Getting through the dark dogged days of crippling anxiety or overwhelming hopelessness shouldn’t be dealt with alone. While therapists can help, having a pet beside you at home can make you feel safe and calm.
The sheer vibrancy of a pet can radiate happiness and elevate your mood. You may want an emotional support animal (ESA) if you suffer from a mental health condition.
Before you can get an ESA, you’ll need to obtain an ESA letter. Living in South Dakota, there is a specific process for getting an ESA letter and laws that help protect your rights from discrimination.
Read on to learn about how to get an ESA letter and the benefits of getting one.
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in South Dakota?
An ESA letter is an official legal document that indicates that a patient has an emotional or mental health disability diagnosed by a licensed practitioner. It must state that the provider recommends an ESA as part of their overall treatment plan.
Not everyone can get an ESA letter. It would be best if youwere diagnosed with specific mental health conditions such as depression, social anxiety, OCD, learning disabilities, chronic stress, motor skill disorders, ADD/ADHD, or PTSD. The mentioned health condition has to be severe enough that it qualifies as a disability.
According to theAmerican Disability Act, a person must have a mental impairment that substantially affects one or more major life activities. Additionally, you’ll likely need to already receive treatment for your condition, such as medication, therapy, or counseling. From there, a licensed mental health practitioner must confirm that an emotional support animal can help reduce or alleviate some of your symptoms.
For example, an emotional support pet is commonly recommended for those that feel a crippling sense of anxiety in social situations or in public. If you experience panic attacks, a pet can help to calm you down.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in South Dakota
If you’d like to obtain an ESA letter that’s legally binding, you’ll need to have a qualified professional write it for you. Here is a list of experts who are authorized to write an ESA letter:
- Licensed mental health professionals
- Primary care or licensed general physicians:
- Licensed counselors:
- Clinical social workers
- Mental health counselors
For those already seeing a mental health professional, it’s best to ask them whether an emotional support animal would fit your overall treatment plan.
What’s Inside a South Dakota ESA Letter
Emotional support animals are becoming increasingly popular, especially as more people discover their benefits. Unfortunately, this has led to more fraudulent websites that present fake ESA letters.
You can avoid the inconveniences and consequences of a fake ESA letter by knowing what a real one contains. This lets you easily differentiate between counterfeit ones and authentic recommendation letters.
Here’s what’s inside an authentic South Dakota ESA letter:
- Official letterhead and signature of a health professional
- The date of issue
- The state of the jurisdiction of the mental health practitioner, which should be South Dakota
- The medical license number, license type, and date of issue of the license
- Name of practitioner and phone number of their practice
- Your name
- Your diagnosis
- A recommendation that states that the emotional support animal helps to mitigate the symptoms of your described emotional or mental health condition
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in South Dakota
There are many practical benefits to having an ESA letter. The letter verifies the legitimacy of your condition. Thus, it can provide access to obtaining an emotional support animal allowing for all the therapeutic benefitsand the potential public accommodations made by your landlord.
Exempt From Fees
An ESA letter will save you money from potential pet deposits and fees. Since your companion is perceived as a necessity instead of a luxury, landlords can’t charge fees for your pet. Keep in mind this isn’t true for traveling. Airlines and hotel accommodations are allowed to charge you for pet fees.
Feel More Connected to Reality
An ESA letter allows you to obtain an animal companion legally. ESAs undoubtedly bring a newfound energy and zest to your life again. Whether it’s fear of going outside due to trauma or experiencing regular panic attacks, a furry companion can help you to feel more grounded.
No matter what happens, your pet always provides unconditional love and support. Furthermore, they provide access to non-prescription treatment, ensuring no medical side effects.
Live with Your ESA
Landlords tend to act in the best interest of tenants and the property. Many can be turned off by the idea of pets roaming around and causing a stir.
However, an ESA letter means you can’t be denied residence due to having an animal. This means you can live with your ESA and never worry about being away from them. Your companion will support you through the hard times and endow you with affection, care, and love.
Add Structure to Your Day
Taking care of pets requires that you give them a little TLC. They need to be walked, played with, and fed routinely. This forces you to leave the couch or bed and go outside for fresh air.
