As with many states, Ohio mirrors federal law in the USA, recognizing a difference between emotional support animals (ESAs) and trained service animals. The latter is given legal status, while ESAs have a few steps to complete before legal status. How are they different?
Law currently defines a service animal as an animal trained to perform a specific task, whereas an ESA may not have been specially trained for its role – although just as important.
Awarding legal recognition of service animals is designed to prevent discrimination against people with invisible mental, emotional or psychological conditions.
And ESAs? Ohio doesn’t automatically employ specific recognition or legal regulation for Emotional Support Animals in common with many other American states. This is where an official letter comes in, and we’re going to share the simple steps to start this process.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in Ohio?
People with identifiable emotional or psychological conditions may qualify for an ESA letter in Ohio. These conditions must be determined by an LMHP (Licensed Mental Health Practitioner) who undertakes an independent assessment. In short, this qualification cannot be self-certified.
Below are some of the conditions which qualify you for an ESA letter:
- Fears and Phobias
- Learning Disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Panic Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Cognitive Disorders
Once your independent review has been completed, it will also explore the ways your support animal supports and benefits the difficulties encountered in your daily life.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Ohio?
A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can write an authentic and certifiable ESA letter; you normally won’t use your family doctor for this task. Bear in mind: this medical professional will typically charge a fee for the assessment and letter.
Below are some of the various licensed professionals who may be able to write an ESA letter in Ohio:
- Licensed Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Social Worker
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Always thoroughly verify who is conducting the assessment and producing the letter if you are applying online. Be wary of organizations producing free letters, as this could be a scam. As mentioned above, a fee will typically be made for a professional’s approval.
ESA letters must be dated and are only valid for twelve months. Be mindful that anyone offering a letter for a longer duration or with no date is probably not genuine.
What’s Inside an Ohio ESA Letter?
For an ESA letter to be valid, specific details must be present. These include the medical healthcare professional’s full name and license number. Additionally, the original state which issued the license must also be mentioned in the text.
An ESA letter must be on the practitioner’s official letterhead and formally signed and dated. Since this approval will only be valid for twelve months at a time, you’ll need to repeat the process in a year. Set a reminder to do so a month or two before the expiration date.
Why the twelve-month marker? Health conditions may fluctuate during that time, so an annual assessment is a standard part of the process to protect against fraud – and to keep you emotionally supported.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Ohio
An ESA letter is the only way to authenticate the status of your emotional support animal. There are many situations where it can make daily life easier.
Taking your ESA to Work
Your employer is not legally bound to accept your ESA in the workplace, so an ESA letter is an easier and more discreet way to introduce the discussion. Simply put: while they can deny approval, it’s harder for your employer to resist a formal request.
Public Places in Ohio
Often, your emotional support assistant can enjoy the same privileges and public access as service dogs in Ohio. While they may not have the same legal right to do so, many public places – such as parks, restaurants, stores – welcome them with or without a letter. We recommend checking beforehand if you feel there may be an issue; many useful online guides can support your research.
Rent Reductions for ESAs
Most landlords will levy charges for pet fees or deposits, but these can often be waived with an ESA letter from a licensed professional. We do recommend being upfront with your landlord about your emotional support animal. Transparency is key to a solid working relationship.
Traveling in Ohio
While transportation operators usually raise a fee for animals, you may enjoy a partial reduction or full waiver with an ESA letter. However, you should consider that no specific travel laws inherently allow emotional support animals onto aircraft or public transportation. More on this below!
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Ohio
ESAs at Work
Animals in the workplace are usually governed by the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act in Ohio. This permits service dogs at work but omits ESAs.
While this is unfortunate, many employers classify ESAs like service dogs and will allow them at work. However, your ESA must be adequately toilet trained and well-behaved with other people. You’ll also need that all-important ESA letter – don’t leave it at home!
The Fair Housing Act
Like many other states, Ohio relies on federal legislation for ESAs and housing.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) regulates service animals. Properties that don’t accept pets regularly cannot decline any animal, including an ESA, if you have an official letter.
However, a letter doesn’t act as a carte blanche, as property owners also have obligations to other residents. A noisy, disruptive, or aggressive ESA could compromise your position.
Previously, Emotional Support Animals were protected, meaning airlines couldn’t prevent them from boarding a plane under the provisions of the Air Carrier Access Act. In other words, they could travel in the cabin.
But at the start of 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the rules and amended the ACA, so ESAs no longer enjoy that special exception.
At this time, airlines don’t have to accept your ESA, but service dogs are still allowed to travel in the cabin with the correct certification. Always check with an airline – even if you have flown with them before.
How to Get An ESA Letter in Ohio: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Get in touch with an LMHP
Make an appointment with an LMHP – a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, and more. Ask your family doctor, as they may be able to recommend a reliable one for an in-person or telehealth session.
Double-check that your practitioner is approved to issue an ESA letter – including your regular therapist or physician. If this is your first time speaking to a third party about your issues, this is a big step!
Pick someone with specific qualifications and experience in your particular area. This professional is more likely to appreciate your specific issues and ESA needs. Think about whether an online appointment would make you feel more comfortable or if a face-to-face is better.
2. Assessing your needs
The healthcare professional will assess your situation by talking to you and asking questions. They’ll need to understand your goals and how an Emotional Support Animal helps you with your everyday living.
If you’re worried or anxious about the appointment, it can be helpful to prepare with written words or a chat with a close friend or family member. If you haven’t articulated this before, it may be a bit daunting. We also recommend practicing your appointment dialogue out loud at home if you’re nervous. You’ve got this!
If the practitioner is new to you, why not email the practitioner providing a small amount of context? If not, be prepared to offer this information during the appointment, as it’s a crucial element of their evaluation.
You’ll most likely discuss how you currently manage your issue or condition – independent of your need for an emotional support animal. The practitioner will want to be aware of any medication you take, prescribed or complimentary, as well as other ways you actively support your condition. Already in counseling sessions? Share that.
Then comes the potential approval! At this point, the practitioner will produce an official ESA letter – we’ll check against this below.
A word of note: it’s not unheard of for some people with an ESA to feel that the appointment is not delivering what they need. Don’t be frightened to stop a session and make arrangements to see someone different. Ask your personal doctor for another referral, if needed.
3. Check your ESA Letter
How long will it take the practitioner to submit and confirm your ESA? Most letters are sent within a few days.
Check the letter carefully when it arrives, and make sure all the relevant detail is there. Does it display a professional signature letterhead? The professional’s full name and license number? Has it been formally signed and dated?
If anything is incorrect or absent, contact your medical professional immediately to make the relevant corrections. You’ll have it adjusted in no time.
4. Register your ESA Letter
Lastly, you’ll find a short form on the ESA Registration of America website right on the homepage. For this form, you’ll need to submit a picture of your ESA. Make sure the image is clear and easily identifiable. Registration is free – there is no fee. Once submitted, you’re on your way to a life-changing support system right in your home.
Most importantly, ESAs in Ohio need an authenticated letter of approval, which we’ve outlined above. This letter is the only way you’ll be able to demonstrate your animal’s mental health importance, benefit, and status to the state of Ohio.
While ESAs are commonplace these days, don’t be surprised if some people are curious when presented with an ESA letter. Answer their questions in public places or during rental application processes, and expect the letter to be checked carefully for scams. Don’t take it personally, as some have attempted to fake documents to avoid paying pet fees.
An official ESA letter will give you recognition for your emotional service animal, trusted peace of mind, and a higher quality of life.