Animals are real friends. They can help in fighting loneliness, panic attacks, anxiety, and many other mental health conditions. Thus more mental patients are choosing animal therapy over prescription medications. The US government provides certain legal protections in the form of ESA animal laws.
But, what’re emotional support animal laws exactly?
In this post, we provide in-depth information about what is an ESA and what’re the rights of ESA owners.
What’s an Emotional Support Animal?
Also called assistance animals, emotional support animals are companion animals, which provide comfort and support to individuals diagnosed with psychological disabilities. ESAs can be dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, snakes, etc.
Many think that service animals and emotional support animals are the same, but they’re not. Service animals are trained for special tasks for disabled people. These include pulling a lever, opening the door, reminding the owner about medications, etc. But, ESAs are for providing emotional support to patients to help them manage their symptoms.
Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA)
The Fair Housing Amendment Act is one of the federal ESA animal laws, which states that any individual with a mental disability is allowed to live with an emotional support animal in rental accommodation. Even if a building or apartment has a “no-pet policy”, the landlord can’t deny housing to an ESA owner. Additionally, to live with an ESA in a rental apartment, you need not give any pet deposits or fees.
However, this law doesn’t apply in certain conditions-
- A single-family house rented without a broker.
- A building with four or fewer units, of which one is occupied by the landlord.
- When the size of the animal is too big such as a horse.
Under the Fair Housing Amendment Act, the landlord can ask the tenant for proper documentation. The document should be in the form of an ESA letter signed by a licensed mental health professional—a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
The landlord can’t ask the tenant to-
- Pay extra deposits to live with the ESA.
- Refuse housing because the tenant’s insurance policy doesn’t cover ESA.
- Provide the animal with special training.
However, the tenant can take the following steps in case the landlord denies housing-
- Tell about the Fair Housing Amendment Act
- File a HUD complaint against the owner or property manager.
- Sue the landlord for discrimination.
Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
The Air Carrier Access Act allows passengers with mental disabilities to fly with their emotional support animals in-cabin. For this, they don’t have to pay extra pet deposits.
The major objective of this ESA law is to ensure comfort and respect for individuals with disabilities for a safe travel experience.
Different airlines have different requirements for passengers traveling with their emotional support animals.
For example, when traveling with American Airlines, ESA owners need to submit the emotional support animal letters signed by licensed therapists or psychologists.
Other forms asked by the airline are-
- Veterinary health form
- Medical/mental health professional form
- Confirmation of animal behavior form
To fly with Delta Airlines, you must provide proper documentation on the official letterhead of a licensed therapist. The ESA letter must be not-more-than one year old and must contain the necessary details. These include title, address, contact number & signature of the therapist, license number, and state/county where it was issued.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 22% of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. However, researchers have found that spending time with animals can help mental health patients alleviate their symptoms.
The US government encourages individuals with mental disabilities to take advantage of animal therapy for the betterment of their conditions. The federal ESA animal laws provide legal protection to ESA owners.
Under the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA), the person with mental disabilities can live with their emotional support animals in rented apartments without paying extra pet deposits.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), passengers with mental disabilities can fly with their ESAs in-cabin without paying extra pet fees.
To get legal protections under the ESA laws, you must have an emotional support animal letter signed by a licensed mental health professional.
Talk to a therapist to apply for your ESA letter today!