoms, as evident when asking, for instance, circular causality questions (cause and effect and supportive correlational incidents across the lifetime of their relationship with the pet).
With all this said, I hope you can see why selecting the right professional to conduct your assessment and write your letter is critical because an acceptable letter should go beyond the typical templates you will easily find in google that many companies are using, however, you would be taking the risk of being denied when choosing a company that does a brief assessment and gives you a generic letter that does not provide the landlord enough insight to conclude that you legitimately need your pet to cope and "survive," meeting the FHA definition and avoiding being denied by the landlord.
The following link provides several great ESA FAQs for you to review.
If interested in determining if you prequalify for a mental and emotional assessment to determine if meet HUD ESA Letter requirements contact me today at 888-995-3676 or [email protected]
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