We’ve finally reached a consensus in America that mental health plays a considerable role in each person’s quality of life. More than ever, Americans are seeking help through therapists, psychiatrists, and a commitment to routine self-care. Emotional support animals (ESAs) are leading the charge in helping people suffering from depression, anxiety, and many mental health ailments.
If you live in Iowa, there are a few legal requirements to qualify your furriest friend as an ESA. Below, we’ll discuss how you qualify for an ESA letter, who can write one, what to expect if you qualify, and the benefits of getting an ESA letter in Iowa.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in Iowa?
An ESA letter is an official document saying that you have a mental or emotional disability diagnosed by a licensed professional. It should state that your mental health provider recommends an emotional support animal as part of your prescribed treatment plan.
To qualify for an ESA letter in Iowa, you’ll need to meet with a licensed mental health professional or physician. They’ll be able to assess your symptoms and disability. If you qualify, they’ll write you an ESA. Be sure that the LMHP is licensed within the State of Iowa. Otherwise, the ESA letter may not apply to the state.
Qualifying mental health conditions may include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- General Anxiety Disorder
- Chronic stress
- Learning disabilities
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- And more
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Iowa?
Physicians like your primary care physician can write you an ESA letter, though getting one through a PCP can be more time-consuming.
Licensed therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, legally allowed to practice in the State of Iowa can all write accepted ESA letters.
You can also seek assessment and prescription from licensed Telehealth Professionals as long as they are licensed to practice in Iowa.
What’s Inside an Iowa ESA Letter?
ESA letters must contain essential information that includes:
- Your name
- Your diagnosis
- A recommendation for an emotional support animal stating it will mitigate the symptoms of your mental or emotional health condition
- Signature and letterhead of the health professional of your choosing
- The date the LMHP wrote the letter
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Iowa
For owners of emotional support animals, having a letter of authenticity is a legal necessity and a practical choice. Here are some benefits of getting an ESA letter:
Exempt from Fees
Having an ESA letter can save you money. Once you have registered your animal as an ESA, establishments cannot charge you for pet deposits. The reason is that your animal is now a necessity rather than a luxury.
For instance, you might typically pay a deposit or fee to accommodate your furry friend in a hotel. The ESA letter means you can have this fee waived.
One notable exception to this is travel. Following the 2021 Air Carrier Access Act changes, airlines can now decide whether to charge passengers for flying with their ESAs.
Having a legitimate ESA letter will clear a great many hurdles when it comes to housing. Because of the Fair Housing Act, landlords are not legally allowed to bar anyone with an emotional support animal, so when renting an apartment, there’s no need to feel limited by your care companion.
The only caveat to this is if your Assistance Animal is a threat to the well-being of other tenants or the establishment for being unruly. If they are, any landlord is within their rights to no longer allow that animal on the property.
Housing accommodation is another reason it’s vital to get an ESA letter in Iowa while being sure to choose your ESA carefully and be sure they’re well trained.
Because of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), employers must make reasonable accommodations for their employees with disabilities. While not a service animal, emotional support may qualify as a necessity depending on your workplace.
A legal letter to identify your ESA that you can submit at the request of your employer can increase your chances of a positive outcome.
Unfortunately, not every business is legally required to make these accommodations. For instance, bringing an ESA could be considered unsafe if you work on an assembly line, and your employer could deny your request for their companionship at work.
Regardless of your work, having a legal document attesting to your assistance animal’s legitimacy will be a boon to your request.
Public Trust and Accommodation
While assistance animals are becoming more recognized, not all businesses give them a warm welcome. ESA letters help provide legitimacy beyond good faith. They explain your animal’s presence, why you need them, and remind the public that care comes in many forms.
While an ESA letter is not guaranteed to secure your access to a public establishment, it can open many doors. It can also foster further understanding of an emotional support animal’s role in mental health.
