Living with an emotional or psychological disability can be extremely difficult. Even if you’re only dealing with circumstantial hardships, having a constant friend, companion, and helper is immeasurably rewarding. That’s why so many turn to emotional support animals.
While emotional support animals aren’t permitted all the same privileges as service dogs, they perform the same function of helping their owners overcome limitations.
If you think you may benefit from having an ESA in your life, you should determine whether or not you qualify for one first.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in North Dakota?
Not everyone qualifies to become the owner of an emotional support animal in North Dakota. You must be living with some form of emotional or mental disability or condition to qualify. Further, the only person who can ensure that you’re qualified for such ownership is a certified mental health professional, like a psychiatrist or a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Assess your own circumstances before you have a clinician assess yours. If you are experiencing any of the following, you may likely qualify for an emotional support animal.
- Depression that keeps you from getting out of bed in the morning.
- Anxiety that makes daily tasks difficult to accomplish.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that interferes with vital duties like shopping, feeding, and clothing yourself.
- Claustrophobia or agoraphobia that makes leaving the house burdensome, if not entirely impossible.
- Unresolved trauma that makes human interaction unduly stressful.
You may qualify for ESA ownership if you experience one or more of these. If you do take possession of an ESA, it’s highly recommended that you apply for an ESA letter. It will make your public experience with your ESA so much easier and help with travel, accommodations, going to school, and more.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in North Dakota
In order to get an ESA letter, you need to be able to demonstrate that you stand to benefit from the companionship and assistance of an emotional support animal. The only person who can make this judgment is a licensed mental health professional or LMHP.
An LMHP is anyone who has been clinically trained to evaluate the mental and emotional well-being of patients, have a dialogue with them about solutions, and sometimes (though not necessarily) be able to prescribe them medication. LMHPs include professionals such as these:
- Psychiatrist or psychologist
- Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed nurse practitioner
- Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
Everyone holding these jobs has had to submit to years of rigorous education and clinical training. Each state’s licensing requirements differ, but as a representative example, the state of Massachusetts requires 3600 hours of clinical training under professional observation before someone can start practicing as an LMHP.
What’s Inside a North Dakota ESA Letter
Once you get your ESA letter, you’re going to find that you carry it with you basically anywhere you take your ESA. For most people, that’s everywhere. Having the letter on hand can dispel most tricky conversations with landlords, shopkeepers, business owners, travel agents, and so on about why you have your animal in a “no animal zone.”
But remember that they may ask for your documentation, and it better be up to standard. There are specific criteria that need to be included in an ESA letter. If yours doesn’t have one or more of these crucial details, you may be challenged and unable to defend your rights.
Your ESA letter must:
- Be printed on the official letterhead of the office which issued it.
- Be issued by the office of a licensed mental health professional.
- Include the credentials of that LMHP.
- Also include their contact information and what type of medicine they practice.
- Include their signature, not typed.
- Include the date of issuance (while ESA letters technically never “expire,” it’s good practice to get yours updated annually).
- Affirm that you have been analyzed and are under the care of the issuing LMHP.
- Include an explanation of what hardships or disabilities make you deserving of ESA ownership.
Remember, if your ESA letter is missing any of this key information, it could invalidate your legal protections. Always ensure your chosen LMHP understands what must go into your letter before they begin writing it.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in North Dakota
There are many reasons to pursue an ESA letter for your emotional support animal. These animal companions will undoubtedly brighten your life, but moving through life with them isn’t always easy.
You will be stopped and sometimes hassled by people wanting to ensure you have the right to bring an animal along with you. Having an ESA letter with you makes all the difference, and that’s only one benefit among many.
Waive Pet Fees in Housing
The Fair Housing Act, which we will discuss further down, prevents service animals and ESA owners from being discriminated against by landlords and property owners. One of the many benefits of these protections is that you can waive the pet fees typically applied to those who want to bring pets into pet-friendly housing.
