In most states around the country, the provisions the ADA lays out for housing, employment, travel, and so on are upheld verbatim as state standards. But some states have begun to diverge from the 1990 bill. Indiana, with its newly passed law concerning emotional support animals, is one of those states.
If you are an emotional support animal owner in Indiana or are considering getting an ESA letter for your animal, make sure you know the laws and how to get an ESA letter in Indiana in a safe and legal way.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Indiana?
To understand whether or not you qualify to obtain an ESA letter under current Indiana law, you must understand what qualifies as an ESA.
There are several significant differences between service dogs and emotional support animals. The first is that service dogs undergo training to help with significant physical or psychological disabilities.
On the other hand, emotional support animals do not go through training. They assist people who face emotional, social, and psychological hardship but are not necessarily disabled.
In most states, you can obtain an ESA letter fairly easily because ESAs have less responsibility. They don’t need to go through training to fulfill their role.
However, the new laws in Indiana dictate that you must see a Licensed Mental Health Professional for at least one complete visit before you can obtain the ESA letter.
That means that in Indiana, it’s up to a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or the like to determine whether or not you qualify to own an emotional support animal.
Some qualifying conditions include:
- Chronic stress
- And more
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Indiana?
In the state of Indiana, the only person who can write an ESA letter is a practicing clinician in the field of mental health.
The LMHP must be licensed to practice in your state. If you were seeing a counselor in another state and recently moved to Indiana, you’ll need to find a new medical professional to apply for an ESA letter.
What’s Inside an Indiana ESA Letter?
Besides seeking an assessment from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), you need to have a letter with this essential information:
- Letterhead of the LMHP
- The date of issuance
- The signature of the LMHP
- A statement declaring that you have an emotional, psychological, or social disability that an ESA could help you overcome
- The final prescription for an emotional support animal
Important to note: ESA letters certify the individual for ownership of an ESA, not the animal in question. That means no matter the animal, you can treat them as your ESA at any time and accrue all the benefits that come with that.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Indiana
An ESA letter can allow more freedom for you and your ESA. Some of the benefits include:
Skip Pet Fees
Once taking animals into establishments like hotels, restaurants, and banks became illegal, those institutions began to have a hard time. Why? Because it didn’t stop people from bringing their pets everywhere.
Humans were made to live alongside animals, traveling, eating, and generally spending time with them. If you’re a pet owner, you know how true this is. Bringing your pet around isn’t just preferable; it’s vital for your survival.
Many of these establishments resolved the issue of limiting how many people brought their pets by establishing pet fees. Deposits for pets usually apply to hotels, motels, and other lodgings.
If you bring an emotional support animal along, you may be able to skip those fees. That’s because you aren’t boarding your animal by choice; you’re doing it out of necessity. It would be discriminatory to disallow you from doing that.
Answer Questions Before Passersby Ask
You’ll get looks when you enter a restaurant, bank, or coffee shop with your animal – especially if they aren’t a dog. After the looks will come the questions. “Are you able to bring that thing in here?” “Do you have a permit for that?”
Remember that an ESA letter will only take you so far. You can’t keep your pet inside an establishment under the protection of the law. However, many business owners simply want to see a certificate—service dog, ESA letter, or otherwise.
So long as they have proof that your pet is well trained and you need them for help, they may let them stay.
New laws have officially banned traveling with emotional support animals on planes. You have to have a certified service dog for that.
But you can still travel with your ESA on select buses, trains, and boats. Check with the individual company, and you may be in luck.
If you’re in any way disabled and rely on your ESA to help you navigate the world, traveling with them makes life so much easier.
ESAs in the Workplace
There aren’t any laws protecting your ESAs right to accompany you to work in Indiana, but many employers will give more leeway if they know it’s a certified ESA and not just a pet.
The reality is that ESAs are more than pets. They provide necessary emotional support for people who have gone through undue hardship or have certain conditions that make it harder for them to participate in everyday activities—including work.
If you have an ESA letter and are anxious at work, speak to your employer. The letter might help to prove that you need your ESA to accompany you to your job.
You Can Certify Any Animal
This is one of the main advantages ESAs have over service dogs. It’s in the name—dogs are the only animals that can be certified for service. Any kind of animal, however, can be certified as an emotional support animal.
Service rat, service peacock, service goldfish—you name it! Any of these animals can get approval from a licensed mental health professional.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Indiana
When navigating the laws around emotional support animals, there are two levels to be aware of: the national level and the state level. In Indiana, new state laws counteract some of the provisions laid out in the ADA; elsewhere, they have added new provisions not included in the ADA.
The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, is the law of the land regarding service dogs and emotional support animals. The ADA provides provisions for service dogs to accompany their owners on planes, in all housing, and in commercial establishments.
Emotional support animals are unfortunately not granted all the same provisions as service dogs. While you may not be able to take your ESA on a plane, Title I of the ADA does not specify which type of animals can accompany handlers into the workplace.
Contact your employer to learn about their guidelines when it comes to ESAs.
The Air Carrier Access Act
The Air Carrier Access Act once made it possible for people to freely take their service animals and emotional support animals with them on planes. But after incidents like one passenger attempting to bring an emotional support peacock on a domestic flight, the Department of Transportation cracked down.
As of late 2020, airlines no longer have to permit ESAs. They only have to accommodate service dogs trained to assist individuals with physical and psychological disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, all individuals are technically legally authorized to stay with an emotional support animal, regardless of the property owner’s pet policy. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
Different localities and even different dwellings can have weight and breed requirements. You’ll likely have to fill out an application to request exemption from rules prohibiting animals in the dwelling.
Still, an ESA letter makes it easier to prove that your animal is not a pet but an assistance animal and that denying you housing would violate the Fair Housing Act, but it’s not always easy.
Beyond accommodating ESAs, the FHA also removes the need to pay for pet fees or deposits. An ESA letter makes moving in with your animal more affordable.
Senate Enrolled Act 240
A bill introduced into the Indiana state senate in 2018 aimed to combat what it identified as “emotional support animal fraud.” This issue refers to situations where individuals who do not suffer from an emotional, psychological, or social impairment abuse the privileges granted to genuine ESA owners.
Lawmakers felt that if an individual has an actual impairment that an emotional support animal would alleviate, they should have no problem getting an official letter saying so from a licensed mental health professional.
The new law requires that those seeking an ESA letter have at least one entire session with such a professional first. That professional can credibly evaluate whether the individual genuinely needs special assistance.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Indiana: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Determine Whether You Qualify for an ESA Letter
The first thing you must do is clarify with yourself whether you need an ESA. If you could benefit from having an assistance animal but aren’t physically disabled, you should schedule an appointment with an LMHP.
2. Have at Least One Session With a Licensed Mental Health Professional
Meet with a licensed mental health professional and have them evaluate you. They will ask you questions about your physical, mental, and emotional state of being. Those answers will determine whether you qualify for an ESA letter.
3. Receive an ESA Letter
If you qualify, you’ll receive your ESA letter. You can register your pet if you have one or adopt one and start life with your ESA.
Register Your Animal with ESA Today!
An ESA letter means you can have your animal companion accompany you to work, school, vacation, and out in public. No more dealing with stressful situations alone—discover a better way with your ESA.
Are you ready to sign up for an ESA letter in Indiana? Get in touch with ESA Registration of America. Our network of licensed mental health professionals makes it easy to do telehealth conferencing and get your ESA evaluation appointment sooner rather than later. And once you register and qualify, you can breathe a little easier and start life anew with your ESA.