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How to Get an ESA Letter in Colorado – The Definitive Guide Updated for 2020

2020-11-03

Coloradans often boast that Colorado is among the best states to own a dog. It has a diverse and stunning landscape featuring deserts, mountains, and rivers. However, the people of Colorado still experience the daily pressures and stresses of the world like the rest of us. Therefore, licensed mental health professionals in Colorado and around the US are prescribing ESAs to deal with these stresses.

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are animals prescribed to provide comfort and support to a person who has an emotional disability or chronic condition. While service dogs help with day-to-day activities and sometimes even sense seizures or fainting episodes, ESAs comfort their owner in times of stress or pain. It might not seem like a lot, but an emotional support animal can mean the world to some people.

In this article, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of getting an ESA letter in Colorado so you can experience the beautiful scenery and environment with your animal.

Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Colorado?

You cannot self-prescribe an emotional support dog anywhere in the United States. In other words, you can’t just own a cat or dog and suddenly say that they’re your ESA. You also cannot take this emotional support animal everywhere and expect similar protections as you would get for a service dog. There are steps to take, and the first is to determine if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

Self-Assessment

In Colorado and many other states, getting an emotional support animal or an emotional support dog isn’t a 5-minute process. You must meet qualifications before either registering your animal as an ESA or getting an ESA of your own.

ESAs are best for those who have a disability, such as a mental illness or emotional distress condition. The potential qualifying disorders include:

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Autism

• Bipolar Disorder

• Panic Attacks

• PTSD

• Phobias

• Attention Deficit Disorder

• Learning Disabilities

• Schizophrenia

• Other mental disabilities

If you have one of these conditions, you could qualify for getting your emotional support animal.

Admitting that you have a mental or emotional illness and recognizing that you need help is one of the most challenging steps you can take. There’s a stigma attached to mental illnesses such as depression, so seeking help is something to celebrate.

Contact a Licensed Mental Health Professional

Suppose you believe you could benefit from an emotional support animal or an emotional support dog. In that case, you can continue to the next step: contacting a licensed healthcare or mental health professional.

A licensed professional can help you assess your condition and whether it warrants getting an emotional support animal.

You can also contact a therapist or mental health expert online. An emotional support animal letter from an online therapist or clinician is just as valid as an emotional support animal letter from an in-person doctor.

Once the professional has cleared you to get your ESA, you’re ready to get the ESA letter!

These are the two steps you must take to see if you qualify for an ESA letter in Colorado. It seems like it could be a long process, but the sooner you start seeking help to determine if you qualify for an emotional support animal, the sooner you can get your ESA.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Colorado That You Need to Know

Now that you’ve determined you qualify for an ESA, you should know the laws about these animals in Colorado.

ESA are Defined by Law

ESAs are different from service dogs, especially when it comes to laws and protections.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service dogs as animals that have undergone training to provide a service to someone with disabilities or other illnesses.

ESAs do not go through training to provide a service. Instead, they provide comfort. For this reason, emotional support animals do not have the full rights and protections under the ADA as a service dog in Colorado.

CO Businesses and ESA Reasonable Accommodation

Businesses in Colorado and around the country are under legal obligations to allow service dogs in all areas open to the public. Colorado businesses also cannot ask for documentation that the animal is a service animal. Often, people with service dogs would not live everyday life without the assistance of a service animal.

As mentioned, ESAs are not the same as service dogs. Therefore, they do not get this same privilege of accommodations in public spaces and businesses.

Colorado and Emotional Support Animals

Under Colorado law, emotional support animals fall under the category of “assistance animals,” which is an animal that helps or performs tasks for someone who has a disability. If the person’s disability is not apparent, housing providers may ask the person for documentation of their disability. This documentation includes an official emotional support animal letter from a physician, psychiatrist, or another licensed mental health professional.

Fair Housing Act

Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers in Colorado may not require a pet deposit for those who use assistance animals or emotional support animals.

The Fair Housing Act for Colorado is the same for service dogs. It doesn’t just apply in Colorado, either. If you travel outside of Colorado, your emotional support animal has protections under these same terms.

If a landlord has denied you and your emotional support animal a reasonable accommodation, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. You may file an official complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Air Carrier Access Act

The last law to consider is the Air Carrier Access Act. This act protects people with disabilities and lets them fly on airplanes without discrimination.

The ACA Act allows service animals and ESAs in the cabin with their owners. The law doesn’t just apply in Colorado, either. When traveling outside of or into Colorado, the Air Carrier Access Act will allow you to fly with your ESA in the cabin at no additional charge.

As a passenger, your only responsibility is to ensure that you call the airline with plenty of time in advance. Some airlines can only have a certain number of pets and animals aboard in the cabin per flight. Denver, Colorado is a busy international hub, so flights may fill up fast.

