In recent years, the demand for emotional support animals (ESAs) has skyrocketed. As ESA owners will already know, these assistance animals are much more than pets. They provide mental health support and companionship to individuals coping with psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Although anyone can own an emotional support animal, to get all the benefits of having an ESA, it’s a good idea to get an official ESA letter. This therapist-issued certification grants you and your emotional support animal important legal protections and rights, including preventing discrimination by landlords and ensuring that you can live with your ESA.
Due to the invaluable support that these animals offer their owners, more and more ESA letter providers are popping up online. Although this increases the options for securing a valid letter, it has also led to concerns about the legitimacy of some of these companies. CertaPet is one such company that has become a popular ESA letter provider. While they claim to offer comprehensive ESA letter services, my question is simple: "Is CertaPet legit?"
I know how important it is to be able to live with your ESA, and I want all ESA owners and pet parents to be confident that they are choosing a reputable provider. Getting a valid ESA letter for a fair price is something that everyone should be able to access without having to worry about being sold unnecessary or even fraudulent services.
In this review, I’ll discuss the services that CertaPet provides, the company’s compliance with federal regulations, its customer reviews, and how CertaPet compares to similar providers. My goal is to help you decide whether this company is a good choice for your ESA letter needs or whether there are other alternatives worth exploring.
Understanding Emotional Support Animals and ESA Letters
Before delving into the legitimacy of CertaPet, it is essential to understand ESAs and the purpose of an emotional support animal letter.
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
ESAs are animals that help people with an emotional or mental disability such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder to manage their symptoms and feel more supported. Unlike service animals, an emotional support dog or other animal isn’t required to undergo special training because simply being in their presence makes their owner feel better.
What Is an ESA Letter?
Once a licensed mental health professional confirms a person's need for an ESA due to a mental or emotional disability, they will approve and write an ESA letter. The letter must be dated, include the mental health professional’s license number, and be written on the professional's letterhead. Owners must obtain a valid ESA letter to be entitled to the rights and protections that come with emotional support animals.
Legal Rights and Protections of ESA Owners
ESA owners have certain legal rights and protections under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The FHA allows individuals with ESAs to live in housing units with no-pet policies. It also protects ESA owners from having to pay pet fees.
The ACAA previously permitted emotional service animals to accompany their owners in the cabin of an aircraft without additional fees. However, this privilege has since been restricted to service animals that have undergone proper training. However, airlines and other commercial entities may allow your ESA to accompany you in certain places if you have a valid ESA letter, though this is entirely at your discretion. Additionally, many ESA letter providers also offer services for individuals with psychiatric service dogs.
CertaPet: Company Overview and Services
CertaPet is an online service that puts people who need ESA letters in touch with licensed mental health professionals. Established with the aim of improving access to mental health services, CertaPet has become a popular choice for obtaining ESA letters.
CertaPet specializes in providing ESA letters for housing and travel purposes. They also provide information and guidance about emotional support animals and mental health.
ESA Letter Process
Although some ESA letter providers require extensive paperwork or preparation, CertaPet's process involves three straightforward steps:
- Application: The individual completes a free, confidential online assessment to determine their eligibility for an ESA letter.
- Mental Health Professional Evaluation: If eligible, CertaPet connects the applicant with a mental health professional licensed in their state for a telehealth evaluation.
- Delivery: Once approved, the applicant receives a digital and physical copy of their ESA letter, which is signed by the mental health professional and includes all the legally-required information.
CertaPet's Compliance with Federal Regulations
To determine if CertaPet is a credible ESA letter provider, I looked at how well the company complies with state and federal regulations regarding assistance animals, specifically the FHA and ACAA.
Fair Housing Act (FHA)
CertaPet's ESA letters adhere to FHA guidelines by ensuring that the licensed mental health professional responsible for composing the letter is licensed to practice in the applicant's home state. The letter is valid in the eyes of the FHA because it has the mental health professional’s license number, signature, and letterhead.
Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
CertaPet's ESA letters meet the requirements of the ACAA. Although airlines are no longer required to allow ESAs to ride in the cabin of commercial flights, obtaining an ESA letter is often the first step toward certifying your need for a psychiatric service animal. Once you complete this second step, you and your dog are protected under the ACAA. CertaPet’s website offers guidance for people navigating the various airline policies related to ESAs, and it’s important to check with your airline every time you fly with your ESA in case they’re not allowed.
Licensed Mental Health Professionals
CertaPet works with a network of licensed mental health professionals, such as psychologists, therapists, and counselors, who are qualified to evaluate clients and prescribe ESA letters if appropriate. By maintaining a broad network of such professionals, CertaPet can match customers with mental health professionals licensed in their state.
Customer Reviews and Testimonials
CertaPet's customer reviews and testimonials can provide valuable information about whether the company is trustworthy.
Reviews and Ratings
CertaPet has earned positive reviews on several platforms, including Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). These reviews frequently highlight the simplicity and efficiency of the process, as well as the responsiveness of CertaPet's customer service team.
While most reviews are positive, considering the negative ones is essential to forming a balanced perspective. Some customers have encountered delays in receiving their letters or faced challenges with airlines' handling of certain situations. Even so, reviews acknowledge that CertaPet's customer service team addresses such concerns in a timely manner.
Comparing CertaPet to Other ESA Letter Providers
To better understand CertaPet's legitimacy, I’ve compared their services and credentials to those of several other well-known ESA letter providers.
Emotional Pet Support
While Emotional Pet Support provides similar ESA letter options to CertaPet, they do so at a slightly lower price point. Unfortunately, this lower price comes at the cost of reliability, as their customer service appears to be below standard, and their refund policy is unclear. Even more concerning is the fact that their website lacks the necessary information to make an informed, accurate decision about whether Emotional Pet Support is right for your needs.
ESA Doctors meets all of the necessary regulations to approve and issue legitimate ESA letters. While this company’s services are marginally more expensive than CertaPet and other competitors, reviews indicate that ESA Doctors maintains an excellent customer service team. ESA Doctors also boasts a higher approval rate than some other letter providers.
Unlike other telehealth companies that exclusively focus on ESA letters, Mango Clinic is more akin to a traditional medical service provider. Nevertheless, they offer help and guidance for those seeking an ESA letter. While their pricing is on par with CertaPet’s, they lack a convincing satisfaction guarantee. Combined with the fact that they do not specialize in ESA letter approval, this leads to some uncertainty about their reliability and effectiveness.
Pettable is a highly-rated ESA letter service that offers qualified applicants a straightforward, legally-compliant process for getting an official ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. The company also provides help with psychiatric service dog training, which can be a great relief for those needing a service animal for reasons beyond emotional support, such as a psychiatric disability or help with practical day-to-day tasks.
With Pettable, customers can rest assured that they are getting the proper documentation they need at a fair price without worrying about the company trying to sell them fraudulent services like ESA registration.
After comparing CertaPet's services, compliance with federal rules, and customer reviews to competitors, I feel confident saying that CertaPet is a legitimate and trustworthy ESA letter provider. They abide by legal guidelines, collaborate with skilled mental health experts, and boast a solid track record of satisfied customers.
Although CertaPet is a perfectly acceptable option, Pettable stood out to me as the top service for obtaining your ESA letter, owing to its customer satisfaction guarantee and expanded range of services, including psychiatric service dog training and PSD letters.
Unlike CertaPet and many other providers, Pettable offers a full money-back guarantee in case customers are unhappy with the company’s services. This means that if a landlord rejects an ESA letter, customers can receive a refund or have their letter revised at no additional cost.
Better still, Pettable’s customer service team will get in touch with the housing provider on the customer’s behalf to help resolve the situation. This level of customer satisfaction demonstrates Pettable’s dedication to providing the best service possible.