Having a pet has a monumental impact on people’s daily lives, especially when the owner struggles with mental illness, disability, or other stressful events. Fortunately, if you have a four-legged friend in your life, there are policies that give you and your animal certain rights and protections.
But to access these protections, you’ll need to follow a series of specific steps. It all begins with getting an ESA letter for your pet from a certified mental health professional.
While there are many universal aspects of this process from state to state, it’s essential to understand the differences you may encounter here in the Pine Tree State.
Here’s what you can expect on your journey to get an ESA letter in the great state of Maine.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Maine?
To qualify for an emotional support letter in Maine, you need to demonstrate that you have a psychological disorder or mental health issue.
Qualifying emotional or mental health issues can include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. If your condition can be improved or symptoms alleviated by the presence of an animal, you could likely qualify for an emotional support animal in Maine.
Surprisingly, you don’t need a pet to get an ESA letter. If you are considering adopting a pet for emotional support, you can pursue an ESA letter before the adoption. Alternatively, you can seek a letter for a pet you already own.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Maine?
In Maine, like everywhere in the US, ESA letters can only be written by licensed mental health professionals.
Eligible LMHPs include psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed counselors, clinical social workers, and mental health nurses. Physicians and even physician assistants can write ESA letters for their patients.
Many online services make getting an ESA letter fast and easy, typically for a fee. While some of these services are legitimate and have fully licensed and highly trained mental health professionals on staff, you should do your research and use digression if you consider this type of service.
Look for references and see if anyone has had trouble using their ESA letter from the company. If you’re going to invest time and money in getting an ESA letter, you want to make sure that it’s from a reputable provider and will offer genuine legal protection.
While it may be tempting to forge a letter, this is a punishable crime that could lead to jail time or high fines. Don’t take the risk: find a reputable mental health professional to write your ESA letter.
What’s Inside a Maine ESA Letter?
If a provider writes you an ESA letter in Maine, there’s a strong chance that it’ll include a few essential components.
The letter will typically start with the date. The date doesn’t just confirm the day that the LMHP signed the document—it proves the current nature of the need for an ESA.
Next, the letter should list the name and address of the licensed professional writing the letter. This essential information proves the authenticity of the letter. Anyone can look up the provider’s credentials online to verify their legitimacy.
The body of the letter will explain the need for an ESA. Without giving up too much of your personal medical information, the provider will state that the patient has been assessed and deemed in need of an emotional support animal. This section needs to state the full name of the patient explicitly.
Finally, the letter will include a signature, authenticating that a licensed professional wrote the letter. It may also include contact information if anyone wants to verify the information with the provider.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Maine
To fully reap the benefits of having an emotional support animal in Maine, you’ll need to get an ESA letter. Here are some of the critical aspects that make getting an ESA letter worthwhile.
Studies have shown that loneliness is a contributing factor to depression. At different points in life, we all experience loneliness. Maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one or had to move away from family and community.
While Maine is beautiful in the winter, it is also incredibly cold and dark, which can be challenging for those struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder. An ESA can provide essential companionship that can minimize feelings of isolation and, in turn, reduce the risk of depression.
Animals also have the ability to regulate human emotions. If you are struggling with a mental illness, it can be challenging to self-regulate in moments of instability.
Having an animal present can help people remain calm and focused on external stimuli instead of spiraling into their thoughts.
It can be hard to ground yourself in moments of extreme anxiety or panic. The presence of an emotional support animal can help someone remain calm by giving them somewhere to put their focus.
Studies have shown that petting an animal releases Oxytocin, which has strong anti-stress properties and facilitates bonding between the owner and the pet.
Can Compliment Other Treatment Methods
Interacting with an ESA can have positive implications for other treatments that someone may be undergoing. Their presence makes their owners feel love and gentleness—feelings people often struggle to give themselves in challenging moments.
Suppose someone receives cognitive behavioral therapy or some other form of therapy. In that case, an ESA can help remind the individual of their progress and enhance the benefits of the treatment.
