Emotional support animals are becoming more and more popular among those that suffer from conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. These animals are helping individuals live healthier, happier lives while saving them thousands on medical bills. However, emotional support animal laws can be very confusing to understand. In order to help you figure out the emotional support animal laws in your state and help obtain an emotional support animal, here’s everything you need to know about ESAs in the US.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefits. To be considered an emotional support animal, it must be prescribed by a medical professional for the treatment of a mental and/or emotional condition. The animal can also be used as part of behavior therapy to help with a disability or disease.
They have not serviced animals (although they can work in tandem with service animals) but instead offer companionship and comfort to their owners who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other disorders. Some states don’t allow ESAs, so you may need to contact your local housing authority before getting one. However, if your state does allow them, there are still some restrictions on where you can keep them. It’s best to check your city’s ordinances first before adopting an ESA.
Federal Laws for Emotional Support Animals:
These animals are not considered service animals under the ADA and therefore are not protected. However, they may provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of an individual’s disability or mental health condition.
The Fair Housing Act
In 1988, the Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of disability. The Act defines a disabled individual as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Furthermore, it is unlawful for anyone to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. This includes emotional support animals. The Department of Justice (DOJ) gives this example. A person who is deaf may have his or her live-in companion animal that provides emotional and other support services (see DOJ’s Guidance). Similarly, a person with psychiatric disabilities may need an emotional support animal to provide some function, such as help with stability during panic attacks. A service dog is not an emotional support animal but can be called a service dog under the FHA if it performs some service for its owner, such as assisting during seizures.
If your request for accommodation would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on your landlord’s property management company. You are only entitled to reasonable accommodation, not your desired accommodation.
The Air Carrier Access Act
The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in air travel, which includes emotional support animals. This act ensures that passengers are allowed to bring their emotional support animal on the plane without being charged an additional fee or requiring a letter from a mental health professional. Passengers traveling with emotional support animals should call the airline and check specific policies regarding these pets well ahead of time.
Airlines are not required to accept all types of service dogs, so it’s important for passengers to be aware of this when they book their flights. Additionally, airlines may exclude certain breeds if they pose safety concerns due to their size or temperament. A passenger who brings an emotional support animal will not have the right to refuse cleaning fees if the pet causes significant messes during the trip. Since he or she is liable for any damages incurred by his/her companion while in transit.
Psychiatric Service Dogs and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), psychiatric service dogs are one of the only animals legally recognized as emotional support animals. Federal law defines an emotional support animal as a pet that provides companionship. Which alleviates one or more identified symptoms of a person’s mental or emotional disability. While this definition may sound vague and open to interpretation, there are two things it does not include: pets intended to provide some other type of assistance. Such as guide dogs for the blind; and pets whose sole function is to provide comfort through their mere presence.
If your pet meets these qualifications, then he or she may be able to accompany you in places like your doctor’s office or at school even if they do not have special training. Keep in mind that some organizations will require proof of current rabies vaccination. Also, your emotional support animal must be under your control at all times – uncontrolled barking and growling. Running out into traffic would put others’ safety at risk and can result in a violation of ADA rules.
How Do You Qualify for an ESA?
If you have a mental or emotional impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If having an animal will provide therapeutic benefits, you may be able to qualify for an ESA. In order to qualify for an ESA, your condition must be documented by a licensed mental health professional and you must provide medical documentation of the diagnosis. You are not required to disclose what mental health conditions you have in order to get an ESA.
When looking for a doctor, it is best to find someone who specializes in psychiatry because they are qualified and experienced in making this type of evaluation. Once you find a doctor. There are some paperwork requirements before they can make their final determination on whether or not you qualify. The process includes filling out three forms. The Medical Questionnaire, which asks about your symptoms and how long you’ve been suffering; is the Mental Impairment Disability Checklist. This asks questions like Do you suffer from depression? Finally, the ESA Evaluation Form should then be signed by both yourself and your psychiatrist.