Pets can provide companionship, love, and support during our toughest times. And as many know, emotional support animals are more than just pets because they are certified and trained to provide assistance during times of emotional distress.
These animals can provide support for a wide range of mental disabilities including general anxiety, social anxiety, Clinical Depression, Postpartum Depression, phobias, Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and other similar mental conditions.
Emotional support animals can remind the handler to take prescribed medications and distract the handler from panic attacks, self-harm, or depressed moods, as well as provide security and safety through crowd control or guiding the handler out of stressful situations.
Unlike service dogs, an emotional support animal is not limited to being a dog, as many types of animals can train to be a certified emotional support animal including cats, horses, pigs, and even hamsters. However, it seems as if every way an ESA owner turns nowadays, they face difficult situations where they are denied a plethora of services and products at dozens of businesses, housing establishments, and transportation entities simply because they have their ESA with them.
Unfortunately for many, their ESAs may cause more stress that can almost trump the benefits their animals offer, but ESAs are intended to make their handler’s life easier, not harder. That’s where laws for emotional support animals come in; they offer ESA owners protection, helping them navigate through life with ease.
Laws for Emotional Support Animals
Having an emotional support animal means your animal is covered by many laws that can prevent a person with a disability from being excluded or limited from certain benefits, accommodations, and circumstances. There are several laws covering emotional support animals that every handler should know.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, states that no individual with a disability may be discriminated against or excluded from the participation in any activity receiving federal financial assistance due to their disability.
This can be a huge source of relief for many who face financial turmoil simply for having an important companion and form of their own respective treatment by their side. For example, a disabled person must receive a waiver for a pet fee for housing accommodation or travel. By providing reasonable accommodations for the disabled, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 makes thousands of lives better each day.
Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act
The Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) states that no individual can be denied housing based on race, gender, color, or heritage. In 1988, the act was amended to include individuals with disabilities. This means that as long as the disabled person provides the proper documentation, they cannot be denied housing due to their emotional support animal, the same as a person with a wheelchair could not be denied.
Under this act, apartments and housing communities that would normally limit or disallow pets are required to make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals. This law not only applies to public housing or housing receiving Federal financial assistance but also to private housing.
The FHAA legally requires all landlords and housing authorities to allow you to live with your emotional support animal – regardless of their pet policies. Plus, ESAs are exempt from breed and weight restrictions, so all dogs must be welcome in all housing. Note that while the disabled person can have emotional service animals accompany them at their residence, this law does not cover any damage or endangerment caused to fellow tenants, as the handler is responsible for the dog’s care and behavior.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that public universities accommodate students with emotional support animals in college housing or dorms. The universities are not allowed to charge a pet fee if the proper documentation is provided.
The Air Carrier Access Act
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) used to prohibit airlines from turning away individuals with ESAs. Airlines had to allow ESAs to fly with their handlers. As of January 11, 2021, this is no longer the case. The ACAA has since been modified so that only service dogs are protected from being denied entry to a flight. Now, airlines can treat ESAs the same as any other pet.
This means your options for flying with your ESA have changed. If the animal is small enough, some airlines will allow you to bring it as a carry-on which you will stow under a seat. There will, of course, be a fee and there may be limitations to which types of flights your pet is allowed on (for instance, pets may not be allowed on long flights where they’d be unable to relieve themselves for long periods of time).
If you have a dog, you may be able to train it as a psychiatric service animal (PSA). PSAs are trained to perform tasks that aid those who suffer from mental illnesses like PTSD, depression, or anxiety. These dogs are also protected by the ACAA and are allowed to fly in the cabin with you. However, the airline does have the right to remove you and your pet if the pet is not well-behaved. Some airlines will require you to agree to this before your flight by having you fill out a form. These forms are created by the Department of Transportation and will also ask you to provide the name and contact information of the person or organization who trained your dog.
Americans With Disabilities Act
A common misconception is that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers emotional support animals. However, the ADA only states that a person can bring a trained service dog to any public place, so it’s important to keep in mind that this act does not cover emotional support animals or animals other than dogs, meaning a public place reserves the right to deny entry to an emotional support animal.
For someone suffering from a mental disability, an emotional support animal can have a huge impact on his or her quality of life. Therefore, there is a range of laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities and their emotional support animals. Because of this, it’s important for each handler to research and learn about the laws to avoid unfair discrimination and know the regulations that are in place for support animals.
However, this act only requires businesses that provide the public with goods or services to properly accommodate people with service animals in a way that satisfies the rules, regulations, procedures, and policies the business must follow. This act affects a wide range of businesses, from government agencies to privately-owned businesses, to non-profit organizations. However, as mentioned above, this act does not protect people with ESAs – only those with service animals.
Fair Housing Act
If you’re planning on moving into a new apartment building or rental, the Fair Housing Act will protect you from being discriminated against and refused housing based on your furry friend. Thanks to this act, landlords are required to permit the resident to keep any animal that provides a benefit to persons with disabilities, even if they otherwise restrict animals on the premises. There is no limit or restrictions on what kind of disability it could be; it could be either emotional and psychological, but it must affect one or more aspects of your life significantly and create a substantial need for an ESA to help you properly function.
