Emotional support animals, also known as ESAs, provide comfort and companionship to a person battling an emotional or psychiatric condition. Although the laws regarding ESAs have evolved, listing your pet as an emotional support animal can help you avoid discrimination when seeking housing and traveling.
If you have a pet or want one for emotional support, the first step you’ll need to take is to obtain an ESA letter. For those living in Minnesota and interested in learning more, keep reading for our complete guide on ESA letters!
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Minnesota?
A licensed mental health professional must determine if you qualify for an ESA letter in Minnesota. If they determine that it’s in your best interest to have an ESA as part of your treatment, they can write you an official letter.
Some of the conditions that can qualify you for an ESA letter are:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Motor Skill Disorders
Your physician might not recommend an ESA if they feel that medication or other forms of treatment already sufficiently meet your needs. It’s best to speak to your doctor and a mental health specialist to develop the most suitable treatment for your condition.
Does My Pet Qualify for an ESA Letter in Minnesota?
More often than not, dogs are the more common choice for an emotional support animal, but that is not always the case. According to the Fair Housing Act, the housing law that protects ESA’s and owners, an emotional support animal is not just limited to dogs. No specific species requirements prohibit other animals from serving as assistance animals.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Minnesota
Any mental health professional with a valid license to practice in Minnesota can recommend an ESA and authorize an official letter. The following are professionals that you can consult with and possibly receive an ESA letter from:
- Primary Care Physician
- General Physician
- Clinical Social Workers
- Mental Health Counselors
Nowadays, telehealth services make a meeting with a licensed health professional more accessible than ever. If you prefer to stay home rather than make a trip to the clinic, booking an online appointment is easy.
What’s Inside a Minnesota ESA Letter?
A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) that decides to recommend an ESA letter will provide the necessary documentation written on their official letterhead with the date and location of issuance. The letter must include the patient’s full name and any available information on the pet. However, if you do not already have a pet, the doctor can still write a letter for you. The doctor or therapist must also sign their name and license number.
The mental health professional helping you must also include a diagnosis, but they can choose to refrain from labeling or describing your disability and instead use more general terms.
In the letter, the clinician will also add their recommendation for an emotional support animal, stating that it can help relieve one or several symptoms of a patient’s condition. The LMHP will then provide this letter to the patient to choose where or with whom to share it.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Minnesota
The unconditional love and affection pets provide their handlers have many psychophysiological and psychosocial advantages. Getting an ESA letter to lawfully recognize your pet as an official emotional support animal allows you to enjoy even more benefits, such as:
Save Money on Rental Pet Fees, Applications, and Deposits
An ESA letter legitimizes your companion as a support animal, not just a pet. If you have this letter, the landlord can’t charge you any pet deposit, application, or monthly pet rental fees.
Live Anywhere Regardless of No-Pet Policies
Per the Fair Housing Act, ESAs are essential support animals. As such, landlords can’t deny you housing for having one. Even places with no-pet policies must accommodate your ESA.
No Restrictions on Pet Size, Weight, or Breed
The Fair Housing Act also ensures that landlords can’t place restrictions on the pet size, weight, or breed. The only restriction they have the right to claim is if the animal is dangerous to others or causes damage to the property. In that case, they have the right to ask you to leave and pay for the damages.
Reliable Travel Companion on Participating Airlines
People with flying anxiety may find that a support animal makes travel more accessible. Participating airlines that allow ESAs in the cabin will ask for a letter certifying the animal’s role. Once you can show them the letter, you can fly more easily with your reliable travel companion.
No Cargo Fees or Travel Restrictions on Participating Airlines
Participating airlines also may waive travel restrictions and fees for your ESA. However, some size and weight restrictions may apply due to cabin sizes. Usually, the animal needs to fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Minnesota
Although emotional support animals are known to have therapeutic benefits for their associated individuals, they classify as assistance animals rather than service animals because they don’t need to undergo specific training. As such, they don’t have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Luckily, because they technically aren’t considered pets either, they are lawfully protected by the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act, which we’ll discuss below.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act, or FHA, is a law that protects you and your ESA from facing discrimination by housing providers. Having an official ESA letter and any other necessary documents (such as vaccination records) can benefit renters, students, and pets in several ways by exercising their rights covered by the FHA.
