The prospect of securing an emotional support animal letter brings to the surface so many feelings: excitement, trepidation, fear, joy, and just about every other expression on the emotional spectrum. At the very least, it is an overwhelming experience for anyone that willingly has a go at it.
“Twenty-two dollar documents, dubious clinicians, vendors, and clients, pets becoming service animals by clicking ‘submit’ — I see it every day,” said CEO and founder of ESAD International, Chaz Stevens, whose company offers emotional support animal letter services.
“It’s about time Uncle Sam sent in the cavalry,” he added.
To help consumers, we’ve compiled a list of common first-time emotional support animal letter mistakes, and the best ways to prevent them from happening to you.
MISTAKE 1: Choosing an emotional support animal letter service based on price alone.
We know you are trying to stick to a budget, but why spend any money on something that will be challenged and denied? In documenting your need for an emotional support animal, cheap and good never go together. There are big differences between what you get at the lowest price and what you get for what’s legally required. Services that take short cuts to write you an emotional animal support letter will ultimately only cost you more in the long run.
If you think you can spend $20 on “quality mental health care,” as promised in those dirt-cheap letters you can easily find online, you also will need the best of luck on your side. Once you submit one of those bogus emotional support animal letters and your request for a reasonable accommodation for your disability is denied, you have made your chances of securing an apartment with the support you need that much harder.
MISTAKE 2: You are not sure who you are dealing with at what location.
Examine the company’s website. Do they list an address? In many cases, googling that address is likely to reveal an ESA vendor who is operating from a post office box in a UPS store.
- Google Map the location to see if it’s an actual office.
- Looking for an actual corporate identity.
- Finding out who owns the company. Can you find it on the company page?
MISTAKE 3: Hello, is anyone there?
When I shop online, I make sure I’m not just sending my money down a black hole. I do that by making sure there’s a phone number to call that someone actually answers. When and if you get someone on the phone, make sure you get answers to these questions:
- What city are the company’s clinicians located? You must make sure your referring therapist is based and licensed within your state.
- Ask for the ESA vendor’s business address. I would verify their location and closely examine their reviews.
- Whether a phone number is listed.
- If someone answers the phone or returns a message.
- If the call center based in the United States.
MISTAKE 4: You forgot to check for security safeguards.
You don’t want to get that call asking if that’s really you buying that $1,450 Saint Laurent leather crossbody bag. Having your credit card information compromised is never fun. Your protection is the reason we went through the time-consuming and costly process of being vetted and certified with Norton Secured. Our service meets the highest standards for protecting consumer information.
Unfortunately, a lot of other ESA vendors want to give you the impression they’ve done this. The Norton Secured Seal logo has been illegally cut and pasted on their site, making you believe they are certified to protect you.
So, how do you tell the difference? Simply click the logo. If it’s legitimate, it takes you to the Norton site and shows the vendor’s information.
- Whether third-party security logos (Norton, McAfee) is clickable.
- For California residents, if the vendor has a California Privacy Rights policy.
- The answer you get when you Google “who is” along with the domain name.
- If the domain is privacy protected.
MISTAKE 5: Accept any therapist
We offer access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC).
- If the therapist practices and resides in your state.
- Whether the therapist is located within a reasonable distance from you.
- If the vendor offers additional counseling services?
- What comes up when you Google your therapist’s name.
MISTAKE 6: Ignoring HIPAA requirements
We guard your information and privacy as if it were our own. The platform we have built is state-of-the-art technology. It was constructed with one thing in mind: protecting your privacy and safeguarding the information you provide.
According to HIPAA, the law that governs patient information, any business that handles electronic patient health information must have “contracts or other arrangements with business associates that will have access to the covered entity’s electronic protected health information (EPHI).”
In short, this means vendors MUST have a signed Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with every organization that comes into contact with EPHI data for which you are considered a “covered entity.”
- If the ESA vendor has a published HIPAA compliance statement.
- Asking about their policies in the case of a data breach.
- Whether there are physical security safeguards in place to protect your information.
- How many people will have access to your information.
- Asking what cybersecurity solutions have been implemented.
MISTAKE 7: Taking reviews at face value
A five-star review is often not everything it seems. Review sites like TrustPilot and SiteJabber post reviews without validating or verifying that the source of them are really customers. In other words, anyone can post fake reviews. And it happens all the time.
The incentives for allowing these fake kudos go beyond what you might think. Each review and each additional comment snowballs into more and more. Vendors can claim more visits, more traffic, and more sales, and that means more money for them.
Here are some definite clues that the reviews you see are not real:
- Lots of reviews posted in a short amount of time.
- Overuse of “I” and “me” and a lot of verbs.
- Certain phrases repeated over and over.
- Generic first names and last names and/or profiles without photos.
- If you can dig deeper into the names on the profiles.
- What the middle-of-the-road reviews say.
- If you have doubts, whether you can reach out.
To read more on topics like this, check out the Health category.