In order to be protected under this act, you have only two small tasks: first, you must register your ESA, and then you need to procure a letter confirming its role in your treatment from a licensed medical professional. Fortunately for you, at U.S. Service Animal and Support Animal Registry, we are here to help you with every step of the process, making it as easy and painless as possible.
Emotional Support Animal Laws by State
Each state has its own rules and regulations pertaining to emotional support animals. If you’d like to know the unique issues you may face with emotional support animal law in your own state, you can check out our dedicated state articles below:
ESA Laws in:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Registering Your Emotional Support Animal Protects Your Privacy
Without properly registering your emotional support animal, you may put your privacy at risk. Today, many businesses and persons may doubt the legitimacy of your situation, and they may demand that you “prove” your disability to them. By registering your ESA, your privacy is protected, as it prohibits persons or businesses from invading your privacy by asking about your disability or requiring medical documentation, a special identification card, training documentation (in the case of a service dog, for instance), or a demonstration of your ESA’s service to you (i.e., perform a task).
You should never be required to disclose any details about your disability. There are certain situations, however, where you may be required to provide proof, and the establishment is well within their legal means. This includes moving into a new rental that would otherwise not allow animals in the building. For instance, while applying for housing, the proprietors will have access to the basic information provided on your emotional service animal’s ID card and what is disclosed in your letter from a licensed medical practitioner.
Emotional Support Animal Laws Do Not Protect You in the Case of a Disruptive Presence
ESA owners are protected nearly everywhere they go, except in the case of a disruptive presence. Even though you have the right to bring your emotional support animal nearly anywhere you go, including where you live, in the case that your ESA escapes your control and seriously disrupts others, proprietors or their staff members, businesses can request or demand your animal be removed from the premises.
In order to avoid a situation such as that, your service animal must be either harnessed, leashed, tethered, or confined to a carrying container while in public places. If containing them in one of those fashions interferes with the animal’s duty in aiding the disabled person, including the emotionally and psychologically disabled, there may be an exception, which allows the animal to be free.
What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) differs from an ESA because they are trained to perform at least one specific task that helps mitigate the symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. This can be anything from retrieving your medication to helping you find an exit in a crowded public space. However, an emotional support dog (or any other animal) helps their handler by simply providing love, companionship, and general overall support by simply living with them.
Since they are considered service dogs, PSDs are granted more rights than ESAs – primarily public access rights. This means that they can accompany their handler in nearly any public space, including grocery stories, restaurants, and offices. They can also accompany you on public transport, and can even fly for free with you in an airline cabin.
Both ESAs and PSDs are guaranteed the right to live with you in any housing, regardless of no-pet policies, or breed or weight restrictions. However, if you think you will benefit from the support of your dog in public as well as at home, it may be worth training them to be a PSD.
Wondering Where to Start the Process of Registering Your ESA?
Registering your animal might be the best choice for you, but what about the company you do it with? Choosing the right animal support registry to register your ESA is an important decision, and you want to make sure you choose the best one to fit your and your ESA’s unique needs. You want a company that will stand by you through any strife you may encounter as an ESA owner and one that will equip you with the proper tools and resources you need to handle the situation.
If you’re considering registering your animal as an emotional support animal, or if you’re ready to begin the process, turn to us! At U.S. Service Animal and Support Animal Registry, we are devoted to providing the best services and resources to ESAs and their owners.
Still on the fence? Take a look at the advantages of registering your animal with us, versus any other emotional support animal registry!
The Perks of Registering Your ESA with Us
As you have learned so far, registering your ESA has numerous legal benefits, but what about the company you’re registering your animal with? By registering your animal with us, you can look forward to the following perks
- You will receive both a card and certificate to protect your rights as an ESA owner in nearly any scenario. The certificate acts as an official document that confirms your animal is registered as an ESA in our database, and contains all the necessary information, such as the date of issuance and the animal’s name.
- You and your animal will be included in the largest online database of U.S. service animals.
- We supply numerous resources to help you secure a support animal; this includes a variety of things, such as a licensed medical professional, should you need an official letter for a landlord or airport.
- You can get $60 off your consultation with any medical professional in our network, when you seek out an official letter for your housing or travel, if you register your animal with us.
- Registering your animal allows you to also carry all the necessary equipment and accessories needed for your animal; this includes items such as a leash, collar, tag, vest, crate, and so on.
- We can help connect you to our on-staff attorneys who are there to protect your rights as an ESA owner.
- You gain access to our ESA kits and products.
Lastly, we always want you to remind you to beware of scams. Just like any other industry or company, there are imposters everywhere. Therefore, if you have any questions about anyone acting or pretending to conduct business on our behalf, U.S. Service Animals, or have your suspicions of any questions regarding the actions of any person claiming to be a service animal authority, we encourage you to contact us. We here at U.S. Service Animals are here to protect, help, and support both you and your ESA. You can trust us to put what’s best for you and your ESA first, allowing you to enjoy life with your ESA – not stress about it!