The ADA emotional support animals have been a hot topic in animal law.
The American with disabilities act, effective since 1990 protects the rights of disabled individuals in all areas of life such as schools, transportation, and all public places.
Public places must allow some reasonable modifications for these individuals with their support animals.
So the ADA clearly recognized the service animals but what about the emotional support animals?
It is important to take into account the differences between the ESAs and service animals as well as the legal protections for each distinction.
The Americans with disabilities act (ADA) were enforced more than two decades ago. Under the ADA, discrimination against disabled persons is strictly prohibited.
The ADA protects the laws of these people in their public life including; workplace, public accommodations, educational institutes, transportation, telecommunication and all other places open to the general public.
This law ensures that people with emotional disabilities should have equal opportunity and rights as others.
It helps in providing the same employment opportunities for disabled individuals as everyone else; requiring employers to provide them with reasonable accommodations to do their job without any hassle or discomfort. Employers having 15 or more employees must follow this law.
It also requires public entities like state and other public agencies to avoid any kind of discrimination and make their programs easily accessible for people with disabilities be it physical or emotional.
Discrimination against disabled people in public areas such as apartments, hotels, doctor’s offices, movie theatres, sports stadiums, etc. is prohibited.
The ADA also requires telephone and internet service providers to cater to the needs of people with hearing and speech disabilities and make communication over the phone possible for them.
When the ADA was first implemented in 1990, the number of protections offered were limited for the emotional support of animal owners.
Since then, the protections being offered to service animals, emotional support animals, and their owners have increased and modified greatly.
It is important to understand that there is a significant difference between all of these categories of animals being used as a coping mechanism. Similarly, the legal rights and protections offered to them differ too.
As per the requirements of the 504 rehabilitation act of 1973 and Title III of the ADA covers the facilities of state and local government. No discrimination is allowed against qualified individuals with any form of disability.
Publicized by the U.S Department of Justice and Department of Education, no discrimination is allowed in the hiring practices as well.
ESAs are also referred to as support animals and these are not specifically trained to perform tasks. They are commonly used in animal assisted therapy sessions for the improvement of people with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities.
The main purpose of an ESA is to benefits its owner by providing him/her with comfort, love, and companionship.
It is important to note that emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not considered as service animals.
You are more likely to see a dog or a cat be someone’s emotional support animal. But the use of other animals like ducks, miniature pigs, rabbits, and chickens has been reported too.
Emotional support animals help reduce the symptoms of individuals suffering from mental/emotional disabilities, including:
Under the ADA individuals suffering from the conditions mentioned above qualify for an ESA.
In addition to that, to qualify for an ESA, a person needs to have an Emotional support animal letter.
However, it is important to understand that you don’t need to register your ESA. In fact, there is no such thing as “ESA registration,” in case you come across a website claiming to register your ESA or pet know that it is a scam and immediately leave the website.
There is a lot of confusion on how an ESA can provide help with mental illness. But the fact is, there is much more than to just provide help with the medical treatment.
Following are some of the ways in which emotional support animal benefits us:
These are some of the ways in which an emotional support animal provides help and makes your life better.
A service animal is any animal that undergoes a specific training program to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of persons with disabilities.
They assist individuals with the following disabilities:
In the USA service animals or service dogs are used to help people who are blind, deaf, or suffering from mobility impairment, or seizures; by performing specific tasks.
These animals can undergo a training program to perform several different tasks such as:
Therapy animals and especially therapy dogs are also a type of service animals. However, they are not trained to carry out tasks; instead, they are taken to different places such as schools and offices to spend time with people having a difficult time.
However, outside the USA these service dogs are used to describe animals who work for the police, rescue and search services or the military. And the term “assistance animals” is used for describing animals who assist disabled individuals.
Service animals have different names such as assistance animals, helper animals, or assist animals. They vary depending on their responsibilities and the country.
Along with dogs, miniature horses and monkeys are being used to assist individuals with disabilities.
Miniature horses are trained to help people restricted to a wheelchair by moving them around, also, for guiding the blind and supporting people with Parkinson’s disease.
Helper monkeys are similar to assistance dogs and provide help to people with spinal cord issues, paralysis or other mobility issues. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) protects the rights of these service animals.
A good service animal handler must know the following things:
As emotional support animals are specifically used in medical treatments. ESAs are not considered as service animals under the ADA. The purpose of ESA is to provide comfort and help with anxiety, depression and different phobias.
There are two federal laws that protect ESAs and benefit the individuals with disabilities. These include Air Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.
The air carrier access act effective since 1986 prohibits discrimination against people with emotional/mental disabilities, making sure that they travel with their emotional support animal.
Airlines cannot ask these individuals traveling with their ESA to inform them before traveling, except for when special medical accommodations need to be made.
Airlines can’t legally ask an individual with an ESA to pay an extra fair. Or ask them to spit in specific spots away from the rest of the public unless their ESA is large and may cause hindrance.
However, emotional support animals and service animals are not given the same protection laws, under the ADA. Which often causes confusion for the ESA owners.
This is the reason why many people have asked to revise the ADA to avoid any confusion between the rights of ESAs, SAs, and PSDs.
Under the Fair Housing Act for emotional support animal, the rights of disabled individuals against unfair housing regulations are protected.
Landlords who have a “no pet policy” cannot deny housing to individuals with an ESA having a legit ESA letter.
If the owner needs reasonable accommodations to be made for his/her ESA; it is suggested that they write a letter to their owner.
A landlord is prohibited to discriminate between people with disabilities and others by denying them housing just because of their ESA.
Landlords cannot legally charge their tenants for an extra fee or advanced deposits for their emotional support animals.
However, in the case of significant damage done to the property by the ESA, the ESA owner will be held responsible and will be asked to pay the amount accordingly.
Similar to how you cannot deny a person restricted to wheelchair housing because they are in a wheelchair.
In addition to that, landlords cannot ask an ESA owner that their animal goes through specific training or use a harness or a collar.
Moreover, they cannot impose restrictions on the size/breed/type of animal.
Finding a pet housing society can be fairly difficult for ESA owners, but with a legitimate ESA letter, they can have reasonable accommodation for their pets.
Americans with Disabilities Act ADA requires landlords and house owners to make reasonable accommodation for ESA owners for their emotional support animal as an assistive aid.
Similar to the accommodations made for people with mobility impairments.
However, an ESA owner cannot ask their landlords for unreasonable accommodations and put them in a hard spot financially. For example, the request to put grass in the backyard instead of concrete so an ESA dog can play around can be denied by the owner.
The ADA also protects the ESA owners from having to pay pet fees or deposits.
There are many elements in the ADA and other legislation that have been called out to the use of emotional support animals.
One example is the issue of housing policy on college and university campuses. Because the ADA is not always consistent with the language and definition of ESAs and SAs. There are some questions on the legality of ESAs on campuses as well.
Another area of concern is the use of ESAs in the workplace. Because ESAs are not given the same level of protection as given to SAs. There is a confusion regarding the legal rights of employees and responsibilities of ESA owners.
These factors are important to further access the ADA and revise the distinctions between ESAs and SAs. Their use and protection should be afforded to all individuals with disabilities.
So, would you benefit from having an ESA? Do you Qualify?
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