Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

The Rights of owning an ESA’s

ESA Letter | ESA CertificationEmotional support animals are recommended and given by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. The intended purpose of the emotional support animal is to ease the patient’s psychological disability or emotional trauma. The animal itself is selected for use as part of a program of treatment to alleviate the patient’ symptoms.

Technically speaking, animals of any known species can be considered as an ESA. However, one must understand that the rules of common sense are applied. For example, a dog is often considered as a great emotional support animal while a goat is not seen as a reasonable choice.

During the therapy sessions, a certified mental health expert must find it necessary for the patient to be prescribed the ESA. According to law, an emotional support animal is not required to obtain any type of training or instruction in order to decrease their owner’s symptoms.

Types of Emotional Support Animals

An ESA is any type of animal that can be kept in a residence. Examples of emotional animals include cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, mini pigs, rabbits, mice, and even snakes. Currently, emotional animals have no age or maturity requirements. This means that emotional support animals can be any juvenile animal including kittens and puppies. One important requirement for the emotional support animal is that they do not become or act as an irritation in the home or throughout the surrounding area.

Differences Between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animal

Despite the common confusion of emotional support animals being service animals, there are many differences between the two. To start, service animals provide their owners with a service or task that they are incapable of doing for themselves. Examples of these services include towing a wheelchair, providing a visual aid to those whose sight is impaired, and even alerting the owners of upcoming seizures in order to obtain necessary preparations. Service animals are trained to perform unlimited tasks. Lastly, it is mandatory for service animals to be admitted anywhere the owner is able to be including means of transportation and public buildings.
Emotional support animals are selected to provide their owner with emotional support and they are not educated in executing certain duties. Also, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to be admitted anywhere the owner is permitted to enter.

ESA Letter

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act is a regulation that stops landlords from discriminating against residents based on their age, gender, religion, race, and disabilities. According to the Fair Housing Act policies on emotional support animals, occupants suffering from trauma or emotional disabilities are given the opportunity to alleviate anxiety or depressive symptoms through the usage of a support animal.

Landlords are required by the Fair Housing Act to make practical accommodations for emotional support animals. The laws under the FHA prohibit the restrictions of an animal’s breed, species, or weight. Even landlords who offer a “cats only” policy must accommodate any emotional supporting or service animal regardless of the animal’s breed or weight. Actually, if the occupant’s ESA is part of the housing’s restricted breed or weight, the landlord is required to make a modification to the rules in order to accommodate the tenant to the best of their ability.
The Fair Housing Act blocks discrimination against leaseholders because of any disabilities.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

The Air Carrier Access Act is a law that stops air carriers (airlines) from discriminating against travelers because of their age, gender, religion, race, and disabilities. Due to the Air Carrier Access Act rules for emotional support animals, passengers who are diagnosed with any DSM IV or DSM V emotional disability are allowed to ride in the cabin of the plane with their support animal with no extra fee but you must produce your esa letter.

Under the laws set forth by the Air Carrier Access Act, air carriers must make adequate accommodations for emotional support animals. Also, this act cannot prohibit a certain breed or make weight restrictions for a majority of animal species. While dogs and cats have no problems getting on board with their owner, there are selective kinds of animals, such as snakes and other reptiles, which have previously not been permitted to board international and domestic flights. Due to this ability of restriction, airlines request that the passenger checks ahead of time to make sure their animal is allowed on board.

How Does One Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?

The FHA laws for ESA’s states that a certified mental health expert must believe a person to be emotionally disabled in order for that person to qualify for an emotional support animal. The practicing therapist or psychiatrist must compose a prescription for the animal, which must include the following information:

The patient under the care of said therapist
The patient is currently being treated for their mental or emotional disability
That there is at least one daily activity that is limited by the disability
That the treatment is being prescribed by the aid of an ESA

In order for the prescription to be deemed legitimate, the document must: be on the doctor’s letterhead, be signed and dated, and include these following items:

Type of license
State of licensure
Date of license
State that issued the license

If a person does not have a certified mental health therapist, he or she can find one online in order to determine if they need a support animal.

Can Landlords and/or Airlines Charge Pet Fees?

Under the laws stated by the FHA and ACAA, occupants and airline passengers who require the aid of an emotional support animal cannot be charged pet fees. Also, landlords and airlines cannot legally charge deposits or any other charges to a person because of their support animal.

A Person’s Legal Rights to Housing

Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, any property that prohibits any type of animal must accommodate a tenant’s emotional support animal.Any person who owns a service dog prescribed by a mental health professional has rights concerning anti-discrimination. The FHA allows the acceptance of emotional support animals in different homes. This law applies to all public housing, despite excluding the following types of properties:

Rental housing with less than four units, in which one is occupied by the owner; single family homes that are rented or sold with no aid from a broker; and privately owned housing by a club or religious organization that restricts occupancy to group members

A letter or document from a therapist or physician is required for a person to own a dog, cat, or any other animal classified as a support animal.Even if a landlord or property supervisor has a “no pets” rule, the FHA states that the service or support animal must be allowed. Due to the differences in lawful classification of assistance animals and pets, any and all pet fees and limitations are waived.

