The value of emotional support animals as a source of comfort for people struggling with mental and emotional health issues has become increasingly clear over the past several decades. Because of this, the demand for letters that protect an ESA owner’s right to live with their emotional support animal is higher than ever.
Although the process for getting an official ESA letter was previously limited to in-person appointments at a hospital or doctor’s office, some online companies have begun offering a telehealth service. Online providers aim to simplify the process by connecting clients with mental health professionals who can prescribe ESA letters via an online platform.
Getting an emotional support animal letter can provide immense benefits for ESA owners – specifically, allowing you to live with your ESA in all types of housing – but it’s essential for pet parents to know that they will receive a legitimate letter before committing time or money.
With so many online companies now offering various services for ESA owners, we wanted to ensure that clients have access to a straightforward, transparent, and legally-compliant process for obtaining their ESA documents.
In this review, we’ve focused on US Service Animals, a well-known ESA letter provider, to determine whether they offer legitimate ESA letters and other services and assess how customers rate the overall experience and results.
Understanding Emotional Support Animals and ESA Letters
Before looking into the legitimacy of US Service Animals, it's important to understand what emotional support animals are and how getting an official ESA letter can benefit their owners.
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
ESAs offer emotional support and comfort to individuals with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. Unlike psychiatric service dogs, they do not receive specific task-oriented training but help their owners meet the challenges of daily life simply through their reassuring presence.
What Are the Legal Benefits of ESA Letters?
An emotional support animal letter written and signed by a licensed mental health professional certifies that a person requires an ESA due to a mental or emotional disability.
Obtaining an ESA letter ensures legal protection under the Fair Housing Act, which permits ESA owners to reside with their animals in apartments or other types of housing that may otherwise enforce a no-pets policy or impose pet fees.
How to Obtain an ESA Letter
To get an ESA letter, an individual must be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional. Based on the individual's emotional or mental health status, the mental health professional will determine whether they need an ESA.
Once the assessment is complete, the mental health provider will issue an ESA letter that includes their license number, contact information, and the date the letter was issued.
What Services Does US Service Animals Provide?
Although many similar companies exist, US Service Animals is a leading provider of online ESA letters for housing. Here's a closer look at their services and process:
US Service Animals specializes in providing ESA letters for housing. Under the terms of the FHA, these documents allow ESA owners to live with their emotional support dog or animal in apartments or other housing with no-pet policies.
The company also offers service dog registration and psychiatric service dog (PSD) training, enabling owners to travel with their support animal on commercial airlines without paying extra fees.
Unfortunately, we noticed that alongside an expensive emotional support animal vest, US Service Animals prominently advertises an “emotional support animal registration” service.
While this may look like an attractive and useful option for ESA owners, it is actually an entirely unnecessary step with no legal basis. It will not help ESA owners live with their ESA, nor does it give them the right to bring their ESA onto an airplane any more than they would with a normal pet. It was disappointing to see US Service Animals offering this essentially meaningless service.
US Service Animals uses a telemedicine platform to connect customers with licensed mental health professionals. This approach allows quick, convenient assessments without the need for in-person appointments.
Fees and Process
People who want to get an ESA letter or register a service dog through US Service Animals must complete an online questionnaire. Afterward, they are connected with a licensed mental health professional for a virtual assessment.
Depending on the type of service, costs can range from $99 to well over $200. If approved, the ESA letter is issued and delivered electronically.
US Service Animals Credibility and Compliance
For something as important as ensuring your right to live with your emotional support animal, it’s important to use only the most trustworthy ESA letter services. In this section, we’ll explore US Service Animals’ adherence to federal and state laws and any relevant partnerships or accreditations they possess.
Compliance with FHA and ACAA
According to their website, US Service Animals follows the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act guidelines. Additionally, their website mentions that they match customers with medical professionals licensed in their state of residence. This factor is crucial, as an ESA letter is only valid if issued by a health professional within the recipient’s state.
Affiliations and Certifications
US Service Animals does not list specific affiliations or certifications on its website, making it more difficult to verify the company’s legitimacy and whether they have official approval for the services they offer.
Privacy Policies and Data Protection
Customer Reviews and Testimonials for US Service Animals
Customer feedback can offer valuable insights into the quality and reliability of a business. To assess US Service Animals' legitimacy, we looked closely at both positive and negative customer comments posted on online review sites.
Many customers report positive experiences with US Service Animals, praising the ease and convenience of the online assessment process. Others appreciate the prompt service, noting that they received their ESA letter only a few days after approval.
Some customers expressed concerns or dissatisfaction with their experience. Common issues include difficulty connecting with licensed mental health professionals, unresponsiveness from customer service, and concerns about the validity of the issued ESA letters.
How to Choose an ESA Letter Provider
US Service Animals is far from the only online ESA letter provider, and some other popular companies are CertaPet, Pettable, and ESA Doctors. Before choosing a provider, it’s advisable to review the various companies’ services, fees, and credibility. As you do your research, compare US Service Animals to other ESA letter providers and consider the following:
Legality and Credibility
When choosing an ESA letter provider, it’s critical to make sure the company provides legitimate, legal letters. To do this, the company must only employ qualified medical professionals, supply a therapist licensed in the customer’s home state, and include all relevant information when prescribing ESA letters.
Although less expensive than the traditional, in-person methods of obtaining an ESA letter, US Service Animals’ fees are still substantially higher than some of its competitors. If cost is an issue, consider finding a company with lower fees or better value.
When deciding whether to use US Service Animals for your ESA letter needs, take time to browse reviews for the platform. While their telemedicine platform and quick service may be appealing, potential customers may regard the mixed customer reviews and lack of affiliations or certifications as potential red flags.
Why Pettable Is Our Choice for Online ESA Letters
While US Service Animals appears to provide a reliable and trustworthy service, our research has led us to conclude that Pettable is an even better option for obtaining a legitimate ESA letter. Because of their commitment to quality, Pettable only works with highly-rated licensed mental health professionals nationwide and connects clients with respective providers in their state.
Following a brief questionnaire, Pettable matches clients with a trusted therapist for a confidential online consultation. If the client is approved for an ESA letter, the clinician will send an official ESA letter for housing within 48 hours of their assessment (though this process takes longer for California residents).
On top of Pettable’s experienced health professionals and customer service team, they also offer a money-back guarantee if your ESA letter is not approved or if your landlord rejects the letter. They will even help discuss your situation with your housing provider if they are unhappy with your ESA prescription.
Additionally, Pettable’s team of experts can help with psychiatric service animal training. They also offer an extensive library of resources so you can brush up on the latest guidelines for living and traveling with your ESA or psychiatric service dog.
Based on our research, we feel confident that the ESA letters provided by US Service Animals are legitimate and should work for housing purposes. While their telemedicine platform and commitment to privacy are points in their favor, the company’s lack of information about its founders and employees raises concerns about their credibility, as do some mixed customer reviews.
However, the most concerning aspect of US Service Animals is the fact that they sell “emotional support animal registrations,” which serve no practical purpose and offer no legal protection for ESA owners who want to bring their support animals with them to public places.
When seeking an ESA letter, confidence in your chosen service is paramount. Make sure to gather all available information, weigh the pros and cons, and decide based on your needs and individual circumstances.
If you still have doubts or concerns, contact the ESA letter provider’s customer service team. If they provide clear, helpful, and honest information (without trying to sell you unnecessary services or meaningless certifications) and offer a comprehensive refund policy, you’ve made a good choice for yourself and your emotional support animal.