How to Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter in San Diego, CA

Emotional support animals can benefit those who are suffering from mental health issues. ESA letters can be written for those with a mental health disability, and the process is relatively simple. It requires one to meet with a mental health professional and get diagnosed; the doctor will write the ESA letter if they deem an ESA to be a good treatment for the mental health ailment.

Getting an ESA letter in San Diego is worthwhile because it will allow you to live with your ESA anywhere. This includes rentals that normally don’t allow pets. Furthermore, you will be exempt from paying any pet deposits, fees, or pet rent. If you need to live with your animal because they provide relief, but you’re struggling to afford such fees, then an ESA letter is definitely worth considering.

In this article, we will be sharing everything you need to know about getting an ESA letter. We’ll explain the differences between ESAs and service animals, the laws and rights ESAs have (and don’t have), how to avoid scams, what the process of getting a letter looks like, and much more.

Keep reading to learn how to get an ESA letter in San Diego.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are animals that mental health specialists prescribe to those who struggle with mental illness. The animal is seen as a necessary treatment for the person’s mental health because it can provide some sort of therapeutic benefit.

For some patients, an ESA’s presence helps reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Emotional support animals can also provide focus or motivation in one’s life since they need to be cared for.

Emotional support animals are sometimes confused with service animals, but they are not the same. Emotional support animals are not service animals and do not have the same rights or requirements. In addition, service animals can only be dogs, but emotional support animals can be any domesticated animal. Service dogs must undergo rigorous training, but ESAs are not required to be trained.

We will explain both the privileges and restrictions ESAs face throughout this article.

Who Can Qualify for an ESA in San Diego?

Those with mental health disabilities can qualify for an ESA. There is no definitive list of disabilities that do or don’t qualify. Rather, it is up to a licensed mental health specialist in your state to determine whether or not your symptoms necessitate an ESA.

That said, some mental health disabilities that commonly qualify for ESAs include PTSD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, chronic stress, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder. USSA can connect you with a licensed mental health specialist to help determine if an ESA would be right for you.

What Are the Benefits of Having an ESA Letter in San Diego?

Having an ESA letter will provide you with some very useful benefits. For example, emotional support animals are exempt from city and state restrictions on dog breeds. They’re also exempt from landlord restrictions such as no-pet policies.

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must make reasonable accommodations for people with ESA letters. This includes waiving pet fees and allowing the renter to live with their ESA regardless of any no-pet policies. That’s right: ESAs get to live with their owners, even in apartments that don’t allow pets, free of charge!

Not only that, but ESAs are also exempt from weight and size limits. If an apartment complex typically only allows pets under 40 lbs, that weight limit does not apply to an ESA. As we stated before, ESAs are also exempt from breed restrictions. If your ESA is a pit bull, but the apartment you’re living in doesn’t allow them, that restriction doesn’t apply to you as long as you have an ESA letter.

Though San Diego is much more lenient than some other cities or states regarding breed restrictions, it isn’t uncommon to come across apartments that don’t allow pets. Having an ESA letter will allow you to seek affordable housing without worrying about whether you can bring your ESA with you.

How to Get an Emotional Support (ESA) Letter in San Diego

Getting an ESA letter in San Diego is simpler than you may think—all you have to do is speak with a licensed mental health professional in California. If you qualify, your doctor will then write you an ESA letter.

However, it is important to note that you won’t be able to get your ESA letter right away. Laws in California require healthcare providers to have a relationship with their patients for at least 30 days before they can write an ESA letter. Therefore, you will have to wait 30 days before getting your letter if you live in San Diego.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams going around. Scammers send out fake ESA letters with no legal credibility and thus would be useless in providing you with the previously mentioned benefits. However, all it takes to avoid scams is some knowledge of what an ESA letter should look like and contain.

A real ESA letter will always require a consultation with a licensed mental health professional and will be written by that professional. It will include their licensing information, signature, and the date the ESA letter was issued to you.