Examples of different support animals include a dog that helps its owner deal with the symptoms of depression, a cat that notifies its owner of approaching seizures, and a bird that alarms its hearing compromised owner to surrounding sounds.

Despite the excess of laws requiring landlords to provide an ESA with reasonable accommodations, these laws do not extend to the use of hotels, motels, stores, and/or restaurants. That is because these places are not considered as dwellings by the FHA for the function of laws protecting the usage of emotional animals. Instead, these places treat the support animal as a pet and do not grant it any further rights.

Rules Concerning The Training of ESA

Emotional support animals are not required by the FHA to be trained. This is due to the fact that the animal’s company alone acts as an alleviating factor in aiding the owner deal with emotional impairments, including depression and anxiety.

Documents to be Provided to Landlords

The patient is required by law to provide a letter by a physician to the landlord that states that the animal is prescribed as a treatment program that aids in lessening the person’s symptoms. If the landlord does not receive such letter, the patient displaying said animal as an emotional support animal in order to go around pet restrictions will be violating federal law.
Every landlord and property manager has the legal right to verify the disability with the mental health professional. If the landlord does verify the disability, he or she must accommodate the occupant’s application to have an emotional support animal. Failing to accommodate such animal is a violation of federal law because the landlord would be discriminating against a disabled person.

The Abilities of Landlords Pertaining to ESA

Under the laws of the Fair Housing Act, landlords are not permitted to perform certain actions including the following:

They cannot ask the tenant to pay any pet fees since the animal is not considered as a pet
They cannot request that the emotional support animal have any training to be considered as an animal
They cannot require the ESA to wear an identifying harness
They cannot ask specific questions pertaining to the person’s disability or ask for their medical records
They cannot refuse accommodations due to insurance policies
They cannot use the fear of a specific breed as a way to deny the applicant’s need for said animal

Landlords are allowed to do the following:

Charge fees for any damage caused by the support animal
Evict a disabled person with a support animal if said person is unable to manage the animal
Determine if a certain breed of dog is a direct threat to other residents based on the animal’s conduct and not general statements of said breed

If the landlord’s insurance company places restrictions on certain breeds, the accommodation must then be made on a case-specific basis. If the insurance company would increase the landlord’s rates or cancel the policy, the Department of Housing and Human Development (HUD) states that it may give the landlord a financial burden. If the insurance company does not have any regulations that allow emotional support animals, it is possible that they will be investigated for discriminating against people with disabilities.

Steps to Proper Clean up Following Occupancy

People with emotional support animals must comply if their landlord requires a deposit from all tenants. Occupancy with all landlords requires that the property is maintained with regard to clean up. In the case of damage by the ESA, the landlord is allowed to retrieve the cost of damages through the tenant’s security deposit.
All owners of emotional support animals are legally required to clean up after their animals just like any pet owner. Cost of repairs may be taken if the animal has damaged the house or area more than what is deemed to be normal wear and tear.

Filing Complaints

If an occupant feels that their rights pertaining to their request of an emotional support animal has been violated, they are able to seek legal counsel. They must first make sure that the landlord is fully aware of the laws for emotional support animals since many landlords are unfamiliar with said laws. In many cases, landlords violate the law from simple ignorance, however, that is not taken into consideration by the Justice Department.
If a landlord refuses to obey the law, the complaint should be filed with the United States Justice Department. In order for the complaint to be filed, the person with the claim must report the landlord to the Justice Department along with filing a discrimination complaint. Also, the person may seek a lawsuit against the landlord for discrimination, which could end with disciplinary damages.

If the client does not want to file with the Justice Department, they can file a complaint through the HUD. A HUD discrimination form must be printed and sent into the department in order to bring a complaint against the landlord.

Concluding Statements

A large amount of mental health professionals see the need for patients to have an emotional support animal. Thanks to the FHA, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against any persons with disabilities. People with the aid of ESA are not given pet fees. Federal law prevents landlords from rejecting applications to a person with an ESA. Violation of the federal law is punishable by legal action against the landlord.

Since ESA’s bring countless benefits to patients, they should not be punished with any extra fees. Landlords may place limitations on certain public areas accessible to emotional support animals, however, they are prohibited from discriminating against a person’s need to request such an animal.

Registering an Emotional Support Animal

ESAs are not required to be registered. Registration, including paid registration, does not provide protection in legal disputes since all that is needed is an ESA approval that can be found here.