California ESAs

California not only has the largest population of all the states in the USA, but it also has the most veterinarians in the country as well. It also has a law that impacts ESAs that most states don’t have:

California law requires employers of 5 or more people to make reasonable accommodations for you to bring your ESA to work, such as making an exception to rules about not bringing dogs to work.

California Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal Laws

Although emotional support animals (ESAs) provide benefits to people dealing with depression, anxiety and other conditions, they are not considered service animals in the US, including California. This distinction is made primarily on the basis that service animals are highly trained and ESAs do not require training.

Because of this difference, service animals and ESAs are granted different privileges by different federal laws.

  • Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which allows people with disabilities to take them into public places such as theatres and stores. 
  • ESAs are protected under two federal laws
    • The Fair Housing Act (FHA) which requires rental properties such as apartments to make accommodations, without additional charges, so you can live with your ESA, even if they have a no pet policy. 
    • The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires commercial airlines to allow your ESA to travel with you, for no additional charges, in the cabin of an airplane.

Please check for any recent federal or California state law updates that could affect you and your ESA. Laws might be added or changed after this article has been published.

Limits to ESA Protection in CA

Your California ESA letter can be used to access your rights under FHA and the ACAA, but there are some circumstances that airlines and landlords can deny accommodation.

Landlords and property owners can legally deny your request for your ESA to live with you on their property in particular circumstances, such as the landlord demonstrating that:  

  • your ESA poses a direct threat to the safety and health of other residents.
  • your ESA is inappropriate for reasonable accommodation (e.g., a grizzly bear in a studio apartment). 

Each airline has different rules regarding ESAs traveling in airliner cabins, so you should check ahead before you buy tickets and plan on traveling with your ESA. Rules for denial could include:

  • Certain types of animals (e.g., reptiles)
  • Certain size requirements (e.g., blocking aisle access)
  • Certain behavior requirements (e.g., posing a threat to crew or passengers)

Be aware that there are other restrictions you should research as well.

California ESA Letter

Your first step is getting a properly configured ESA letter from a mental health professional licensed in California. If you have difficulty finding a California licensed mental health professional who supports emotional support animals, you might find it less expensive and less hassle to have the ESA letter process handled by the DOGtor. 

Not only do we have access to properly credentialed California mental health providers, but we have many years of experience helping thousands of people get the ESA letter they need to live and travel with their ESA dogs, cats, and other animals. The DOGtor is well known for our simple process that is surprisingly fast and affordable. And we back it all up with a 100% same-day refund guarantee if you don’t qualify.

Start your no-risk assessment today.


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