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

San Francisco is a crown jewel, with beaches, forests, and some of the country’s best food. San Francisco is a popular tourist destination in California and a populous city, so an ESA may benefit those who face crowd anxiety. San Francisco is also known for its city-wide pit bull ban, which ESAs are exempt from.

The process of getting an ESA letter may be an intimidating one, but it doesn’t have to be! U.S. Service Animals helps clear up the confusion by guiding you through the process from consultation to understanding your legal rights as an ESA handler.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal

An emotional support animal, or ESA, is any animal that improves your mental or emotional well-being, as verified by a mental health professional. To be a legitimate ESA, a letter from a mental health professional licensed in your state of residence is required. An ESA can be any animal, though cats and dogs are the most popular choices. Finally, ESAs don’t require any specialized training to be legitimate.

Who Can Qualify for an ESA in San Francisco?

To qualify for an ESA, you need to be formally diagnosed with a relevant condition by a licensed mental health professional. Relevant conditions are mental health and mood disorders, such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety.

So if you’re moving states and don’t have connections to a therapist in your new area or don’t know where to start looking for a therapist, U.S. Service Animals can help connect you with a mental health professional licensed in any state!

What Are the Benefits of Having an ESA in San Francisco?

San Francisco tends to be a tourist destination, especially in the summer, so if crowds heighten your anxiety, having an ESA can alleviate the accompanying symptoms.

It’s also worth noting that since 2005, San Francisco has banned pit bulls and pit bull mixes from the city. However, if your pit bull is a legitimate emotional support animal, the ban does not apply, and your pup is protected by the Fair Housing Act, stating that your ESA always has the right to live with you (more on that later. To go along with this, since San Francisco is a bustling city, many landlords have “No Pet” policies, which never apply to ESAs.

How to Get an ESA Letter in San Francisco

The first step in getting an ESA letter is finding a therapist. Remember, an ESA letter is not the same as ESA registration, and California does not require ESAs to be registered with the state. Therefore, the only documentation necessary for an emotional support animal to be legitimate is a letter from a mental health professional licensed in your state of residence. Beware of online ESA registration sites, as they often don’t offer legitimate ESA letters.

Since U.S. Service Animals has a network of mental health professionals who are licensed in every state, we can help connect you with a therapist if you don’t already have one of your own. This is especially great for those who have just moved to a new state.

Once you connect with a therapist, the next step is getting a relevant diagnosis. If you’ve already seen a therapist in the past and have a diagnosis, this is great information to bring. Relevant diagnoses are mental health conditions that can be alleviated with the presence of an ESA, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.

As of January 1st, 2022, California law states that those seeking an ESA letter for dogs need to establish a relationship with a mental health provider for at least 30 days before the provider can write an ESA letter. While this makes the process a little more time-consuming, it’s an important law to help negate the prevalence of ESA documentation fraud, which is, unfortunately, a rising trend. So make sure you consider this new law when you’re making a timeline for your ESA.

Once your mental health professional feels confident that an ESA would be beneficial, they will write you a letter stating that your ESA is necessary for your well-being. When you have this letter, you can present it to your landlord, ensuring that your ESA can live with you.

How to Get an ESA in San Francisco With U.S. Service Animals

The U.S. Service Animals process starts with a phone call. We’ll put you in touch with a mental healthcare worker licensed in California to do a consultation. This consultation reviews the symptoms that you experience with your mental illness and ensures that an ESA is a good fit for your lifestyle. Many online ESA letter services don’t bother to connect you with a mental healthcare worker licensed in the correct state, which is one point where U.S. Service Animals differs. You can always rest assured that your ESA letter is legitimate.

To ensure that you get your ESA letter in time for moving or anything else that you’ll use it for, make sure you reach out to U.S. Service animals at least 30 days before you need the letter. Under new state legislation, those seeking an ESA letter must have a working relationship with a mental healthcare worker for at least 30 days before receiving their ESA letter.

Once you have your ESA letter from U.S. Service Animals, your ESA will be legitimate. No further training needs to take place for your animal to be considered a legitimate ESA. You’ll be able to submit your ESA letter to your landlord immediately upon receipt.
Woman walking dog on beach

What Are the Laws About ESAs in San Francisco

California has some laws around ESAs, including a workplace accommodation law, but neither San Francisco nor California has additional protections when it comes to traveling or other public access points.