Under the FHA, landlords must legally provide “reasonable housing” to you and your emotional support animal. It means they can’t turn away renters with an ESA letter from residences because of a no-pet policy or restrictions on certain breeds. It also means you can bypass the fees usually associated with moving in a pet.
For college students in Minnesota, the FHA also protects their right to fair housing, on or off campus. If you were concerned about having to leave your furry friend behind for the year, rest assured that by providing an ESA letter, the school cannot charge you additional fees or deny you residency, for that matter.
Air Carrier Access Act
Previous to January 11, 2021, the U.S Department of Transportation, or DOT, legally required airlines to provide accommodation for ESAs. As long as the owner could provide an official letter, ESAs were not subject to added charges or restricted by their breed, size, or weight. Sadly, that is no longer the case, and it is now up to every individual airline to impose its policies and ESA programs.
Since the law change, many airlines have decided to let go of their ESA programs. Still, a few domestic and international airlines continue to recognize and accept emotional support animals. Participating airlines include:
- Latam Airlines
- Singapore Air
- China Airlines
If you plan to travel with your ESA on one of these airlines, it’s essential to check the rules and regulations beforehand. Some airlines will only accept ESAs that are dogs and require that they be over the age of four months.
Besides presenting an official ESA letter, the participating airlines will provide you with additional forms. You’ll need to have these filled out and completed by a licensed mental health professional. Generally, airlines will require submitting those forms and the official ESA letter at least 48 hours before departure.
Exceptions to FHA and ACAA Laws in Minnesota
These are some of the few exceptions to rules regarding emotional support animals where the FHA and ACAA can’t intervene and protect you. For example:
- A misbehaving and aggressive ESA can lead to an eviction notice or being turned away from airlines that recognize ESAs.
- If your pet causes damage that you are legally financially responsible for, you must pay the costs.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Minnesota: A Step-by-Step Guide
Misrepresenting your pet as an ESA is a punishable offense by law and could result in a hefty fine and jail time. If you believe you qualify for an ESA, follow these three simple steps.
1. Schedule an Appointment
If you have a trusted doctor or mental health provider who can prove your diagnosis, schedule an appointment to consult them about receiving an ESA letter. Online resources are also available for those who don’t already have a health provider.
Use a trusted and reliable website to connect you with a mental health professional licensed in your state.
2. Consult a Licensed Mental Health Professional
Once it’s time for your appointment, speak with your health professional about any symptoms you are experiencing.
For those with a treatment plan already in place, discuss the positive effects of living and interacting with your pet and any symptoms they help relieve. You can also explain how the housing or traveling laws regarding ESA can allow you to continue benefiting from the support and comfort of your companion animal.
If you have no prior record of the symptoms you’re feeling, the physician may be wary about authorizing an ESA letter because of their recent rise in popularity. Having an open and honest conversation about any circumstances you may be facing allows them to properly evaluate your situation and consider an emotional support animal for your treatment.
3. Receive Your ESA Letter
If your doctor concludes an ESA is in your best interest, they will fill out a valid ESA letter for you. The associated costs with ESA letters vary from place to place. Once you’ve paid your dues, you will receive your letter either directly or in the mail for you to secure and share wherever necessary.
Your ESA letter has no expiration date when using it for housing accommodation. For traveling purposes, you may have to pay a renewal fee after the first year.
For people battling any form of mental or emotional condition, a pet’s presence can have a pivotal impact on their overall well-being. Getting an official ESA letter allows you to continue enjoying the benefits of your companionship without restriction from landlords and some airlines.
ESA Registration of America has various resources for ESA owners and prospective ESA owners. Check out our ESA letter service to match up with a virtual or in-person LMHP in Minnesota.