The contents of an ESA letter typically include an explanation that you have a mental condition qualifying for an ESA “prescription” or that an ESA is your recommended treatment. Additionally, ESA letters often outline how an ESA can help you, the patient, live a full lifestyle by reducing symptoms.

Your animal’s information (like their name and age) may also be included in the letter, but it is not a requirement. Your own information, including your name and any other details the mental health professional deems important, will also be in the letter. Understanding what these letters contain will help you ensure you are not being scammed.

How to Get an Emotional Support Letter (ESA) in San Diego With U.S. Service Animals

USSA can connect you with a licensed mental health professional who can help determine your need for an ESA and even provide you with a letter if you qualify. Our service is risk-free, meaning you don’t have to pay for a consultation if you don’t qualify for an ESA.

Let’s go over USSA’s process for providing an ESA letter.

Step 1: Contact Us

Contact us to schedule a risk-free consultation. You can submit your contact information here or call us at (985) 570-5388. We will set you up with a licensed mental health professional in California.

Step 2: Consultation

Attend a consultation. We offer both phone and video consultations with a licensed mental health professional in California. You will discuss your disability and determine if you qualify for an ESA letter.

Step 3: Get Your ESA Letter

Receive your ESA letter. If you qualify, you will receive your letter via email once you have had a relationship with your mental health professional for 30 days  (this is California law, so the letter cannot be provided any sooner). You can then print it and use it right away.
Downtown San Diego skyline view through palm trees

What Are the Laws About ESAs in San Diego?

Emotional support animals receive some federal protection from the Fair Housing Act, which enables mentally or emotionally disabled persons to live with their ESAs.

Sometimes, states have additional laws that govern emotional support animals. California’s laws, however, do not differ much from federal laws. Essentially, ESA owners are given rights to fair housing but not much else. So, let’s talk more about where ESAs can and can’t go.

Can I Fly With an ESA in San Diego?

Unfortunately, you cannot fly with an ESA in San Diego or anywhere else in the USA, for that matter. In the past, emotional support animals were protected by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which allowed them to accompany their owners in airplane cabins.

However, that protection has since been revoked, and the ACAA no longer protects ESAs. Now, it is up to each individual airline whether to allow ESAs in their cabins—most airlines do not. However, some airlines will allow people to bring pets into the cabin as carry-ons, for a fee.

Pets taken as carry-ons must be kept in an airline-approved carrier that fits in the foot space or under the seat. Pets that are too large to be taken as a carry-on are flown in the cargo hold.

Since airlines are not ESA-friendly, you may be wondering if any other types of transportation are. Unfortunately, no laws in California require public transportation to allow ESAs.

Can I Live With an ESA in San Diego?

The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation includes allowing ESAs on the premises regardless of policies that generally prohibit pets or restrict them by breed, size, or species (ESAs can be any domestic animal).

Reasonable accommodations also include waiving all pet-related fees or expenses associated with housing. Because your ESA is considered an assistance animal and not a pet, you cannot be charged extra fees under the FHA.

However, in order to take advantage of the Fair Housing Act’s protections, you need to make a request to the landlord explaining that you need to live with your ESA. Along with this request, you must include your ESA letter from your doctor.

Can I Bring My ESA to Work With Me in San Diego?

Thanks to California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act, you can actually bring your ESA to work with you in San Diego; however, there are some stipulations. Employers are allowed to make certain requirements of you or your ESA.

These typically include that the animal is free of odors, is potty-trained, and will not endanger the health or safety of anyone on the premises. Employers also commonly require that animals be trained to assist the person with their disability.

However, this last point is a bit of a grey area. Employers technically cannot force this because California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act does not require emotional support animals to be trained to receive its protections and benefits.

Still, if the animal is trainable, it is best to make sure they are trained with at least basic manners so that no one in the workplace is disrupted by their presence.

What Exceptions Are There to ESA Laws in San Diego?