How to Get an ESA Letter in Colorado: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know the ins and outs of ESA laws, we can finally get to the meat of the article: How to get your ESA letter.

We’ve already gone over steps 1 and 2, but we’ll recap just in case.

Step 1: Self-Assessment

Here’s where you need to look at yourself and determine if you think you could benefit from an ESA. The emotional support animal’s purpose is to comfort you when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

People with mental illnesses and conditions are often in situations where they feel more stressed than the “neuro-typical” person. An animal whose sole purpose is to comfort and soothe would serve a great purpose in this situation.

An important note about Colorado is that most of the state is at a high elevation, which means thinner air than some of the lower-elevation states. If you are moving there or having trouble acclimating to high altitudes, having an animal with you to comfort you during the transition can be especially beneficial.

Suppose you have anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, or any other mental health condition where you feel stressed often. In that case, you should move on to the next step: Contacting a mental health professional.

Step 2: Contact a Mental Health Expert

Your next task is to get in touch with a licensed clinician who specializes in mental health. They will ask you some questions relating to your condition to understand better how having an ESA could benefit you.The questions they ask will have to do mainly with your diagnosed condition. They may ask you things like:

• How do you typically feel in large crowds?

• Do you feel extreme stress when you’re with other people?

• Do you have flashbacks or panic attacks when you’re alone?

• Do you fidget or “do something with your hands” when you can’t focus on a task?

• Do you often find yourself needing to feel “grounded” when you’re having a panic attack or hallucination?

• Do animals comfort or soothe you?

Answer these questions truthfully and honestly. That way, the licensed mental health professional can gauge how well an emotional support animal or an emotional support dog would serve your needs.

If the licensed medical professional determines an ESA animal could help you with your symptoms, it’s time for step three: getting your letter.

Step 3: Get Your ESA Letter in Colorado

The third step is getting your ESA letter. It can be an exciting time for those who have wanted an emotional support animal to help with their symptoms for years. Your mental health professional will give you a letter stating that your animal is a legitimate ESA and has the appropriate assistance animal rights governed by the State of Colorado.

The letter must meet specific requirements to be valid.

  1. The letter must be on the licensed healthcare professional’s letterhead.
  2. The letter must include their name, license number, date of issue, and issue state (Colorado).
  3. The letter must denote that you have a prescription for an emotional support animal or assistance animal to help with your mental or emotional condition/illness symptoms. The letter does not have to state the details or medical history of the condition.
  4. The healthcare professional’s signature must be at the end of the letter.

Please note that your ESA letter is only valid for one year. You will need to renew it yearly.

One last and crucial point: In Colorado, an “ESA Registration” is not a valid form of documentation for assistance or emotional support animals. Registering your ESA is a sound way to keep up-to-date with news and law updates regarding ESAs, as well as get merchandise such as vests and collars to denote your animal is an ESA. However, you still must get a valid form of documentation (ESA letter) to prove that your animal is for emotional support.

Step 4: Get Your ESA!

We’ve arrived at the most exciting part of the process: Finally getting your emotional support animal.

There are two options for ESAs:

  • Adopting from an Agency

Agencies all over Colorado “train” dogs and cats to be emotional support animals. You can adopt your new ESA from one of these agencies once you receive your letter. 

These animals don’t go through training to perform any tasks or duties. Instead, the training ensures they can tolerate being held, provide comfort, and generally ground you when you’re feeling stressed.

If you don’t already have an animal at home that you planned on getting your ESA letter for, these agencies can help you make the ideal match.

  • Registering Your Pet

If your pet provides comfort or soothes you when you’re feeling stressed, you can list this animal for your new ESA letter. However, you must be responsible and consider several things if you choose to go this route.

Your animal doesn’t require training to the level of a service dog or service animal, but they must not be a disturbance. They cannot bark or make noise excessively, and they need to be house-trained. Also, when off-leash, they must come when called. 

Conclusion

Generally, your ESA does not need to abide by the same strict standards as a service animal. Your emotional support animal won’t need to fetch your medication for you, open doors, or detect seizures. They can, however, provide lots of love and comfort to you in times of extreme stress.

If they are house trained and well-behaved, your emotional support animal can be your most significant source of comfort when you need it most.

As said before, in Colorado, your ESA letter serves as the only required documentation for your animal. You do not need to register your ESA on a website, but it does get you access to supplies and information for your animal, as well as updates and newsletters regarding service and ESAs.

ESA Registration is the top professional ESA agency in the country. Contact us today if you have any questions, need help getting an ESA letter, or you would like to register your ESA with us!