It’s essential to ensure your animal is well trained in these situations, as they act as ambassadors for all ESAs.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Iowa
It’s important to note the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal. The latter are animals (primarily dogs) trained to perform specific work or tasks to aid someone with a physical or mental disability. A seeing-eye dog is an excellent example of a service animal, as well as a seizure response dog that detects when a seizure is coming on and protects its owner accordingly.
On the other hand, emotional support animals have not been trained to perform specific tasks. Instead, they provide therapeutic benefits for people with mental or psychiatric disabilities just by their presence. ESAs can include various animals, from miniature horses to rabbits, as well as many other species. Their central role is as a companion to help reduce the symptoms of anyone suffering from mental health problems.
These distinctions entail that different laws apply to service animals vs. emotional support animals. Federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act do not consider ESAs on the same level as service animals, which means the same protections do not apply.
Here are the laws you need to know about having an ESA in Iowa.
Air Carrier Access Act
For a long time in America, the Air Carrier Access Act allowed ESAs to travel with their owners. However, in 2021, the US rolled back much of its blanket protection for ESA flying privileges. They ruled that domestic carriers can now make individual decisions to allow your ESA on board with you.
Check your air carrier before booking, as policies vary from company to company. Volaris and Westjet are two airlines that currently accept ESAs.
A helpful loophole to remember is the 20lb rule. Passengers can bring any dog under 20lbs with a carrier case. You will have to pay a small fee and keep your animal inside the case for the duration of the trip. However, if you have a small dog as an ESA, you can skip the separation anxiety and keep them by your side.
Because ESAs are not service animals, businesses are not legally required to make accommodations for your companion. However, as we’ve said before, ESA letters provide legitimacy beyond just your word, and many businesses will try to accommodate you if you make a good case.
Unfortunately, because ESAs don’t have protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you’ll have to accept whatever decision your company reaches.
Fair Housing Act and the Iowa Civil Rights Act
Laws protecting your ESA are two-fold in Iowa. You should have federal rights via the Fair Housing Act and state rights via the Iowa Civil Rights Act. These laws refer to Assistance Animals, which cover emotional support and service animals.
Under these laws, it’s illegal to discriminate against any American who requires either of these companions for health reasons.
Landlords may not use breed, size, and weight limitations as disqualifying characteristics for these animals. They also cannot charge a pet deposit or additional fees.
However, landlords can ask for documentation of the disability-related need for an SA or ESA if the disability is not apparent to them.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Iowa: A Step-by-Step Guide
Procuring an ESA letter in Iowa is reasonably straightforward for people with mental health issues. Here are three paths to getting one:
1. Visit Your PCP
Visiting your primary care physician is a direct approach to getting an ESA letter. If you have a regular relationship with a physician, this can be a simple way of getting your ESA letter from someone you trust.
However, if you don’t have Primary Care Physician or would rather not wait in a clinic lobby, there are more hassle-free paths we’d recommend.
2. Meet with Your Therapist
If you’re one of the over 40 million Americans in therapy, asking your therapist in your next session is an easy way forward. As someone familiar with your symptoms, they should be ready to offer you a diagnosis and a professional opinion about your need for an emotional support animal.
3. Call a Telehealth Professional
If you don’t have a therapist and want to skip a possibly lengthy trip to your local physician, calling a telehealth professional is the right choice for you. It also happens to be the easiest option.
The ESA Registration of America can put you in contact with a licensed professional who can assess your symptoms and give you a diagnosis in half the time of any therapist or doctor. If you’re planning a trip or looking for new housing, calling a telehealth professional is a pain-free way of receiving the ESA letter you need.
Register Your Animal with ESA Today!
At The ESA Registration of America, we believe in the power of emotional support animals to help manage mental health conditions. Registering your companion through us will provide you with informational resources, guide you through any legal hurdles, and connect you to a community of ESA owners around the country. Register your ESA today. It’s an essential first step to gaining legal legitimacy for that special animal in your life and continuing your journey toward mental health.