Bring Your Pet to Work More Easily
It has been proven that emotional support animals can help combat a wide range of emotional and mental disorders, from depression and anxiety to PTSD. With an ESA letter, they can even help you get through the most stressful part of anyone’s day: work. Bring your ESA to work with an ESA letter, and it will show that you need them there.
Get Around Breed Restrictions
Service dogs can be only that – dogs. ESAs with ESA letters can be any breed, from cats to porcupines to birds. However, try not to get too creative with your pet pick because an emotional support peacock just isn’t practical.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in North Dakota
Various aspects of public life, from traveling internationally via plane, to traveling locally via bus, to shopping, eating out, and even visiting outdoor spots like trails and beaches, become much more complicated if you bring an animal. The proprietors of various public and private enterprises don’t always allow animals within their premises. In fact, most don’t.
But the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 went a long way to change all that for service animal owners. Though ESAs aren’t afforded all the same protections as service dogs, they still are entitled to some rights. In particular, North Dakota has helped ensure ESA owners are protected.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The ADA does not protect emotional support animals the same as it does service animals. But the Fair Housing Act, which the ADA spawned, eventually expanded some rights to ESAs and their owners.
Air Carrier Access Act
In 2020 the Department of Transportation announced its final rule on emotional support animals: they are not allowed on flights. Service dogs are, but ESAs have to travel by other means.
Fair Housing Act
Finally, the Fair Housing Act has decreed that service dogs and emotional support animals are entitled to protection against discrimination. Some of those protections include the following:
- The ability to prosecute a landlord if they refuse to accommodate your ESA.
- The right to waive pet fees.
The North Dakota Century Code distinguishes between service animals and what they call “companions,” AKA emotional support animals. While they aren’t entitled to the same protections as service animals, they do have some rights regarding housing and public accommodations.
Tenant Rights in the North Dakota Century Code
The landlord-tenant law in North Dakota states landlords cannot deny ESAs, even if they have instituted no pets policies. North Dakota Renter’s rights also mean that you can waive any pet fees. Further, your landlord or property manager cannot discriminate against your ESA based on size, weight, or breed.
These same rules apply to campus and dorm accommodations on academic campuses, cafeterias, and academic buildings.
North Dakota Century Code 47-16-07
With great protection comes great responsibility. If you are found to be faking an ESA, you could be evicted from your accommodations and fined. That fine cannot exceed $1,000, but you had better ensure your ESA letter has all the necessary components and was issued by a certified LMHP.
How To Get An ESA Letter in North Dakota: A Step-by-Step Guide
The good news about ESAs is they are far easier to get certified than service dogs. Those pets need to be specially trained, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. The hardest part about getting an ESA letter is finding the right LMHP, which can be quite a task! Here is the simple three-step process.
1. Fill Out an Online Assessment
First, you must either complete an online assessment or do an intake with a prospective LMHP over the phone. They’ll determine whether they should see you or not.
2. Meet with a Licensed Mental Health Professional
Once you’ve been given the go-ahead to meet with an LMHP, set up an appointment. You’ll go through intake or an information-collecting and liability/rule-disclosing process. You will then speak directly to your chosen LMHP.
The LMHP will bring their training and education to bear on the conversation with you. How does your mental and emotional health seem? Do you have a diagnosis already, and if not, would you benefit from one? Would an ESA help you in your day-to-day life?
They’ll answer all these questions based on your conversation and then determine whether or not to write an ESA letter.
3. Receive Your ESA Letter
If the LMHP decides you qualify for an ESA letter, you’ll receive one digitally or in the mail. Voila! You’re now the proud owner of an emotional support animal in North Dakota.
One helpful tip is to laminate your ESA letter so it doesn’t get creased or torn from constant carrying around.
Why Get an ESA Letter?
For all the reasons listed above, you must seek an ESA letter for your emotional support animal. If you think you may benefit from ESA ownership and don’t yet have one, absolutely pursue it. Emotional support animals light up the lives of their owners.