How To Get an ESA Letter in Oregon: A Complete Guide2023-02-13
An emotional support animal, or ESA, can be a life-changing addition to the family of a person struggling to overcome mental and emotional obstacles. These animals provide both companionship and support while navigating public spaces and private dwellings alike in Oregon.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your ESA is to procure an emotional support animal letter. This letter, signed off by a licensed mental health professional, testifies to your need for a furry or feathered friend. It may also help assuage any complaints that a landlord, boss, transportation operator, or business owner has if you bring along your ESA.
There are a few things you should know about ESA letters in Oregon, so read on to discover how you can get one, what's inside one, and more.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in Oregon?
The qualifications for ESA ownership are fairly universal across all 50 states. Unlike service dog ownership, you do not need to demonstrate that you are disabled in a way that makes basic functioning impossible without the help of a canine companion. The bar for ESA ownership is lower, having to do with mental or emotional distress rather than physical or psychological disability.
The only person who can verify whether you qualify for an ESA letter is a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), like a psychiatrist or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). If you have insurance, look within your provider directory to find a covered practitioner. An initial intake questionnaire conducted over the phone can give you a good sense of whether it's even worth making an appointment for a consultation.
If you've already been diagnosed with a condition like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, it's certainly worth your time to get an ESA letter for your emotional support animal. But if you're struggling with symptoms similar to conditions like those, call your primary care practitioner or other LMHP and set up a consultation.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Oregon
Not just anyone can write an ESA letter in Oregon. You need to visit a LMHP and have them sign off on an ESA letter on their official letterhead. Who counts as an LMHP? Any of the following clinical practitioners are qualified to sign off on an ESA letter:
- Psychiatrist or psychologist
- Primary care physician or other medical doctor
- Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
- Nurse practitioner
You must meet with an LMHP at least once, but it may be over the phone or in person. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported a 1500% increase in the use of telehealth services from March 2020 to February 2021, skyrocketing from 2.1 million people to nearly 32.5 million.
So you may visit an LMHP however you choose, but they must be the one to write you an ESA letter.
What's Inside an Oregon ESA Letter
An ESA letter must contain certain elements to make it official, and only some people checking your letter will know how to spot these. But it's important for your well-being and the safety of your pet that you fully comply with the requirements of a proper letter, and that means making sure all of these are included:
- The letter should be written on the clinician's official letterhead
- The clinician's signature and printed name, as well as their credentials, the date they were issued, and the state which issued them.
- The date of issuance
- Details of the pet
- Most importantly, it must describe why the recipient of the ESA letter is in need of an emotional support animal.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Oregon
There are numerous benefits to getting your ESA letter in Oregon. Here is a round-up of the top six.
No Registration Fees
Here's one advantage having an emotional support animal has over owning a service dog: owning a service dog comes with fee after fee, from training costs to the vests, leashes, and other accessories required for public use. Emotional support animal ownership entails none of those costs. Best of all is the lack of a registration fee to procure an ESA letter.
Exemptions From Some Pet Fees
Some hotels, apartment buildings, and other lodgings will charge a pet fee if you bring your emotional support animal. Service dogs are almost universally exempt from these fees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ESAs aren't legally exempt from being charged pet fees, but showing your ESA letter may be enough to waive those fees. Always keep it on you for a record of proof.
No Breed Restrictions
Unlike service dogs, which must be from the dog species, emotional support animals can be whatever species you choose. From gerbils to cats to an emotional support peacock which made quite a stir when it was barred from a flight in 2018 before the Department of Transportation outlawed ESAs on flights.
Whatever pet makes a connection with you is a-okay, ESA letter-wise.
Ease of Travel
Again, having an ESA letter doesn't legally prevent your pet from being kicked out of a business, bus, bank, or what have you. But showing an official ESA letter to folks who ask you to kindly remove your pet from the premises will change many more minds than if you were to simply ask nicely.
No Renewals Required
Unlike service dog registration, which requires updates and renewals, you only need to receive an ESA letter once. Once is good enough to certify your pet for a lifetime of companionship, support, and assistance.
Bring Your ESA to Work
This approach similarly isn't foolproof, but you can attempt to bring your ESA to work the same way you would a service dog. Your letter won't protect them from being asked to leave, but it will strengthen your case with your boss, who may see how your pet helps you and allow them to stay on while you work. Employers may consider this on a case-by-case basis.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Oregon
Most of the laws surrounding emotional support animals in Oregon are drawn from three main bodies of national law which govern service dogs and emotional support animals: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act, and the Air Carrier Access Act.
Unlike the ADA or Air Carrier Access Act, the Fair Housing Act protects ESAs and service dogs from housing discrimination. Landlords and property managers must provide reasonable accommodations for the request to board with an ESA.
If your landlord refuses to allow your ESA to live with you, it is your legal right to ask for a “reasonable accommodation" to waive their no-pets policy. Generally, it's recommended that tenants provide their landlord or property manager with a note from a therapist or other LMHP stating the need of their patient to live with their assistance animal, and their legal right to do so.
But since you already have your ESA letter, you can provide them with that. Remind them that the burden is on them to provide you with reasonable accommodation.
Exceptions do apply, such as in the case that the building consists of four or fewer tenants and the landlord lives in one of them.
Unfortunately, the state of Oregon has adopted the national policy that ESAs are not absolutely necessary for the basic functioning of their owners, so they can't legally be protected in a workplace environment.
You'll find, however, that many bosses are accepting and even welcoming of ESAs. If you calmly explain that your emotional or psychological condition is inhibiting your work performance - and that the companionship of your emotional support animal helps alleviate that burden - there's a high chance they will understand and grant you that request.
Public and Private Transportation
Oregon state law reiterates Title III of the ADA, which states that ESAs cannot be discriminated against on public or private transportation, which includes buses, taxi cabs, and trains, but does not extend to airplanes.
The Air Carrier Access Act was updated in 2020 with a de facto ban of ESAs on airplanes, though service dogs are still allowed to fly.
Distinguishing Between Service Dogs and ESAs
Chapter 530 of the Oregon state statutes clearly defines “assistance animals” as animals trained to perform tasks for the benefit of individuals. Translation: service dogs. Unfortunately, the state offers no additional protections for ESAs.
How To Get An ESA Letter in Oregon: A Step-by-Step Guide
Determine if you Qualify for an ESA
This is an informal step, but we recommend that you take it before researching a licensed mental health professional. Assess yourself, or take an online quiz to determine whether you may qualify for an ESA. There's no use wasting your time and the time of a professional clinician if you won't qualify for an ESA letter.
Contact a Licensed Mental Health Professional for a Consultation
If you already have a primary care physician that you trust, make a regular appointment with them. You can ask them to evaluate you in order to “prescribe” you an ESA letter, so to speak.
Otherwise, you can contact your health insurance provider and ask for referrals to mental healthcare professionals in your network. They will evaluate you emotionally and psychologically to determine if your quality of life would benefit from ESA ownership. If it would, an ESA letter would make navigating public space and negotiating housing and workplace environments far less intimidating.
Receive Your ESA Letter
Once you've been approved by your LMHP, they'll send you a signed ESA letter printed on their official letterhead. Make sure it contains all the crucial components listed above. If it does, you're ready to hit the town.
The benefits of ESAs come down to two words: compassionate companionship. What people suffering from emotional and psychological disabilities or disturbances need above all is love and support.
Animals will never judge you, turn their backs on you, and leave you in your time of need. They are the most compassionate creatures there are.
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