Battling mental illness is a massive feat. There are so many different ways in which individuals can undergo treatment. An emerging area of therapy is through the support of emotional support animals (ESAs). ESAs can become a companion in the uphill battle against psychological disabilities. The following is meant as a general guide on emotional support animal rules and regulations.
Already familiar with emotional support animal regulations and ready to get your official ESA letter? Complete the questionnaire in the link below to connect with a licensed mental health professional that can assist you with your ESA letter today.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An ESA, unlike a service animal, provides emotional support for individuals who have been diagnosed with a psychological disability or condition. Although ESAs can be used as part of a treatment plan, they are not considered service animals under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act so that they may live and travel with their owners.
ESAs are distinguished by their close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner to treat problems of anxiety, depression, or other psychological disabilities.
How do you get an Emotional Support Animal?
How do you get an emotional support animal? Those who wish to have an Emotional Support Animal must obtain an ESA letter verifying that the animal is beneficial to their mental health and well-being. The ESA letter must be provided by a licensed mental health professional and written on their official letterhead. The letter must include the therapist’s license number, expiration date, and signature to be valid.
Can I get my ESA Letter online?
Yes! With the advent of new technologies, people are now able to connect with licensed mental health professionals using email, text, phone, or video conferencing. You can connect with a licensed professional online to evaluate your need for an emotional support animal and get your ESA letter via email.
Do I have to disclose that I got my ESA Letter online?
No, you do not have to disclose to anyone that you used an online service. Landlords and airlines cannot ask you to provide medical records, access to doctors or therapists, and detailed information about your disability. Remember, you are protected and you have rights.
Rules and Regulations Surrounding Emotional Support Animals
Now that you have an ESA, what are the rules and regulations governing this? It is important for owners to be aware of the laws surrounding ESAs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), and Fair Housing Act. Although support animals provide companionship, they are not given basic legal protections like service animals (SA) or Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) under ADA. Because of this, the regulations around ESAs become tricky.
ESA are required to behave well in public, listen to their handlers, and not cause a disturbance. For support training your dog, you can train your dog at home. This will save you hundreds to thousands of dollars on professional training.
Flying with an Emotional Support Animal
When flying, owners should become familiar with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Those who wish to travel with their ESAs and are in possession of a letter from a mental health professional are allowed to travel with an ESA. The ACAA prohibits discrimination of disabled individuals traveling by air. Through this law, airlines are not allowed to refuse service, limit transportation, or charge fees for accommodating disabled persons with ESAs. Although they are not allowed to require advanced notice before offering services, airlines can require advanced notice for nonstandard service such as medical equipment or ESAs.
ESA owners should always be prepared to verify that they need the animal. While the laws have yet to fully acknowledge the importance of ESAs, owners and their animals are protected under the law.
Housing for Emotional Support Animals
Finding an apartment that allows for pets can be difficult, but ESAs and their owners are entitled to reasonable accommodation and housing. Under Title II of ADA, people with ESAs are provided reasonable accommodation for an animal as assistive aids. For example, just as property owners are required to make buildings wheelchair accessible, accommodations are also made to make buildings animal accessible. Additionally, ESA owners cannot be denied housing. Further to this point, property owners are not allowed to exclude breeds or charge fees and require pet deposits.
Additionally, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects renters from landlord discrimination. As long as the ESA owner can show documentation verifying a disability, the law will mostly protect them from discrimination by property owners. For example, property owners cannot restrict the breed, size, or species of the ESA and they are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with a verified diagnosis.
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