The role of an animal in some people’s lives goes above and beyond just being a pet. Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide essential support to emotionally or mentally distressed individuals. Owners of emotional support animals in New York have special rights under Federal law that protect their right to have an ESA when it comes to housing and air travel.
The great news for New Yorkers is that in August 2020, New York passed legislation affirming the rights of tenants with ESAs by prohibiting housing providers from discriminating against anyone who relies on an emotional support animal for assistance. Governor Andrew Cuomo was quoted as saying “New Yorkers have zero tolerance for discrimination of any type and this measure will protect some of the most vulnerable among us who require a support animal to help function in their daily lives”.
Let’s explore the rights of emotional support animals in New York and examine how to qualify for one. If you believe that you may qualify for an emotional support animal, please complete the questionnaire in the link below. ESA Doctors will connect you with a New York licensed healthcare professional to assist you with your New York ESA letter.
What Health Conditions Qualify for an ESA in New York?
In order to qualify for an ESA in New York, a licensed healthcare professional has to determine that you have a disability that is helped by the presence of an emotional support animal. Fair Housing rules define a disability as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Emotional support animals are used to help with disabilities relating to mental and emotional health.
Examples of disabilities that can qualify for an ESA include:
- Fears and Phobias
- Panic Attacks
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- And more
These conditions can also qualify you for an ESA for purposes of air travel. Under Federal air travel rules, the condition that requires an ESA has to be a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
If your depression, anxiety or other mental health issue makes it hard for you to live a normal life, you may qualify for an ESA. If you qualify, your licensed healthcare professional can provide you with an ESA letter that you can present to your landlord or airline to prove that your animal companion is an ESA.
Emotional Support Animals in New York Apartments and Co-Ops
Under New York law, you have the right to live with your emotional support animal in rental units, condos, co-ops and other types of housing, even if the building has a strict “no pets” policy. Housing providers cannot charge their tenants any fees or deposits for an ESA, or impose weight or breed restrictions on the animal.
A landlord must reasonably accommodate your emotional support animal if:
- You have a mental or emotional health issue that limits one or more major life activities.
- An emotional support animal helps to alleviate symptoms of that condition.
- You have an ESA recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
While an emotional support animal by definition does not require any specialized training, it is important for your ESA to be well-behaved and obedient. A landlord, HOA or co-op board can deny your request to live with your ESA if your animal causes significant damage to the property or is determined to be a health or safety threat to other residents. In those situations, the landlord’s interest in maintain the safety of the community would outweigh the tenant’s interest in having a potentially dangerous support animal.
How to Apply for Housing With An ESA
Once you have qualified for an ESA, you should clear the emotional support animal with your landlord before bringing it home if you live in a building that prohibits animals. Under Fair Housing rules, the landlord has to respond promptly to your request and can only deny your request in limited circumstances, such as if they determined your ESA is dangerous to others. You can submit a request for an ESA before or after signing your lease.
To prove your animal companion is an ESA, you will submit your ESA letter to your housing provider. Your ESA letter should be from a healthcare professional licensed for New York and be written on their letterhead. Some landlords may require additional forms along with the ESA letter that your healthcare professional can complete. You should be aware however that you have a right to privacy under Fair Housing laws. The housing provider cannot ask for specific details regarding your condition or diagnosis, and they also cannot request medical records from your licensed healthcare professional.
Tenants in New York with emotional support animals have a right to confidentiality when it comes to sensitive information regarding their need for an ESA. Landlords in New York cannot require you to divulge private medical information.
The following are some basic steps for requesting housing accommodation for an ESA in New York:
- Qualify for an ESA by obtaining an ESA letter from a NY licensed professional.
- Let your housing provider know that you have an ESA.
- Submit your ESA letter to your landlord, HOA or co-op.
- Engage in active dialogue with your landlord to address any concerns they may have, but remember that you have a right to privacy about your condition.
Flying With an Emotional Support Animal from New York
The Air Carrier Access Act allows ESA owners to fly with their emotional support animals in the cabin. Airlines cannot charge ESA owners pet fees for flying with their ESA. Your ESA must be well-behaved and in your control at all times at the airport and during the flight, and cannot pose a health or safety threat to other passengers.
LaGuardia Airport and JFK Airport are both accessible to emotional support animals. You will need to submit your ESA letter to your airline prior to arriving at the airport. Each airline may also require forms in addition to an ESA letter. It’s best to check with your airline in advance to see what their exact requirements are and to submit all ESA paperwork for clearance at least 48 hours before your flight. To find your airline’s ESA policy, contact your airline directly or follow the link here: AIRLINE POLICIES.
New York ESAs and the Workplace
Emotional support animals have rights in the home and on flights, but they do not have the greater public access rights that service dogs enjoy. Services dogs are protected through the Americans with Disabilities Act, and are allowed in areas open to the public and the workplace. A primary difference between service dogs and ESAs is that service dogs perform trained tasks to help with a disability, whereas ESAs do not require training and provide emotional support just through their presence.
Emotional support animals do not have an automatic legal right to be accommodated in the workplace in New York. However, some workplaces have policies in place regarding assistance animals. If you are interested in bringing an emotional support animal to work, it’s best to check with your employer to see if they would be open to such an accommodation.
New Yorkers like residents of every other state enjoy the benefits of Federal rules that protect ESA owners. In addition, the recent legislation that was passed in New York further emphasizes the importance of ESAs and protects the rights of tenants. Senator Monica Martinez of New York said that this legislation “will protect the rights of individuals who depend on an animal to provide emotional support and/or comfort on a daily basis”. New Yorkers should be proud that their lawmakers have taken action to further protect the rights of ESA owners.
If you’re a New Yorker and think you could benefit from an emotional support animal, it’s worth having a discussion about it with your therapist or doctor – your mental health could depend on it. If you do not have access to anyone that can help, ESA Doctors can connect you to a professional licensed for New York that can assist you in qualifying for an ESA online.