Emotional support animals, also referred to as ESAs, can be life-saving companions of their owners. If you endure emotional or psychological hardship, you may qualify for an emotional support animal in Wyoming. But you have to understand the laws around ESA ownership in the state, as well as what you need to qualify for one if you want to get an ESA letter.
Read on to discover the difference between emotional support animals and service dogs, the laws on the books around ESAs in Wyoming, and our step-by-step guide to getting an ESA letter.
Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Dogs
A lot of people confuse emotional support animals and service dogs. It’s easy to do if you’ve never needed one or worked with one. But in reality, these two companions couldn’t be more different.
The main difference between service dogs and emotional support animals is that the former are specially trained to assist their owners in performing tasks that they cannot perform by themselves. ESAs are better understood as companions for those who are emotionally or psychologically troubled, not necessarily helpmates for those who are physically disabled. Additionally, ESAs can be any animal, where service dogs can be only, well, dogs.
That doesn’t mean that ESAs don’t perform a vital role in their owners’ lives. ESAs help their owners navigate public space, allowing their owners to live even in “no pets” dwelling with their pet, and provide invaluable companionship. They aren’t, however, beneficiaries of the same protections enshrined to service dogs in the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Air Carrier Access Act.
Other Kinds of Work Animals
Aside from service dogs and emotional support animals, other kinds of working animals include:
- Psychiatric Service Animals
- Seeing Eye Dogs and Hearing Dogs
- Seizure Alert Dogs
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Dogs
- Allergy Detection Dogs
- Diabetic Alert Dogs
- Autism Service Dogs
Do You Qualify For An ESA Letter in Wyoming?
Wyoming conforms to the same standards that most other states in the country follow when it comes to ESA letter qualifications.
Essentially, all you have to do is visit a licensed mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, or licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). They will examine you and determine whether you demonstrate a clear need for the companionship and service of an ESA.
If you have a verifiable emotional or psychological disorder, you will most likely qualify for an ESA. Qualifying conditions include:
- Chronic anxiety
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder (ADD)
Even if you aren’t diagnosed with one of the above conditions, you can still qualify for ESA ownership. The threshold beyond which you must prove your need is far lower than in the case of service dogs, where you need to have a severely debilitating physical or psychological condition to qualify for ownership.
Simply, you must demonstrate to the licensed mental health professional that help is warranted.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Wyoming
As stated above, a licensed mental health professional must be the one to write your ESA letter. If it’s written by any other kind of health professional, no matter how highly qualified or experienced, it won’t be valid. Examples of LMHPs include:
- General practitioner
- Psychologist / psychiatrist
- Nurse practitioner
- Licensed mental health professional
- Licensed marriage and family therapist
Make sure when you receive your ESA letter from an LMHP that it appears on their official letterhead. Some places that waive restrictions when presented with a valid ESA letter won’t consider it valid unless they see that official letterhead.
What’s Inside a Wyoming ESA Letter
If you want to carry a valid ESA letter in the state of Wyoming, you must ensure it contains certain elements. Without all of these, your ESA letter may not pass muster when you present it to an authority.
The key elements of a valid ESA letter include:
- The name, license type, and license number of the issuing LMHP
- The state in which they’re licensed to practice
- A date of issuance
- The date the LMHP’s license was issued
- It must be printed on official letterhead
- Contact information for the LMHP
- A description of the mental or emotional condition that qualifies you for ESA ownership.
Sometimes present but not required is a description of the specific emotional support animal the letter is being issued to certify. Of course, lastly, it must be signed by the LMHP in order to be considered official.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Wyoming
The benefits of moving through the world with an emotional support animal are clear. But what do you get from an ESA letter that you didn’t have before? ESA letters confer plenty of benefits, from peace of mind, to expanded access to public infrastructure, and more.
Security in Venturing Outside
There are plenty of challenges to living with a disability, but those challenges become even harder to overcome if your disability is invisible. Double that if what hinders you isn’t officially recognized as a disability.
