Emotional support animals provide potentially life-changing support to their owners. While they don’t possess the same legal protections that service animals receive, there are still regulations to minimize discriminatory practices.
If you are struggling with a mental health condition or are experiencing emotional difficulties, you could benefit from the presence of an ESA. However, to achieve the most benefits, you need to ensure you have followed all the correct steps. An ESA letter is the first step to guaranteeing your ESA receives protection under the current laws and guidelines. Here’s a complete guide to acquiring an ESA letter in Montana.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Montana?
There isn’t a specific criterion for qualifying for an ESA letter, as each individual will have different needs that an ESA could help ease. However, some common conditions qualify owners for ESA certification include the following:
- Panic Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Learning Disorders
- Cognitive Disorders
- Phobias and Fears
If you don’t identify with any of the conditions listed above, don’t let that put you off seeking an ESA or the associative letter. Talk it through with your medical professional, and they will be able to advise you on which step you should take next.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Montana?
Only a licensed mental health professional can provide you with a legitimate and certifiable ESA letter. Anyone else may be trying to scam you, as you will be paying for a letter that effectively means nothing.
Listed below are some of the licensed medical healthcare professionals who could provide you with an ESA letter in Montana:
- Licensed Nurse Practitioner
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
For more information on this, click this link, where we go into more detail regarding the different professionals qualified to write your letter for you.
What’s Inside a Montana ESA Letter?
The ESA letter must include a list of key criteria for the state to recognize it as legitimate. Failure to adhere to these requirements could render your letter useless, so double-check all of these details when you receive your document.
The necessary criteria for a Montana ESA letter include the following:
- The name and signature of the licensed medical healthcare professional that wrote the letter
- The license number of said professional
- The date the professional’s license was issued and from which state it originated
- A description of why the ESA is needed and what role they play in treating and assisting with the individual’s mental health
- Details of the ESA the letter is for, including breed, size, and type
- The date the LMHP issued the letter and when it is due to expire (if applicable)
When you receive your ESA letter, read it through from top to bottom to confirm that it includes all of the above information. If not, contact the healthcare professional that wrote it as soon as possible to have it rectified.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Montana
Beyond providing a sense of validation that your ESA is with you for a legitimate reason, possessing a letter can assure you will be able to access various benefits. We have listed some key benefits below so you can see why getting a letter in Montana is such a good idea.
Your ESA Might be Able to Accompany You on Flights
Some more progressive and understanding airlines still allow ESAs on board despite not being legally obliged. If you can contact your airline ahead of time to make sure, you may be able to take your ESA with you.
Airlines tend to make their decisions based on specific criteria, such as the size and weight of the animal, which is precisely what their accompanying letter will provide. While an ESA letter can’t guarantee that your support animal can board with you, it could undoubtedly strengthen your case.
Landlords Can’t Refuse You Because of Your ESA
In Montana, landlords can’t discriminate against your ESA’s presence on the property due to their size, weight, or breed. These are not relevant factors or grounds for eviction by themselves. A landlord cannot order you to leave if your support animal behaves.
However, behavior is a very important note here. Although ESAs have legal protection in Montana, landlords can order your eviction (or the removal of your ESA) if they are too loud, disruptive, or aggressive. Keep this in mind when choosing your ESA and the environment where you’ll reside.
Grants You Exemption from Pet Fees
It may surprise some, but having a legitimate ESA letter could save you money in the long term. The special status will exempt you from pet fees that apply when staying at your rented residence or staying in a hotel.
Pet fees are usually required upfront before staying somewhere as insurance against any damage said pet might cause. Some places may also ask for a deposit upfront for the same purpose. While you would have to pay for these with an ordinary pet, with an ESA letter, you can prove your exemption and save money on your accommodation.
No Renewal Process Required for Housing Letters
Unlike many legal documents, ESA housing letters do not technically expire. You can use the same one for multiple purposes again and again. However, it is worth mentioning that there is no definitive guidance on this topic written into legislation. Although your ESA housing letter won’t expire, it may be a good idea to renew it under certain circumstances.
Some examples of this could include:
- The healthcare professional that first wrote your ESA letter is no longer in practice and, therefore, cannot validate the letter if challenged
- You are moving to a different state (for example, away from Montana) that may have different regulations relating to emotional support animals
- If there has been a change in your emotional state or condition that broadens why you need your support animal
- To update it alongside any new legislative updates that may occur over the years
While there is no technical requirement to update your letter, it is still a good idea to stay on top of things and ensure it remains in line with the current policy to reduce the risk of rejection.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Montana
Montana follows national guidelines for emotional support animals. Here are the ones that could impact you:
Air Carrier Access Act
Until January 11th, 2021, the US Department of Transportation required airlines to accommodate emotional support animals through legislation such as the Air Carrier Access Act. Since then, however, new changes to the ACAA have stripped emotional support animals of this privilege, meaning that airlines are no longer legally required to allow your ESA on board with you.
Fair Housing Act
While it is common practice for landlords to refuse accommodation to potential tenants due to their pets, ESAs exist outside of this. In Montana, the Fair Housing Act prevents landlords from discriminating against you because of your ESA as long as you have a valid letter to prove the support animal’s necessity. The protection holds even if the property does not typically allow pets.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Montana: A Step-by-Step Guide
So, now we have walked you through what an ESA letter is and how it could benefit you. Let’s take you through a step-by-step guide on how to get your own in Montana.
Step 1: Arrange an Appointment with a Registered Health Professional
Based on our list of appropriate health professionals above, your first step is to contact the one most relevant to your needs and arrange an appointment.
Many individuals that require emotional support animals need help with their mental health, and this can be scary to talk about for the first time. Take your time, be compassionate with yourself, and remember that this is all for the best.
It’s also important to remember that the health professional you speak to is trained for this very purpose. They won’t judge you and should not make you feel uncomfortable. If they do, that’s a serious breach of professional conduct. They are there to support you, and that’s what you should expect from your appointment.
Step 2: Explain Your Situation to the Health Professional
Before attending your appointment, you might want to make some notes or create an outline detailing your situation and why you feel you would benefit from an emotional support animal. A draft of your talking points will help you to articulate your thoughts when you’re in the room, especially if this is something you are nervous about discussing.
If you are talking to a medical professional with no prior understanding of your mental health needs, it would be a good idea to consider other treatments, such as therapy or medication. A comprehensive plan will demonstrate that you are serious about your recovery rather than simply wanting your pet to benefit from ESA status.
If the medical professional you speak to doesn’t appear confident in advising you on your mental health, politely request that they refer you to a professional with more experience in a relevant field.
Step 3: Wait for Your ESA Letter to Arrive and Verify It
If you have received approval for an ESA letter, all you need to do is wait for it to arrive. Your medical professional should write and post it promptly so that you can validate your ESA with minimal delay.
Once it arrives, read it carefully to ensure it meets all the required criteria. We have provided a complete list of these criteria above for you to cross-reference. If any of the information is missing or seems incorrect, contact your medical professional immediately so they can rectify this.
People need emotional support animals for various reasons, and while they provide observable benefits for many, they are still widely misunderstood. Possessing an official ESA letter in the state of Montana will allow you to prove the necessity of your animal to those who may doubt the vital role they play.
Contact your relevant medical professional today to get your letter, or browse through the rest of our helpful resources for further information on your ESA evaluation letter in Montana.