WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
An emotional support animal is a type of animal that helps provide support to patients suffering from mental health problems 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 an emotional support animal when a licensed mental health professional writes a recommendation and designates the pet as a part of the therapy.
Certifying an emotional support animal in California is easy if you suffer from a mental illness. However, there are certain laws and privileges that an ESA owner enjoys. Keep them in mind before getting an ESA letter for your emotional support animal in California.
Landlords may end up denying accomodation to ESA owners. In particular, owners of houses with no pet policy or landlords that refrain from accommodating certain type of breeds or species of animals. In that case, here's what you need 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 a 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 and 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 of an emotional support animal.
Under the new rules issued by the DOT, individuals with an emotional support animal can no loger fly free of cost. So, if you want to travel with your emotional support animal, you need to keep a few things in mind
You will not need a letter from a licensed health care professional declaring your mental disability and your need for an emotional support animal. All you need to do is inform the airlines 48 hours in advance and pay the pet fees. Your emotional support animal can sit inside a carrier under the seat provided your pet doesn’t disturb other passengers on the flight. 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 the federal law, emotional support animals do not enjoy the same rights.
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 using animals for assistance. Sadly, none is applicable to emotional support animals. So, if you own an emotional support animal in California, you cannot take your untrained pet to prohibited public places.
Also, make sure you have an ESA letter recommended by a Licensed Mental Health Professional to access the rights and enjoy the benefits legally.
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