Owning a Lawful ESA Companion Animal in Virginia

Coming into possession of an emotional support animal is an important step in the therapy of countless cognitive infirmities. But before becoming an ESA owner, you should know all the ins and outs of keeping these creatures, especially given the fact that ESAs regulations can vary from state to state. So, we’ve created a quick guide for Virginia residents who intend to have emotional support animals.

When getting an ESA is essential?

ESA in home

Emotional support animals in Virginia are considered an adjunctive remedy for patients with mental afflictions. If you notice disturbances or deviations in your non-physical health, we recommend that you contact your therapist or psychologist as soon as possible to check your psycho-emotional state. Even the smallest changes in behavior or well-being can signal serious psychiatric illness.

Mental health professionals often recommend ESA to men who feel lonely, have low self-esteem, feel uncomfortable in society, or complain of other indications of psychical maladies that don’t give them the opportunity to live a normal life.

Emotional support animals also help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. This malady is often accompanied by diverse fears and phobias, flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares. The animal helps its handler cope with these manifestations faster. In addition, it protects its keeper during panic attacks because they are vulnerable and can be at risk. Also, emotional support animals wake up their owners from nightmares, as the dog feels physiological changes in the human body during stress.

In general, animals have a calming effect on the human psyche. Petting an animal reduces stress and tension after a hard day. Walking and exercising with your dog also helps to clear your mind and is an additional workout that is good for your health. Moreover, the more time you spend with an animal, the stronger the emotional bond between you becomes. Over time, the animal begins to detect and understand the mood of its holder which helps prevent the appearance of negative emotions.

Learn more about How to get an Emotional Support Animal to Treat Anxiety.

Specific documents for emotional support animals in Virginia

ESA recomendation from Doctor

In order for your pet to be officially considered ESA, you need to get a special document from your doctor. This document is called an ESA letter and is the guarantor of the rights of ESA in Virginia. You can get it both in person by contacting the relevant medical professional and online using official services.

Ask your therapist to write you an ESA letter about your disorder. After several meetings, the specialist will manage to determine the severity of your mental disturbance and prescribe the needed therapy. Usually, the treatment includes various approaches to provide the patient with the maximum effect. Nonetheless, do not forget that an emotional support animal cannot be the only cure. This is an additional option, which is designed to sew up and improve the result of treatment.

After receiving the ESA letter from the doctor, consider applying for an emotional support animal ID card or a Pet Tag in the registrar’s MyServiceAnimal. No additional steps are required to register an ESA in Virginia. Yet, having supplementary documents for the animal is very convenient, helps prevent discrimination, and saves you from having to answer awkward questions from strangers about your ESA.

An emotional support animal in Virginia is not required to wear an animal vest or other identifying marks, as is sometimes required of service animals. Still, you may need other accessories. For example, you can buy an ESA Vest, a collar, a leash, and other items for your animal in advance.

How to check the legal validity of the ESA letter?

ESA Doctor's letter Verginia sample

The appearance and content of the ESA letter may vary depending on the state in which you reside. Nevertheless, to be legally binding, a document must meet some basic requirements. First of all, it is important that the letter is issued by a specialist who has appropriate qualifications and understands the field of emotional support animals. These may be licensed nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, or licensed clinical social workers.

Many healthcare providers in Virginia can help you obtain a valid ESA letter. If you are unable to visit a therapist in person, you can receive your ESA letter online from a reliable provider. The main two rules that you should follow when choosing a specialist are that they must have the appropriate specialization and an up-to-date license number.

Also, pay attention to the appearance and content of the paper. This is especially true for ESA letters received online, as many people who seek to obtain the letter, online fall victim, to scammers. The charter must be issued on the official original letterhead of a specialist (not on a copy).
In addition, the letter must confirm that you have a disorder that requires special therapy involving emotional support animals. At the same time, no confidential information, including the type of mental dysfunction, can be indicated. Also, the certificate must have the license number and contact details of the person who issued it.

Another important thing you should know about the ESA letter is that it needs to be renewed every year. Therefore, when you receive the paper, check whether it has the correct date of issue and expiration date. Once it expires, the letter will no longer be valid, so your animal will lose its ESA status and any privileges.

Register your animal
SERVICE DOG
registration
$42
ID card & online registration
SERVICE DOG
Online registration
$24
Only online registration
EMOTIONAL
SUPPORT ANIMAL
Registration
$42
ID card & online registration
EMOTIONAL
SUPPORT ANIMAL
Online registration
$24
Only online registration
THERAPY ANIMAL
Registration
$39
ID card & online registration
THERAPY ANIMAL
Registration
$22
Only online registration

Places where you can take an ESA in Virginia

ESA cat with owner

Emotional support animals and their possessors have limited options compared to service animals. Because ESAs in Virginia does not require special training, there is a perception that these creatures’ behavior in society can be unpredictable and aggressive. Therefore, unfortunately, you cannot take emotional support animals into the cabin of an airplane or freely visit any public facilities.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, we recommend that you take ESA only in pet-friendly establishments. There are many pet-friendly places in Virginia that are willing to not only host your pet but also care for and feed it while you’re having a rest.
However, where ESAs in Virginia do have access are rental properties. In the field of housing, the rights of emotional support animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act. Under this law, you can live with your ESA in rented accommodation or on a university campus without paying an additional fee or pet deposit.

All that needs to be done is to provide the housing provider with an ESA letter confirming the legitimacy of the animal and make a Housing Reasonable Accommodation Request form. Lessors in Virginia may also ask you to provide certificates of your pet’s health and current vaccinations. You must also ensure that the animal will not jeopardize or cause discomfort to other residents. Do not let the animal out of the house by itself, monitor its appearance, and do the necessary cleaning in a timely manner. If the animal causes damage to the rental property, you must take responsibility and compensate for the destruction.

ESA vs PSA

Service animals have more rights, so people sometimes prefer getting a psychiatric service animal instead of an ESA. For example, service dogs, in addition to housing, are also allowed in other spheres of human life. You can take an assistance animal into the airplane cabin during flights, and also you have extended public access for the animal.

The ADA also protects the rights of service animals and prevents discrimination based on a person’s disability and related needs. Though, only those people whose mental ailment is considered a disability and prevents a normal life can have the opportunity to become the handlers of a psychiatric service animal.

For example, emotional support animals are often prescribed for patients with severe PTSD who need round-the-clock care and supervision. Unlike emotional support animals, PSAs undergo special training, so they are ready to meet any disability-related needs of their owners. In addition, a psychiatric service dog knows how to provide first aid in the case of an emergency.

If a person suffers from panic attacks, the PSA receives additional training on how to act when it occurs. First, the animal provides security for its keeper, especially if a panic attack occurred in a public place. Also, the animal is taught to perform certain manipulations that allow it to calm the human faster.

Moreover, if you already have an emotional support animal in Virginia, you can submit it for special training to qualify as a psychiatric service animal. However, this can only be done on the recommendation of a doctor.

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