However, San Francisco does have breed restrictions on pit bulls and pit bull mixes, but ESAs cannot be discriminated against because of their breed. So, if your ESA is a pit bull/pit bull mix, landlords and other authorities in San Francisco cannot kick your dog out based on their breed, as long as your ESA letter is legitimate.

Can You Fly With an ESA in San Francisco?

Due to changes in the federal Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs are no longer guaranteed the right to fly with you in the cabin of a plane for free, so they’re treated as regular pets. This means that you’ll need to pay a pet fee, and if your ESA is too large, it will need to ride in the cargo hold. California, unfortunately, doesn’t offer any state-wide protections against this.

If plane travel is something that you find emotionally debilitating, it may be worth looking into training your dog to be a psychiatric service dog. Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are legally protected and allowed to go with you everywhere—even on planes, no matter their size.

Can I Live With an ESA in San Francisco?

Under the Fair Housing Act, ESAs can always live with you for free, even if pets aren’t permitted on the premises. Since the Fair Housing Act is a federal law, it applies in every state.

Separately, California has its own Fair Employment and Housing Act, which also states that ESAs have the right to free residence anywhere. Unfortunately, this doesn’t offer any additional protections, other than if the federal Fair Housing Act gets challenged and amended.

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

When it comes to working accommodations, California has better laws than most other states in the U.S. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers must make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ disabilities, including allowing an ESA. However, since ESAs aren’t legally recognized as a protected class of dog, there is a chance that your employer could say no.

You may need to submit a copy of your ESA letter for your employer to make the accommodation, so make sure you have that on hand.

What Exceptions Are There to ESA Laws in San Francisco?

The main exception to ESA laws concerns your animal’s behavior. For example, if your animal is aggressive and causes destruction in a living space, your landlord can deny your ESA housing rights, and the same goes for employers. This is why it’s recommended that your dog goes through obedience training before becoming certified as an ESA.

Something else to be conscious of is establishing a relationship with your mental health care provider at least 30 days before obtaining an ESA letter; many online ESA letter services don’t allow you to do this. You could face serious consequences if you are caught with an ESA letter from a care provider you don’t have an established relationship with. If you decide to pursue an ESA letter from an online registration, U.S. Service Animals can help you do so while still ensuring you abide by California law.

Where Can You Take Your ESA in San Francisco?

While ESAs are only legally guaranteed housing rights, there are still lots of places where you can take your ESA in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park is one of the most popular choices of parks in San Francisco, and for a good reason. It has a huge expanse of rolling hills with forest groves that all have a walking path, which makes walking your dog a breeze. Of course, dogs should be on a leash, though there are designated areas where your pup can be off-leash.

When it comes to lodging in San Francisco, The Marker is one of the top choices for pet friendliness. Dogs and cats are allowed for a $75 fee, which includes bowls and treats for them. Dogs need to be leashed when they’re on the property outside of the hotel room, and they cannot be left unattended.

If you’re looking for a bite to eat with your furry friend, Rose’s Cafe is an upscale Italian bistro that allows dogs on the patio and offers water and gourmet treats for them. If pizza’s more your speed, Pizzeria Delfina offers pies inspired by the pizza stylings of Naples and New York City, complete with a dog-friendly patio!
Cable cars in San Francisco

Important Facts About ESAs in San Francisco

A few other things to know about ESAs:

  • ESAs are not the same thing as service animals. Service animals (typically dogs) must have specialized training to be considered service animals. As a result, service animals have more legal protections than ESAs.
  • For ESA rights to be granted, you must be diagnosed with a relevant condition and obtain a legally valid ESA letter.
  • ESA registration and certificates are not legally binding (though they can be helpful).
  • Any animal can be an ESA, not just cats and dogs! Other popular ESA choices include birds, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
  • ESAs don’t require specialized training to be considered legitimate, but they must be well-behaved, non-destructive, and non-aggressive.

Get an ESA in San Francisco Today

ESAs can help those with mental or emotional disabilities thrive, especially in a city like San Francisco! If you’re thinking about making room in your life for an ESA, schedule your risk free consultation with U.S. Service Animals today!