A person might benefit from an emotional support animal, therapy dog, or comfort animal for various reasons. Our furry friends can bring us untold reassurance and peace. For those who deal with high amounts of stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions, having a companion around to cope with those struggles can be a great source of relief. For this reason, you might have considered getting an emotional support animal and an ESA letter to verify your furry friend’s status in your life.
If that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place! This guide will cover many aspects of emotional support animals, how to qualify for a letter, the laws and rights surrounding these animals, and more.
How Do You Qualify for An ESA Letter in West Virginia?
Emotional support animals can help some people suffering from mental health conditions cope with their symptoms. If you want an ESA letter for an emotional support animal, you’ll want to start by determining if you are qualified to receive one.
These animals are intended to assist in alleviating the symptoms of a disability or disorder. As a result, to qualify, you must be experiencing a mental disability such as those documented in the DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Most individuals who are qualified to receive a letter suffer from conditions like the following:
- Panic attacks
- And more
If you suffer from a mental health condition or disorder, you may feel that having an emotional support animal would help alleviate your symptoms and make your day-to-day life more manageable. In that case, you may be qualified to receive an ESA letter. Your next step would be to find someone authorized to write you such a letter!
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in West Virginia
Suppose you are qualified to receive an ESA letter because you suffer from a covered mental health condition, and your symptoms would alleviate with the aid of an emotional support animal. In that case, you are likely ready to look for someone who could supply you with that letter to take advantage of the available benefits.
Most importantly, it is required that a licensed mental health professional recommend this letter. They will interview you to determine whether or not you need an emotional support animal in your daily life. A licensed mental health professional, or LMHP, in your state can evaluate your need to determine whether or not you are eligible for an ESA letter. Please remember that if you do not have an ESA letter, your animal will not have the legal protections of an emotional support animal.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in West Virginia
It has been shown that animals in the household bring all sorts of benefits. Having an emotional support animal as your companion to assist you in navigating your mental health condition can bring positive and practical impacts on your quality of life, some of which are detailed below:
Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, reasonable accommodations are required for emotional support animals, including buildings that typically do not allow pets. This means that if you live in a place where your landlord does not allow pets, your emotional support animal would be allowed.
Save on Fees
It is common for apartments and other rentals to charge owners a fee for having a pet on the property – if they allow pets at all. However, it is illegal for landlords to charge an additional pet fee for an emotional support animal to reside on the property.
If you have an ESA letter, a mental health professional has determined that an emotional support animal will assist you in navigating the challenges of your diagnosis. As a result, an obvious benefit would be the health benefits that come with the increased ease with which you can navigate the difficulties of your condition!
Emotional Support Animals Laws in West Virginia
If you will have an emotional support animal, it is essential to understand the laws and your rights surrounding that animal.
White Cane Law
Unfortunately, under West Virginia’s White Cane Law, emotional support animals are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The White Cane Law clearly states that an emotional support animal is not a service animal.
Federal Fair Housing Act
The Federal Fair Housing Act dictates that any person who requires an emotional support animal should not face discrimination from their landlord. You may not be denied housing due to your emotional support animal, and the animal must be permitted to live with you despite any pet policies the landlord might have. This also means that your pet should be exempt from any fees associated with pet policies in your housing unit.
Please keep in mind that there may be some exceptions to this – for example, due to destructive or aggressive behavior from the animal in question. Exceptions to this protection may also be made for specific types of animals, for example, based on their size or if it is an aggressive animal.
If you are a student studying at any West Virginia University, you’ll be happy to know that the Federal Fair Housing Act extends to housing on your campus. This means that the protections afforded to those with emotional support animals will also apply to your on-campus housing.
Air Carrier Access Act
This act previously allowed all emotional support animals into an airplane cabin without an additional fee. However, the Air Carrier Access Act, or ACAA, has since been updated. Now, emotional support animals receive the same treatment as a typical pet on an airplane. As a result, airlines may now charge a hefty fee to bring your pet on board and apply other restrictions. Some airlines have now banned emotional support animals entirely. We recommend that anyone looking to travel with an emotional support animal check the most updated ESA policy to find out what to expect when they travel.
How To Get An ESA Letter in West Virginia: A Step-by-Step Guide
Knowing where to start regarding how to get your ESA letter in West Virginia might feel confusing or overwhelming. To help simplify the process and point you in the right direction, we’ve compiled an easy list for you to follow to get your letter!
This process requires meeting with a mental health professional, and an ongoing relationship with the therapist may be necessary for you to get a letter. Regarding the meeting with a licensed mental health professional, you may choose to do this on your own (especially if you already have a provider you are working with), or you can book a session with a therapist online to get your ESA letter. If you choose the latter option, ensure that the website you use is reputable and that you will receive a legitimate letter to avoid scammers!
Step 1: Meet with a Mental Health Professional
First, you will want to meet with a licensed mental health professional if you believe an emotional support animal is right for you! This might be a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. It is ideal if you already have a therapist or LMHP who can attest that you have a mental health condition.
You can discuss with them what you are experiencing and why you would benefit from an emotional support animal. They will use this information to assess your needs and whether you would benefit from an emotional support animal.
Obtain a Diagnosis
The mental health professional you speak with will determine whether you meet the criteria to receive an ESA letter. They will need to diagnose you with one of the mental health conditions documented in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and Mental Disorders) for you to be qualified to receive an ESA letter.
Get Your Letter
If your mental health professional determines that you would benefit from an emotional support animal, they will write you an ESA letter stating your needs – complete with letterhead, contact information, and reasoning.
Use Your Letter
Once you’ve received your ESA letter, you can use it to validate your status as an emotional support animal owner for anyone who needs it. This might include landlords, businesses, and more.
Keep Your Letter On You
When you are going anywhere with your emotional support animal or doing anything that involves them, we recommend keeping a copy of your emotional support letter on you. If the need arises, you’ll have it ready to present.
Pets have been shown to provide mental health benefits, so it’s no wonder those diagnosed with mental health conditions can benefit from having an emotional support animal. If you think you might benefit from having an emotional support animal and all of the benefits of having a letter to validate your animal’s status, now you know where to begin!
Having an ESA letter in West Virginia allows you to reap the full benefits of your emotional support animal and all of the rights that come with it. If you’re ready to start the process of getting your letter today, contact ESA Registration of America to get started!
As long as you meet with a mental health professional to validate that you have a diagnosed mental health condition and you and your licensed professional have determined that an emotional support animal will help alleviate your symptoms, you are well on your way to receiving an ESA letter. Your furry companion’s reassurance and peace can make daily living that much more manageable.
Getting your ESA letter in West Virginia helps ensure you have all the rights and benefits of having this type of animal to assist you with your diagnosis. It permits you to bring your emotional support animal into any establishment that allows that type of animal but may not allow a traditional pet. It also protects you from housing discrimination from your landlord.
Whatever your needs for an emotional support animal, we hope you have found this guide helpful and informative!