Emotional support animals provide individuals suffering from a mental or emotional disability, a sense of comfort and support. Though they can’t cure the illness completely, they do help alleviate some of the symptoms with their constant love.
To allow these individuals the right to have their emotional support animals (ESA) accompany them wherever they go, certain laws have been formed.
Emotional support animals laws are clear and distinct and can help an ESA owner in a number of ways. We have discussed them in detail and how you and your ESA are protected under the law.
Emotional support animals should not be confused with traditional pets, though they become a part of your family but still have a purpose to fulfill. They provide emotional support and comfort and there are certain federal laws governing their use.
The two main federal laws that apply to emotional support animals and their owners are:
There are several misconceptions when it comes to emotional support animals, laws for different types of animals. People confuse service dogs with ESAs – they have different purposes, hence different laws.
People who think that having a support animal can help them must be aware of the laws and the rights that come with an ESA.
Here is an overview of these federal laws and how they can help you.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that was enforced to protect the rights of individuals suffering from a mental disability. FHA clearly states that an ESA owner cannot be denied housing based on their need of a support animal, provided that they possess a legitimate ESA letter.
An ESA letter is a prescription letter from a licensed mental health professional, stating that an emotional support animal helps alleviate the individual's symptoms.
It isn't easy for ESA owners to find pet housing societies; under the Federal Fair Housing Act 1988, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations in their home for an emotional support animal for people with an ESA letter.
Landlords who have a no pet policy, are legally required to allow emotional support animals by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A landlord must not discriminate, this means that a person with an ESA letter cannot be denied housing due to their need for an ESA, similar to how a person with a physical disability (person restricted to wheelchair) cannot be declined housing because of their condition.
While an ESA owner is protected by the FHA, there still are certain situations where this law doesn't apply. Such as when,
Under the Fair Housing Act for emotional support animal, the only legal requirement of living with your ESA is an ESA letter. This law also gives landlords the right to ask for this document before allowing a person with an ESA public accommodation.
Landlords must, however, check if the letter is valid or not. A legitimate ESA letter is printed on a licensed mental health professional's letterhead, with their signatures. Other than that, no other documentation should be required by your landlord.
The federal housing act is made to protect the rights of ESA owners; therefore, landlords are prohibited to do any of the following things.
The landlord/property management is allowed to ask for your ESA letter but is, therefore, not legally allowed to ask for a person's medical records and details regarding their disability. Landlords can also not deny housing saying that their insurance doesn't cover it. Your landlord can also not ask you to register your emotional support animal.
In addition to that, landlords cannot ask an ESA owner that their animal goes through specific training or use a harness or a collar. And they cannot impose restrictions on the size/breed/type of animal. However, if your ESA isn't well-behaved or displays out-of-control behavior you might be asked to evict the place.
Under this act, housing landlords cannot ask the tenant for an advance deposit or ask them to pay extra money as their pet fee. But it is the ESA owner's job to ensure no property damage or other significant damage is being done.
In that case, the owner will be held responsible and will be made to pay. And the owner can't ask the landlord for unreasonable changes and put them in a financially difficult spot. 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.
If a landlord refuses to provide an ESA owner with a valid ESA letter accommodation under the FHA, he/she can be sued. This is a form of discrimination; thus, the person will be charged under the Federal Law.
If your landlord has denied you housing due to your ESA, here are some legal actions that you can take against him:
Americans with Disability Act (ADA) guidelines allow an ESA owner to keep their ESA animals with them during all time and even the places with no pet policy. This allows a support animal to accompany their owner to all public places. In 2013, HUD sent a legal notice that all the universities and colleges in the United States must comply with FHA. This meant that students can now bring their support animal to the college, including the dormitories and halls.
The air carrier access act of 1986 was passed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, allowing them to travel by air with their emotional support animal.
Under the air carrier access act and the department of transportation, the airlines cannot ask these individuals with disabilities for prior notice, except for the cases where accommodations such as medical equipment are needed.
Airlines are prohibited to ask a disabled person to pay extra charges for their emotional support animal. And cannot ask disabled people to sit in specific spots unless their animal is bigger in size and will cause hindrance.
However, an ESA owner is required to ensure that his/her ESA is well-behaved and won't create disturbance for the other passengers.
These federal laws also allow an individual suffering from mental or emotional disabilities to take their emotional support animal to their educational institution and workplace.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, a wide range of emotional support animals are allowed in the cabin of the airplane for flying within the United States and on international flights. However, the most commonly seen emotional support animals on flights are dogs and cats, as airlines exclude exotic animals or that:
Airlines have the right to refuse transportation to exotic animals such as:
The Air Carrier Access Act protects ESA owner's right and lets them travel easily with their furry friends. Airlines can refuse transportation under the circumstances mentioned above. However, they can't ask the following from an ESA owner:
Do you want to take your four-legged companion on a vacation outside of the United States?
To make sure that you can easily travel to your desired country, you must plan ahead and find out all the necessary information.
Every foreign airline has its own policies regarding the animals that they accept. For instance, some only accept dogs. So, it is advised that you check out all the requirements of your destination.
Traveling with your pet is the same as traveling with your toddler – which is anything but easy.
