If you suffer from a mental or emotional health condition, such as anxiety, depression, or certain phobias, you may benefit from an emotional support animal (ESA). Emotional support animals are protected by federal law in every state, and some states have enacted their own laws giving ESA owners additional protection.
In this post, we will cover the difference between a service animal, psychiatric service dog, and emotional support animal pertaining to Massachusetts residents.
If you are in Massachusetts and are looking to qualify for an ESA letter from a Massachusetts licensed mental health professional, you can get started by completing the questionnaire at the link below.
Living with an Emotional Support Animal in Massachusetts
Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals are not individually trained to help the owner by performing a particular task. The animal is there to give comfort and support and help alleviate certain symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. Service animals must be dogs, but emotional support animals can be any small, domesticated animal (i.e., dogs, cats, rodents, birds, reptiles, etc.).
Federal housing laws protect owners of emotional support animals. Like all states, Massachusetts must follow the rules laid out by the Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Department of Housing. Under these rules, landlords and building owners/managers must make reasonable accommodations for folks that need an emotional support animal. This includes buildings that are deemed as “no pets” buildings. Emotional support animals are also exempt from breed/size restrictions and having to pay additional pet rental fees and pet deposits.
In Massachusetts, emotional support animals are not considered pets, so many pet rules and limitations do not apply to emotional support animals. Landlords are entitled to see documented proof that your animal is an emotional support animal before accommodating your ESA. In the next section, we will discuss what documentation is sufficient for this purpose.
What Proof Do I Need for an ESA in Massachusetts?
When it comes to having an emotional support animal, the owner must provide documentation that their animal is needed for a mental health condition and not “just a pet.”
This proof comes in a note or letter from a licensed healthcare professional, commonly known as an ESA letter. An ESA letter contains a licensed healthcare’s determination of whether you have a mental health disability that requires the assistance of an emotional support animal. The letter must be written by a licensed professional and signed and dated on their letterhead.
The letter should also contain their contact and licensing information. If you live in Massachusetts, you should use a licensed healthcare professional licensed for the State of Massachusetts. If you would like help from a Massachusetts healthcare professional that specializes in ESA recommendations and works remotely, just click on the link below to get started.
Flying to and from Massachusetts with an ESA
Prior to 2021, emotional support animals were allowed to board flights free of charge. However, that all changed when the U.S. Department of Transportation revised its rules for assistance animals on flights. Due to these regulatory changes, U.S. airlines no longer recognize emotional support animals on flights.
Under these new travel rules, the only mental health-related assistance animals allowed on flights are psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). Psychiatric service dogs perform tasks relating to the handler’s mental health disability. If you own a PSD, you can still board the cabin of flights free of charge, and your dog will not be subject to the same size restrictions applicable to normal pets.
If you are interested in qualifying for a PSD letter, you can connect with a licensed healthcare professional by clicking the link below.
Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter Now
Is a Service Animal the Same as an Emotional Support Animal?
A psychiatric service dog is not the same as an emotional support animal. Although they frequently help individuals with similar mental health conditions, a PSD must be fully trained to perform a task relating to the handler’s disability. In contrast, an emotional support animal does not need specialized training to perform its role as an assistance animal. PSDs must also be trained to accompany their handlers in public environments and be under the handler’s control at all times.
Both PSDs and ESAs have the right to stay in no-pets housing, but PSDs have additional access rights. For example, PSDs can board airplanes while emotional support animals cannot. In addition, PSDs can only be trained dogs, while emotional support animals can be a wide variety of animals.
Get your Massachusetts ESA letter today.
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