Emotional support animals are becoming increasingly familiar as more people are turning to them to alleviate the symptoms of various mental and emotional health difficulties. They can provide anxiety-relieving companionship to their owners, allowing them to access the world more effectively.
But before you can benefit from an ESA, you must obtain an ESA letter. This document legitimates the animal’s status and lets you enter places they otherwise wouldn’t be permitted, among other benefits.
In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about how to get an ESA letter in New Mexico, including information regarding the law. Let’s get into it.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in New Mexico?
If you have emotional or mental health conditions that could benefit from the assistance of an emotional support animal, you will likely be eligible for an ESA letter.
ESAs are not the same as service animals, which go through training to perform specific tasks for their owners. Emotional support technically doesn’t fall under the category of a specific task.
However, this type of support can still fulfill an essential need. ESAs can support people who have the following:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety (general, acute, social, etc.)
- And more
To qualify for an ESA letter in New Mexico, a healthcare provider licensed by the state must evaluate your symptoms and conclude that your support animal is necessary for your continued well-being and treatment. The only way to know if you qualify is by speaking directly to your healthcare provider of choice.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in New Mexico?
Essentially, any licensed medical professional can provide you with an ESA letter. They must hold active licensure to practice in New Mexico.
If you have already discussed your mental or physical health with a professional, they will likely be your best resource. They already possess contextual information about your circumstances, making writing the letter much more straightforward.
Examples of professions in New Mexico that are qualified to provide ESA letters include:
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses
- Licensed Counselors
- Clinical Social Workers
Other roles may be applicable, provided they possess a valid medical license to practice in New Mexico.
What’s Inside a New Mexico ESA Letter?
There are a few things your ESA letter must contain to be considered legitimate. When you first ask your healthcare provider for your letter, you need to specify these items. If your letter arrives and it’s missing any required information, you should contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to rectify this.
The following information is required:
- The name of the practice where the healthcare provider is based
- The phone number of the practice
- The nature of their medical license
- The date the medical license was issued
- The state of jurisdiction
- Reasons for the requirement of the emotional support animal
- The breed and weight of the animal
Ensure the letter meets the criteria above. Otherwise, it may not be acceptable for all establishments.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in New Mexico
There are numerous compelling reasons to get your ESA letter. To help make your decision a little easier, we have listed some specific benefits relevant to New Mexico.
No Restrictions on Where You Can Live
We will go into further detail relating to specific legislation a little further down, but New Mexico’s Fair Housing Act states a landlord cannot discriminate against you based on you owning an emotional support animal, even if the landlord has a strict no-pets policy. To honor this, your prospective landlord may ask for proof, which is precisely what an ESA letter could provide.
Housing Letters Require No Renewal
There are various forms of ESA letters out there. Some focus on housing, some on travel, and some are a blend of multiple factors. You can discuss this with your healthcare provider and address your specific needs accordingly. However, one key benefit here is that housing letters require no renewal. No matter how many new properties you move into, you can use the same original letter to validate your ESA.
Saves You Money
Ordinarily, whenever a person with an animal moves into a property, a landlord will expect a deposit to secure against potential damage. Some landlords may even charge a pet fee to all tenants. You are exempt from these deposits and pet fees with an ESA letter. You will still need to pay for any damages your ESA causes, but you do not need to pay anything upfront.
Adds Validity to Your ESA
Although emotional support animals perform an essential service, they are still vastly misunderstood. Part of the reason is that they don’t qualify for the same protections as service animals. With an ESA letter, you have formalized validation from a medical professional that your support animal is there for a reason. It should be enough to keep the critics and complainers at bay.
May Enable You to Fly With Your Pet
Unfortunately, changes to the Air Carrier Access Act lifted mandates on airlines to accommodate emotional support animals, leaving it to the carrier’s discretion. Though several airlines no longer allow emotional support animals to fly in the cabin following these changes, they can make exceptions.
Airlines (and other passengers) tend to be a little more understanding if your ESA is a dog or cat. An ESA letter can provide further evidence to justify your support animal’s presence. Just make sure you contact your airline significantly ahead of time for them to make a decision.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in New Mexico
Legislation surrounding emotional support animals vary from state to state. We’ll focus on New Mexico laws in specific categories listed below.
Remember, emotional support animals and service animals have different rights under the law. Service animals receive protection in New Mexico via the Americans with Disabilities Act, but emotional support animals do not. However, they still receive some legal protections. Let’s take a look.
In New Mexico, employers are not legally obligated to allow emotional support animals within the workplace. However, nothing can stop you from approaching your employer and asking for permission. With the assistance of an ESA letter, they may be sympathetic and allow you to bring your support animal to work.
Fair Housing Act
As we mentioned before, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords can’t discriminate against anyone based on their disabilities. Therefore, the landlord cannot deny you if you want to move in with your emotional support animal. Within New Mexico, this also means:
- Landlords must not charge deposits and pet fees to the tenant (unless your ESA causes damage to the property)
- A landlord reserves the right to ask for verification of the requirement for an ESA (you can prove this via your ESA letter)
It is not uncommon for landlords to be unfamiliar with legislation relating to emotional support animals, so don’t be afraid to educate them. Inform them as soon as possible of your situation to avoid complications further down the line.
While the Fair Housing Act often applies to campus life, there may be some exceptions or extra steps you need to take. It entirely depends on the university you attend, so always check with campus administrators beforehand about the policy they have in place regarding ESAs.
For example, New Mexico State University requires students to register with Disability Access Services, submit different forms for housing accommodation and ESA verification, and conduct an interview about the barriers and the ESA’s role.
You must always use the correct language for your emotional support animal. It is not a service animal and does not receive the same legal benefits. Any attempt to do so could land you in trouble for false representation under the New Mexico Service Animal Act.
With an ESA letter, you don’t have to worry about saying the right thing, as it will all be there to provide physical proof of the animal’s status.
How to Get an ESA Letter in New Mexico: A Step-By-Step Guide
So now you know why owning an ESA letter is beneficial, it’s time to discuss how you can get one. Listed below is our step-by-step guide for this process.
Step 1: Understand Why You Need an ESA Letter
Before making your initial appointment with a health professional, you must understand why you would benefit from one. By reading this guide, you’re already in the best position to understand the potential benefits, but remember to make it specific to your situation. This way, your healthcare provider will better understand why you need them to write a letter, and the entire process will be smoother.
Step 2: Arrange an Appointment with the Relevant Healthcare Provider
Once you have carefully considered why you need an ESA letter, it’s time to arrange your appointment. You can discuss your condition and why your ESA requires a validating letter in your appointment. It is advisable to visit a professional familiar with your situation or previous experience with emotional support animals.
Step 3: Ensure Your Healthcare Provider Understands What Is Required in an ESA Letter
There are specific requirements for your ESA letter to be considered valid. Your healthcare provider must know these before they start writing.
Bring a sample letter to your appointment if they aren’t already familiar. Otherwise, consult the list we provided at the start of this article.
Step 4: Wait for Your Letter to Arrive and Enjoy the Benefits!
Once you complete the assessment, all that’s left to do is wait for your letter. It should arrive in a matter of days, but if you feel too much time has passed, don’t be afraid to follow up with your healthcare provider.
Your ESA letter provides you and your animal with validation, enabling you to reap all the benefits we have listed.
Look for a mental health provider or search through the ESA Registration of America database of online LMHPs in New Mexico and start the process to obtain an ESA letter in New Mexico.