Having an ESA by your side helps you navigate public space and private businesses. They’ll be there for you if it becomes emotionally too much, and physically, they can help guide you. Having an ESA letter makes the whole process easier because if the proprietor of any establishment tries to stop you from bringing your animal companion in, you can show them your ESA letter and gain entry.
Access to Restricted Spaces
There are also places you probably never bothered trying to go to, like fancy hotels, upscale restaurants, libraries, and more. All public spaces and even private businesses are required by law to allow service dogs, but the same isn’t true of ESAs. However, bringing an ESA letter along with you will convince many proprietors to allow you entry to their establishments.
You Get a Walking Conversation Starter
Emotional support animals are walking conversation starters. Meet more people out on walks or while shopping by bringing your critter friend along.
Helps Make Housing Easier
If you truly rely on your ESA to live, you can appeal to your landlord to follow the rules set forth in the Fair Housing Act and allow your ESA to live with you.
Improve Your Mental Health
In 2021, the first peer-reviewed, scientific study on the impact of emotional support animals on their owners’ lives was published. Conducted by researchers at the University of Toledo, it found that after a single year of adoption, depression, anxiety, and loneliness were greatly reduced due to ESA ownership.
If you’re constantly being told you can’t bring your ESA with you, it’s hard to enjoy those mental health benefits. But if you’re granted entry to a wider cross-section of the world by virtue of possessing an ESA letter, you’ll feel the mental health boost immediately.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Wyoming
Wyoming mostly conforms to the major federal travel, access, and housing laws that govern animal companions. They mostly dictate that service dogs are allowed where ESAs are not, but there are exceptions, both on the federal level and under several state provisions.
2017’s HB0114 lays out everything Wyomingites need to know about emotional support animal ownership.
In the Definitions section, the bill identifies “assistance animals” as animals who perform tasks on behalf of their disabled owners, so, service dogs. But they also define assistance animals as those which provide “emotional support that alleviates one or more identified 21 symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”
While emotional support animals still fall under federal guidelines, you may be able to appeal access prohibitions to the state of Wyoming under H0114.
For example, an agent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently ordered a consent decree which paid out $7,000 to a woman who was denied the option of living with her ESA in a “no pets allowed” residence.
The Air Carrier Access Act: This act governs how air travel is conducted, and in 2020 was amended to prohibit on no uncertain terms emotional support animals from flying. Service dogs, however, may still fly with their owners.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): First passed in 1990, the ADA was a landmark piece of legislation for the disabled community. It governs virtually every possible question of access and the law, including the rights of ESAs. Like the Air Carrier Access Act, the ADA distinguishes between service dogs and ESAs, and deems that as “they do not qualify as service animals,” ESAs are not afforded the same protections.
That is, unless state and local government agencies provide exemptions.
The Fair Housing Act: The Fair Housing Act is the only law among these major pieces of legislation that does not distinguish between service dogs and ESAs. You may move into any residence with your ESA as you would with your service dog, even if it has an explicit “no pets” policy. But remember to show your ESA letter!
How To Get An ESA Letter in Wyoming: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Evaluate whether you qualify for an ESA
The first thing you must do to get an ESA letter is decide for yourself whether a) you could benefit from one and b) you would potentially qualify for one. If you have a qualifying emotional or psychological disorder – or think you’re in need despite not having one – proceed to step two.
- Connect with a licensed mental health professional in Wyoming
Seek out an LMHP in your area who can evaluate you for ESA ownership. You’ll likely be asked to do a quick phone intake interview with an RN. At your appointment, the LMHP will ask you questions, look at your history, and use other criteria to evaluate your true need.
- If you qualify, await your ESA letter
Remember, it’s easier to get an ESA letter than to qualify for a service dog. If you think you’ll qualify for one, you can probably rest assured that following your appointment with an LMHP, an ESA letter is on its way.
Get Certified and Get Happy
Stop living in isolation. Get your ESA letter and live the easy, accompanied life you’ve always dreamed of.