Emotional Support Animal Policy
Emotional Support Animal Letter Policy
An Emotional Support Animal Letter is a certification that states that an individual who meets the criteria for a permanent disability should be accommodated by the presence of an Emotional Support Animal in certain public spaces where pets are otherwise prohibited.
Our office has experienced a rapid rise in requests for Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letters. It is important to note that psychiatrists have an ethical obligation to not always say “yes”. Using clinical decision making and with therapeutic intent, the psychiatrist must have enough information to make an important distinction between what is a pet versus an ESA.
PPG’s Emotional Support Animal Letter policy:
A patient must have a reasonable history with their PPG psychiatrist before an evaluation for an ESA letter request will be honored. A reasonable history is considered a minimum of 4 appointments and/or 6 months of consistent treatment. Upon meeting the reasonable history qualification, the request for ESA letter will be considered by the psychiatrist on an individual basis and is never guaranteed.
The two required components of an ESA evaluation are to 1) determine whether the patient has a chronic mental impairment due to a psychiatric condition as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that substantially limits his/her functioning in one or more life areas (i.e., a disability); and 2) determine whether the ESA will alleviate these specific impairments. Psychiatrists will also consider the practical and mental abilities of the patient to care for the animal, and the ability of the animal to serve in an ESA role before making the decision whether or not to write an ESA letter.
Please note that emotional support animals are not trained in specific tasks and are not recognized under the ADA. Whereas a service animal falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act and is usually a dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual disability.