Emotional Support Animal Requirements
If you think that having a card for an emotional support animal (ESA) translates to a right to take your pet anywhere, think again. That card merely says that your pet has been registered in some database of pet owners who have the money to pay between $70 and $200 to an organization, or organizations as the case may be, which has no official government recognition.
The FHA and the ACAA
Emotional support animal certificates do not entitle their holders to bring in their pets to stores, hotels, trains, restaurants, taxi cabs, buses, and parks. Unlike service dogs, which are legally allowed to be with their owners anywhere the handler is present, ESA dogs and cats are classified by the federal government as untrained companions and are limited access to certain locations. There are a couple of laws, however, that gives ESA owners certain rights.
These are the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act). According to the FHA, you and an ESA (usually a dog) are allowed by law to live in a single-family home, apartment, condominium unit, and other types of housing even if these have existing policies on prohibiting pets to live in them. The ACAA, on the other hand, allows the ESA to fly with its owner without any extra charges.
Both the FHA and the ACAA, however, require corroborating letters, which you have to present to any inquiring authorities. What would it take to get your ESA certified? All you need is a duly-licensed doctor or licensed mental health professional who can vouch for your need for an ESA because of your disability.
No Need to Disclose Details
Emotional support animals can help reduce the effects of anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions, but you are not required to disclose these details. A person who needs an ESA is required to present to a landlord, housing authority or rental manager a letter of request stating that he/she has a mental disability with the explanation that accommodation is of the essence.
Fortunately for those with disabilities, there is no need for disclosure of the details of their disability; they are also not required to provide any medical history. Establishing the necessity of the ESA, however, is critical for the individual for him/her to use as well as enjoy residence. This is a demonstration of the relationship between the individual’s functional ability and the ESA’s role as a companion.
If you require an ESA letter from a licensed therapist, fill out the questionnaire at ESADoctors.com. PetPartners, a non-profit, can also be a useful site to check out for information regarding ESA-assisted interaction. ESA’s, by the way, are not exclusive or limited to dogs and may be almost any kind of animal including cats as long as your doctor or therapist confirms the animal to be of benefit to your mental health.