To save yourself from the trouble and panic, here are a few tips that can help ensure a smooth journey while traveling with your dog.
Note that the most important piece of document you will need to travel with your pet is an ESA Letter.
Do you think that having the companionship of a four-legged pal help with your mental state and make your life more joyful?
Then getting an emotional support animal is the only option for you. The process to do so is fairly simple. All you need to do is get in touch with a licensed mental health professional and have them assess your symptoms.
If you qualify and your therapist thinks that having a support animal will benefit you in improving your condition, then they will write you an ESA letter.
Having this letter will allow you to enjoy the federal laws mentioned above, and have your buddy accompany you wherever you go.
Since ESA's are there to help people suffering from mental and emotional disabilities, not every medical doctor is authorized to prescribe an ESA letter.
Licensed mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, therapists, licensed clinical social workers and professional counselors can provide you this document.
Your family doctor or any other doctor who isn't a mental health professional is not authorized for certifying an ESA letter as they need to first assess your mental health and identify if something isn't right, which needs a professional mental health doctor.
Obtaining an ESA letter is quite simple and it can be done from your home if you suffer from anxiety and avoid leaving the comforts of your home. If you want to skip the hassle of going to the hospital and waiting for your turn, we can help you out.
The process of ordering your ESA letter from us is short and non-invasive and requires a few minutes.
First, you will be asked to fill out our questionnaire describing your condition and other information regarding your pet, etc.
Then your online consultation with a licensed mental health professional will begin. After assessing your mental and emotional state, if you are suitable for an emotional support animal, you will be told right then and there, and your letter will be sent out within a few days.
There have been several cases where people have tried to fake an ESA letter and posed their pet dog as an emotional support dog just to avail the benefits provided under the federal laws. Due to this reason, penalties of getting caught faking an ESA letter have been introduced. If someone is found in possession of a fake ESA letter, he/she may have to pay a fine of up to $100,000, community service hours, or even imprisonment.
This puts individuals with legit emotional illness in a difficult spot, as they often suffer too. To ensure that you are getting a valid ESA letter, only go to the place or website that you can trust.
To spot fake and illegitimate websites offering ESA Letter, you need to look for the following signs:
You will often come across websites that offer ESA registration, or registration of your pet dog as an ESA. They make people believe that they need to register their pets online in order for them to become ESAs.
You are not required to register your support animal; various sites mislead the people and claim that you need to register your animal in their database. This is simply a way to exploit people and misguide them.
There is no such thing as an ESA registration; it does not exist!
The only legal document you need to keep an ESA is an ESA letter; there is no need to register your ESA online. If you listen to these scammers and get your pet registered in their database, it wouldn't help you in any way. The federal laws won't apply to you; your ESA won't be allowed to travel or live with you.
To avoid getting tricked into a fake ESA letter, you must know what to look for in a valid document.
Here are the elements of a legitimate ESA letter:
5. Am I Qualified for an ESA? H2
To qualify as an emotional support animal owner, you must have an emotional/mental disability to get an emotional support animal letter.
An individual suffering from any of the following mental and emotional disabilities is applicable to an ESA letter:
You will need to be certified as an emotionally disabled person by a licensed mental health professional to qualify for an ESA.
If you are someone who suffers from some kind of an emotional disability and have a pet that provides you with the comfort and companionship that you need, you can apply for an ESA letter.
Emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal or an assistance animal typically a dog or cat and in some cases, another animal is a companion assigned to individuals suffering from emotional or mental disabilities to alleviate some or all of their symptoms.
Emotional support animals have proven to be beneficial in calming down and providing comfort just by being with the ESA owner because they are not trained to assist them with specific tasks.
It isn't uncommon for people to feel relieved and stress-free when they come home to their pets, so imagine the joy an emotional support animal will bring someone suffering from depression/anxiety or any other mental illness for that matter.
Dogs are most commonly used as support animal; they are a man's best friend after all. But not everyone is a dog-lover, and people have found their best friend in other pets too, typically cats.
Other animals such as miniature horses, ducks and rabbits have been recognized as emotional support animals as well.
Not just these but other wild and exotic animals like snakes, guinea pigs have proven to have ameliorative effects on their owners' disabilities. But the majority of emotional support animals are either dogs or cats.
Emotional support animals do not have training to perform any special task; their training is the same as any other pet or animal of their kind. This is how they differ from your typical service animals that are a type of assistance animals, where each animal is individually trained to perform tasks.
Individuals who are deaf, blind, or restricted to wheelchair use these animals to help with their disabilities, for instance:
These animals are mostly service dogs or miniature horses trained to perform tasks for the benefit of physically disabled person. Emotional support dogs are not trained and, therefore, display unwanted behaviors in public.
There have been cases where people have tried to pass off their poorly trained pets as emotional support animals.
One of the cases that made headlines was when a peacock was declined entrance to a United Airline flight, although the owner said that it was his emotional support animal.
We hope that this article helped clear any ambiguities that you might have had regarding the ESA law's and the process to obtain an ESA letter.
For a better and stress-free life, get your ESA letter today!
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We provide the only legally enforceable emotional support animal documentation online. Our mental health professionals provide the legal documentation to certify your pet as an emotional support animal.