WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
An emotional support animal is like a therapy for people suffering from mental or emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, or panic attacks. They provide support and comfort through companionship and help alleviate the mental disability. They do not require special training like service dogs who help disabled individuals with their day to day work. An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be necessarily a dog. They can be a cat, bird, or other animals. A pet is legally considered as an emotional support animal when he is prescribed by a licensed health professional to a person with mental illness.
Owning an emotional support animal in California is easy if you suffer from a mental illness. However, there are certain laws and privileges that you need to keep in mind before owning an emotional support animal in California.
Sometimes landlords are against renting their houses to people who own animals. However, if you are a tenant in California, you have the right to bring your emotional support animal along with you. Here are a few things to keep in mind;·
Let’s take an example: Thomas (name changed) refused to accommodate Matthew’s (name changed) minor son’s mental health disability by not allowing him to keep a mixed-breed pit bull as an emotional support animal in their rented duplex. So, Matthew filed a complaint. Thomas filed a motion seeking dismissal of the complaint, alleging that the dog is part pit bull and as a matter of law, it is not a reasonable accommodation to keep such a dangerous dog on the premises. The court disagreed as the veterinarian found no signs of aggression. So, the court denied Thomas’s motion to dismiss and ruled in favor of Matthew.
If you are working and you own an emotional support animal in California, here is good news for you. According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your disability. Here is what you get.
You can take your emotional support animal with you to your workplace your employer has to make an exception for your emotional support animal even if there is a ‘No Animal’ policy in your office. If there are five or more employees in your office who own an emotional support animal, then the employer may make accommodation for them. The federal disability provisions apply only to private employers having 15 or more employees. The employers may also ask for documentation for the need for an emotional support animal.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, individuals suffering from disabilities can board a flight with their pets where the pets fly with them in-cabin with no additional pet fees. So, if you want to travel with your emotional support animal, you need to keep a few things in mind
You need a letter from a licensed health care professional declaring your mental disability and your need for an emotional support animal. You need to inform the carrier 48 hours in advance that you are traveling with your emotional support animal. Your emotional support animal can sit near your feet or on your lap provided your pet doesn’t disturb others with his barking or growling. Your emotional support animal needs to be calm, comfortable, and should not have social anxiety. You need to make sure that your pet is at its best behavior and causes no inconvenience to your fellow passengers. Preferably wear an emotional support animal vest as that will help distinguish your ESA from other pets.
California’s law allows persons with disabilities to bring their trained service dogs and psychiatric service dogs to public places. However, according to federal law, public places cannot admit emotional support dogs. There are several laws like The Unruh Civil Rights Act, The California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which are set out for people with disabilities who use animals for assistance. Sadly, none is applicable to emotional support dogs. So, if you own an emotional support animal in California, you cannot take your untrained pet to a few public places.
Make sure you have a letter of emotional support animal in California with you provided by a Licensed Mental Health Service Provider so that you can have access to legal protection because many people are not aware of laws involving emotional support animal in California and that can create a problem for you.