Though federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act provide ESAs with certain benefits and protections, there can be exceptions. For example, landlords can revoke housing rights if an animal has been aggressive or destructive.

Sometimes, they can even deny an ESA in general. The situations in which a landlord could deny housing to someone with an ESA include:

  1. It would cause them a financial burden.
  2. Your ESA poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others even when measures to eliminate or reduce such a threat are in place.
  3. Your request would alter the nature of their operations in a fundamental way.
  4. Your request would significantly damage others’ property regardless of any measures put in place to reduce or eliminate such a prospect.

It is also important to note that the FHA does not cover temporary lodgings such as hotels or Airbnbs. So if a hotel is not pet-friendly, then unfortunately, your ESA cannot stay there with you.

Where Can You Take Your ESA in San Diego?

Because ESAs are not a type of service animal, they do not have public access rights. While service dogs are allowed to join you in restaurants, grocery stores, and many other businesses, the same is not true of emotional support animals. Housing is pretty much the only area in which an ESA’s rights are guaranteed.

However, this doesn’t mean your ESA must be stuck at home all the time. Many restaurants have pet-friendly patios, which can be enjoyed year-round thanks to San Diego’s climate.

Aside from pet-friendly restaurants, you can also bring your ESA to pet-friendly businesses like pet stores, and there are a lot of outdoor activities you can do with them, too. Of course, parks and hiking are a given, but did you know you can take your ESA whale watching? Next Level Sailing Whale Watching allows dogs aboard and may be willing to accommodate other animals as well.

San Diego is also home to Balboa Park, which includes more than one museum, gardens, dog parks, a zoo, golf courses, and more. Many areas of Balboa Park are pet-friendly, just make sure to contact whichever venues you’re most interested in ahead of time to see if it’s okay to bring your ESA.
Small black dog lying in grass wears blue ESA vest

Important Facts About ESAs in San Diego

There are a lot of important things to know about ESAs in San Diego. These facts will help you understand your rights and keep you from getting scammed.

  • ESAs provide comfort and help reduce the symptoms of many mental illnesses. To qualify for an ESA letter, you must be diagnosed with a mental disability by a mental health specialist.
  • An ESA letter is required to receive housing benefits. ESA letters are only legally binding when written by a licensed mental health professional in California. The state of California requires healthcare providers to have an established relationship (30 days or longer) with a patient before providing an ESA letter.
  • Emotional support animals do not have to be dogs; they can be any domesticated animal.
  • ESAs are not service animals and do not have the same rights; ESAs are not allowed public access, and there are no laws requiring airlines to allow them in airplane cabins. However, unlike service animals, ESAs do not need to be trained.
  • Though ESAs are not allowed public access, California law does give them the right to accompany their owners to work. However, workplaces may require the ESA to be non-odorous and potty-trained.
  • Even though ESAs do not require special training, they must be non-aggressive, non-destructive, and well-behaved. Landlords can legally deny accommodation to ESAs that pose a threat to the personal safety or property of others.
  • There are many companies offering ESA registration and certificates. However, these are not legally binding and cannot be given to landlords to gain the rights provided by the Fair Housing Act.
  • ESAs are exempt from breed restrictions, size restrictions and weight limits, pet rent, pet fees, and pet security deposits. These exemptions apply both to housing accommodations and to state and city laws that restrict breeds.

Get an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter in San Diego Today

Emotional Support Animals can bring comfort to those suffering from mental disabilities such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more. Finding companionship and unconditional love is meaningful to many who struggle with mental health.

Furthermore, ESAs can provide more structure, focus, and motivation in one’s life since animals require care. For some, caring for an animal increases their sense of self-worth since they know that their ESA relies on them.

An ESA letter will allow you to live anywhere with your ESA, even in rentals that don’t allow pets. Furthermore, you will be exempt from any pet fees a rental would usually charge.

If you have a mental illness, then you may be considering getting an emotional support animal (or getting a letter for a current pet). Schedule your risk-free consultation with USSA today and see if you qualify for an ESA letter.