As CEO of ESADoggy, my team is often asked about fake ESA letters sold on the Internet, $49 instant certificates, leases, collars, tags, and the what-not.
Here’s our response.
According to HUD’s Fair Housing Act, an emotional support animal letter of recommendation is based on an individual’s “disability and disability-related need” for an assistance animal.
Simple enough, here’s where it gets wonky.
Nearly all online ESA vendors engage therapists who review self-reported answers from a cheesy online mental health assessment. Rarely, in fact, almost never, will those therapists engage with a client.
How else can they provide a $35 ESA letter — for which a therapist is compensated $10 for their review of a DSM–5 Self-Rated Level 1 Cross Cut Symptom Measure.
That is unethical at best.
When providing just an assessment, it’s ESADoggy’s position that our therapists cannot ethically assert a client relationship.
Making an informed decision
In 2018, property owners, their lawyers, and the Federal Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) are scrutinizing emotional support animal letters, ensuring their legitimacy; in particular, under close study is the client/therapist relationship.
Hence, the problem inherent in just offering an assessment-only solution, for the previously mentioned reasoning.
ESA letters are under much closer review
When queried by property-owners — and querying is becoming a general rule of thumb — many emotional support animal letters are now denied due to the letter’s lack of reliability.
Reliability, in this case, can be understood as “was the therapist in a position to know?” Was the therapist located nearby? How many sessions took place? What was the nature of the therapeutic relationship?
About those readily available cheap letters
Letters with zero client/therapist interaction? Instant letters? Letters written by an out-of-state provider? Once, perhaps able to fly under the radar; now they’re problematic.
We believe if an emotional support animal is necessary to alleviate the functional limitations associated with an emotional disability, then a client may benefit from therapeutic counseling.
We refer to this as the “assessment + session” model, and our job is to make an introduction, orchestrate an assessment, and help “brew a therapeutic relationship.”
It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
About Chaz Stevens, CEO
Chaz Stevens is an American entrepreneur, activist, and professional software developer. He is the founder and chief executive officer of ESADoggy. ESADoggy connects individuals struggling with the challenges of life with licensed mental health professionals.