“Man’s best friend” is a term that has long been unfairly prescribed only to dogs. Although there’s no doubt that dogs really are the loving, caring, fun friends that people would have you believe, emotional support animal owners will tell you that the same type of best friendship can be formed with just about any type of pet.
The weird, wild and wonderful world of emotional support animals has seen all kinds of creatures get ESA certification. Snakes, rabbits, ducks and even pot-bellied pigs have all become licensed emotional support animals thanks to the ameliorative effects they have on their owner’s disabilities. These wacky pets may seem odd to some, but to their owners, they provide invaluable companionship and enable them to live fuller, more independent lives.
Although there is all manner of emotional support animals out there, there are certain restrictions on what animals can get ESA certification. Although these instances are few and far between — and only disallowed for logic’s sake — it’s worth noting if you’re considering applying for your ESA letter. Although certifiers try to be as accommodating as possible, some animals simply cannot be accredited as it’s too hard to adapt the law to fit around them.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
Before we get into what type of animals are not permitted to be emotional support animals, we must first answer the question, “What is an emotional support animal?” An emotional support animal is an animal that alleviates its owner of some or all symptoms associated with their mental, emotional or psychological ailment through their companionship.
Unlike other service animals, emotional support animals do not need any training of any kind and can be a family pet that is already residing with the owner. Although most service animals are usually dogs, there is no specification as to what your emotional support animal can be. Popular ESAs include dogs, cats and rabbits.
How Do You Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter?
The process of getting your emotional support animal letter is a simple one and can be done from the comfort of your own home. This flexible nature of the consultation is important as it allows those with anxiety and depressive disorders who may not feel comfortable leaving the house to complete their consultation comfortably. The process is relatively short and non-invasive and should take you no longer than a few minutes.
First, you’ll be asked to fill out a short questionnaire briefly outlining your ailment. Then, you’ll begin an online consultation with a licensed mental health professional who will ask you a number of questions about your mental and emotional state to assess your suitability for an emotional support animal. If the health professional thinks you are suitable for ESA certification, they will tell you then and there, and you’ll be sent out your letter within a few short days.
What Are the Benefits for Renters with an Emotional Support Animal?
The main part of your life that will be ameliorated by having your ESA letter is your accommodation situation. For the millions of people living with disabilities across the U.S., their No. 1 issue is acquiring and maintaining secure accommodation that suits their needs. Back in the old days, landlords were able to discriminate against anyone who may come looking to rent accommodation from them. Thankfully, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 put a stop to this, explicitly forbidding landlords from discriminating against anyone based on their age, gender, race, religion or whether they have a disability.
Tenants’ rights were further bolstered by the Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which gave even more protection to renters with disabilities. This act stated that persons with disabilities could not be discriminated against regarding their use of assistive aids, which includes emotional support animals. Thanks to this act, not only are landlords forbidden from discriminating against someone because of their disabilities, but they also have to make reasonable accommodations so that their disabled renters can live there comfortably.
Can Emotional Support Animals Go on Planes?
In addition to enhanced rights in housing, emotional support animal owners are also allowed travel on planes with their ESA thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act. Under this act, anyone with an emotional support animal letter can travel with their ESA in the cabin, unlike other pets who are usually stored in cargo. ESA owners will also not be charged extra for having their ESA travel with them on board. Airlines must be notified 48 hours in advance of your flight if you intend on flying with your ESA.
Housing and air travel are only two of the ways in which your ESA letter can help you be accommodated by service providers. Stores and restaurants will allow you and your pet in if you present them with your certification once your pet is kept under control. It’s worth noting that even though it’s your right to keep them with you, if your pet is not under control or is misbehaving in a store or restaurant, the premises is not obligated to allow you to remain there and can ask you to leave.
What Pets Can’t Be Emotional Support Animals?
As you now know what allowances your ESA letter can get you, it’s clear to see what type of pets you cannot have as an emotional support animal. A landlord/airline/store/restaurant could not be expected to accommodate an animal that is too large to safely occupy the store. For this reason, anything bigger than a large dog is typically not given ESA status. This means horses, cows and any other mega pet cannot really become an ESA as they cannot safely occupy the spaces that your ESA accreditation would normally allow them into. Additionally, landlords cannot be fairly expected to accommodate a very large animal that would potentially damage their property.
When choosing an emotional support animal it is best to think practically. Thankfully, most ESAs fit within the parameters of classifications, and there is very rarely any issue with getting a pet certified.