Often, laying in bed can only make symptoms worse. Wallowing in pity won’t help to get over your fear or anxiety. Getting fresh air, sunlight, and exercise with your four-legged pet can go a long way to recovering. This also distracts you from anxiety since you’ll actively care for another living creature.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in South Dakota
When understanding ESA laws in South Dakota, it’s vital to distinguish the differences between service animals and ESAs. Service animals are trained to perform tasks that help someone with their physical disability. For example, seizure response dogs can help detect when a person suffers from a seizure, while other dogs are meant to enable individuals with vision impairment.
While emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits, they don’t quite receive the same treatment as service animals. We’ll cover the various laws, so you know your rights.
Fair Housing Act
South Dakota follows the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), stipulating that housing providers can’t unlawfully deny access to people with assistance animals, including ESAs. Provided that you have an ESA letter, your landlord is obligated to offer reasonable accommodations to allow your emotional support animal to live with you.
With the FHA law, it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone who requires the needs of their furry companions for health purposes. Landlords can’t use the pet’s breed, weight, or size as limitations to disqualify the candidate. Furthermore, they’re not allowed to charge fees such as a pet deposit. However, landlords may inquire about documentation such as an ESA letter to ensure legitimacy.
Air Carrier Access Act
For many years in the United States, the Air Carrer Act let emotional support animals travel onboard with their owners. Unfortunately, in 2023, the US revoked those flying privileges, and now air carriers are no longer obligated to allow an ESA on the plane.
You’ll need to check with your air carrier before booking your flight since policies vary between companies. However, if your pet is under 20 lbs, you can bring your pet with a carrier bag. While you’ll have to keep your animal in the bag during the trip and pay a small fee, it can help you alleviate separation anxiety symptoms, knowing your companion is with you.
Unfortunately, businesses aren’t legally mandated to make accommodations for your pet. That means restaurants, your employer, hotels, or any other public entity doesn’t have to acquire to your demands.
However, ESA letters hold a level of gravitas and prove the legitimacy of your condition. Thus, many businesses want to help their customers and do their best to make accommodations where possible. For example, a workplace may be considerate by allowing you to bring your companion to work, so long as it doesn’t disturb other employees.
Always discuss with your employer or businesses why you’d like to bring your furry friend. While not everyone will be lenient, some just might let you!
How To Get An ESA Letter in South Dakota: A Step-by-Step Guide
Getting an ESA letter in South Dakota is a relatively simple process for most people, especially if you’re already diagnosed, take medication for mental health conditions, or visit a licensed professional regularly about treatment.
However, even if you’ve never been diagnosed, the steps to getting one are straightforward.
Find a Licensed Mental Health Practioner
You’ll need to find a trusted licensed mental health professional. The easiest way is to work with a recommendation from your insurance provider. Often, your primary care physician can help, or
they can guide you to someone in their network.
Make an Appointment or Apply Online
Once you’ve settled on a therapist, doctor, or psychiatrist, you can book an appointment. This way, you can start recovery and resume your daily activities. You can choose to consult with your professional through online or in-person consultations.
During the appointment, the LMHP will have you answer a series of questions about your mental health conditions and the symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s crucial to describe in detail your current mental state in detail and provide concrete scenarios of the events that led to requesting an ESA letter.
Based on your responses, the doctor will determine your needs and qualifications. If they find your need for an ESA letter authentic, you’ll be instantly approved to obtain one.
Get Your Letter
Once approved, you’ll receive an email downloadable copy of the ESA letter. This should outline your need for a companion to support your mental health, which can be used for applying to housing or other purposes.
Remember that the ESA letter is valid for a year starting from the date of issuance, meaning you’ll need to renew it once it expires.
Emotional support animals provide comfort and safety if you’re suffering from mental health disorders like phobias, anxiety, depression, PTSD, or mood disorders. A legal-binding ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional lets you live with your ESA even where pets may not be allowed. Follow the steps laid out so you can fully enjoy the positive effects of your pet on your mental health.