Emotional support animals can completely change their owners’ lives for the better. Whether through companionship, motivation, or reassurance, they give something invaluable to millions daily. If you own an emotional support animal in South Carolina, or you’re considering applying for one, you might be considering getting an ESA letter. If that’s the case, then you’re in the right place!
With this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about ESA letters in the Palmetto State. This includes who can write them, their benefits, legislation surrounding them, and how to get your own. By the end, you just may feel like a certified expert. Let’s get into it!
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in South Carolina?
Qualifying for an ESA letter in South Carolina depends on your circumstances. If you already have an emotionally supportive animal and feel that you would benefit from some official documentation, then an ESA letter could be the perfect solution. Legislation surrounding ESAs can get a little blurry at times, but generally speaking, if you have an emotional disability, you almost certainly qualify for a letter.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in South Carolina?
You might be surprised by how many professionals are qualified to write an ESA letter. Essentially, any professional with a valid medical license can write your letter for you. This covers many bases, including:
- Licensed Counselors
- Physician’s Assistants
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
And potentially even more! As we stated before, as long as your chosen healthcare provider possesses a valid medical license, they’re authorized to write up your letter. Importantly, we recommend you choose a professional you are familiar with – even comfortable. Not only will this make your appointment feel less stressful, but it will also help your healthcare provider suggest the best course of action moving forward since they will already be familiar with your situation.
What’s Inside a South Carolina ESA Letter?
All ESA letters must be written by a licensed medical professional, but they must also contain a distinct set of criteria. Indeed, these critical elements are necessary for your ESA letter to be valid documentation. Most healthcare providers will already know what to include when you ask them to write one. If not, you can use the following list as a reference:
- The license type and number of your chosen medical professional
- The state in which they were licensed to practice
- The date their license was issued
- Their relevant contact information, such as an address, email, and contact number
- Printed on official letterhead
- The date the ESA letter was first issued
- An authorized signature from the licensed medical health professional
In addition to this information regarding your healthcare provider, the letter will also need to contain information about you and your support animal. It should detail clearly how your support animal benefits your daily life and the necessity for their presence.
This is an essential element. Although you shouldn’t have to explain yourself, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding emotional support animals. With a properly written ESA letter on hand, you have an explanation from a medical professional at all times. That is one of many benefits associated with an ESA letter, too.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in South Carolina
Beyond the benefits that emotional support animals already provide to their owners, there are additional benefits you can only receive via an ESA letter. To help illustrate this point, we’ve listed some of the perks you could look forward to with an ESA letter!
May Save You Money on Pet Fees
If you’ve owned a pet, you already know about the many fees they may bring, especially when finding a place to live. Landlords often request deposits, pet fees, and may even ask for application fees. With a valid ESA letter, your animal is immediately exempt from these fees, as they aren’t technically a pet. These small savings can build up over time, giving you extra cash to spend where you need it most.
Allows You to Live Almost Anywhere
If you’ve searched for a rental property before, you’ll know that many come with pet restrictions. It isn’t unusual to see ‘no-pets allowed’ in almost every advertisement. We know how discouraging that can feel. Thankfully, emotional support animals are not considered pets, meaning you can waive these restrictions with a valid ESA letter.
Note: this does not apply if the landlord is forced to make ‘unreasonable accommodations‘ or your animal’s behavior is deemed too aggressive or inappropriate.
Grants You Access to Otherwise Off-Limits Places
Emotional support animals are more than just pets, so no-pet policies often don’t apply to them. Of course, this doesn’t mean they can go everywhere with you, but it certainly increases your chances. This could apply to coffee shops, transportation drop-offs, or even hotels. A caveat: double-check with the staff inside before proceeding, and always keep your ESA letter close at hand!
Improves Your Chances of Bringing Your ESA on Flights
Although changes to the Air Carrier Access Act in 2020 mean that your emotional support animal is no longer guaranteed a place on board your flight, that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible. This is especially true if you have a valid ESA letter to validate your support needs. Some airlines are sympathetic towards those with emotional support animals, and if you politely explain your situation before your flight, they may make an exception for you. Always check beforehand!
Emotional Support Animal Laws in South Carolina
Laws surrounding emotional support animals in South Carolina are necessary to familiarize yourself with, even if you have an ESA letter. We have laid out some key legislation you should know to give you some insight.
Public Accommodation Has No Legal Obligation to Allow Emotional Support Animals Entry
Although emotional support animals are not pets, they aren’t granted the same legal protections as service animals. (More on this below!) Therefore, although many public buildings and spaces may make an exception for your animal, they aren’t legally obligated to. This remains true even if you have an ESA letter, although owning one will certainly help your cause. It’s essential to bear this in mind before taking your ESA anywhere; calling ahead where possible is always a smart idea. (Noticing a theme?)
Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals are Different
Emotional support animals and service animals are entirely different in legislation, and it’s an important distinction to understand. Service animals train for specific purposes, such as hearing or sight support. Emotional support animals serve a more generalized purpose, assisting their owners in numerous ways. Legislation written purposefully for service animals does not apply to emotional support animals, so keep that in mind!
Employers Aren’t Legally Required to Allow an Emotional Support Animal, But They Still May
In South Carolina law, employers have no legal obligation to allow emotional support animals in the workplace. However, your manager may be sympathetic. If you have a valid ESA letter to prove the validity of your support animal, they may make an exception for you. Office spaces are more likely to be receptive to this than restaurants or cafes, for obvious reasons, but you still have options available.
How to Get an ESA Letter in South Carolina: A Step-By-Step Guide
So, now that we have discussed the benefits and legislation surrounding ESA letters in beautiful South Carolina, it’s time to talk about how you can acquire one! The process is relatively simple, but there are some critical steps to take before moving forward. Let’s walk you through them.
Prepare Your Reasons Before Your Appointment
Preparation is vital, none more so than before attending a necessary appointment. Before you approach a healthcare professional to write your ESA letter, you must be crystal clear on how your emotional support animal benefits you and improves your daily life. We recommend jotting down some written notes and bringing them into your appointment for even more clarity and confidence.
Arrange an Appointment With Your Chosen Healthcare Professional
Once you feel sufficiently prepared, it’s time to make your appointment. As we mentioned previously, we recommend meeting with a professional you’re already familiar with. Not only will this help to make you more comfortable, but it will also be valuable for you to talk to someone who already understands your circumstances. At the very least, choose someone open to your experience.
Make Sure Your Letter Includes Everything You Need
You shouldn’t need to worry about this as much if your chosen healthcare professional is already familiar with ESA letters. However, if they aren’t, they might need a little guidance. In this case, show your healthcare provider a sample letter to ensure your letter arrives with everything it needs. Alternatively, provide them with a list of criteria like the one we demonstrated at this article’s start!
Wait for Your Letter to Arrive
Once your appointment has concluded, and everything is going ahead as usual, all you need to do is wait for your letter to arrive. Depending on your indicated preferences, this will happen either through email, digital download, or physically through the mail. It could even be a combination of all three. Once your letter arrives, make sure to double-check that it has all of the required information.
If it takes more than two weeks to arrive, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. There may have been an internal delay, or your chosen healthcare provider may need a friendly reminder to process your letter as asked. As frustrating as this is, try to remain patient; your letter should still arrive with you soon!
There is no denying how valuable emotional support animals are to the lives of their owners, and an ESA letter is the perfect addition to this. Although an ESA letter isn’t the answer to all problems you may face, it does validate your animal’s presence in spaces that otherwise aren’t so pet-friendly. That kind of reassurance is definitely worth looking into.