Access to No-Pets Areas
While they are not service animals, ESAs are still support animals, which means they can access many areas that regular pets cannot.
For example, landlords must provide reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals, and they cannot charge the renter additional fees for the pet.
Other areas usually restricted to pets that ESAs can access include airplanes, restaurants, and other public-serving establishments.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Maine
While legal jargon can feel messy to suss through, you need to understand the terminology, definitions, and laws specific to Maine before you seek an ESA letter. Here’s what you need to know.
The ADA recognizes service animals, typically dogs of any size or breed, as trained to perform any task or responsibility related to a person’s disability.
The legal parameters for tasks a service dog may perform are broad and can be adapted to suit a specific disability. For example, some service animals may have undergone training to retrieve medicine or alert their owner of an oncoming seizure or panic attack, while others may serve as guide dogs.
According to the state of Maine’s Human Rights Commission, there is no specific definition of an emotional support animal. Instead, the state recognizes assistance animals.
According to Maine.gov, an assistance animal is one determined by a licensed mental health professional to be necessary for mitigating a mental or physical disability and its effects. It also encompasses animals explicitly trained to work or complete tasks that benefit the person with a mental or physical disability.
In essence, the term “assistance animal” includes both emotional support animals and service animals. Understanding this differentiation is essential for legal protection in different settings for those living in Maine.
Service animals and assistance animals have different rights that impact where they can accompany their owner.
In Maine, all assistance animals, meaning both emotional support pets and service animals, have housing rights. Their rights are under the protection of the Fair Housing Act. These protections mean that a legally recognized assistance animal is allowed to live with its owner, even in buildings where pets are otherwise not allowed. In Maine, this includes housing on college campuses.
But not all assistance animals have rights to other public spaces, whether publicly or privately owned. Emotional support animals don’t have guaranteed rights to access places like schools, hospitals, stores, and restaurants. In contrast, service animals have a legal right to accompany their owner anywhere that serves the public.
Another critical distinction is in air travel. Until recently, all assistance animals were allowed to travel by air with their owners. But in January 2021, a change to the Air Carriers Access Act dictated that emotional support animals are no longer legally protected on airlines. Nationally, service animals retain their right to accompany their owner on all airlines. If you hope to fly with your ESA, contact the airline to review their policies ahead of time.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Maine: A Step-by-Step Guide
Fortunately, the steps to getting an ESA letter in Maine are the same as most other states. Here’s how.
1. Consider Your Reasoning
Why do you need an ESA? Your reasoning is critical to secure a letter successfully. Many people who struggle with depression, anxiety, or PTSD believe an ESA may bring some balance back to their lives. Think about the challenges you face in your life that an emotional support pet could alleviate.
2. Contact a Mental Health Professional
The next step is to find a reputable, fully licensed mental health professional. Your consultation with the LMHP can be in-person or online, but make sure that the person or service you choose is legitimate and legally recognized.
The person could be a licensed social worker, psychologist, mental health therapist, or psychiatrist. Make sure you mention your hope of getting an ESA letter when scheduling your appointment.
3. ESA Need Assessments
Most likely, you’ll need to go through a series of assessments before a professional can write an ESA letter for you. The evaluation can range from talk therapy to testing. Even if it feels uncomfortable, trust the process and follow the guidance of your therapist.
4. Keep Your Letter Handy
If you qualify for an ESA, your mental health professional will write you a letter, and you’re good to go! Make sure you keep the letter handy and provide a copy to your landlord, if necessary.
Emotional support animals can have hugely positive effects on a person’s life. From providing essential companionship to relieving extreme psychological distress, an ESA has the potential to change someone’s life for the better.
In Maine, knowing your rights and seeking an ESA letter are the first step towards having your pet officially recognized as an emotional support animal. Get started today! The ESA Registration of America has everything you need, from virtual assessments with LMHPs to a legitimate process to get a certified ESA Evaluation letter.