MooshMe - Golden Gate Bridge

Emotional support animals are almost everywhere nowadays, and it should come as no surprise. They are a great alternative for easing the symptoms of various conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.

What exactly are ESAs, how are they different from normal pets and service animals, and what are the steps involved in getting a California emotional support animal certification? We’ve got everything you need to know!

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

MooshMe - ESA Greylag Goose

From dogs and cats to ducks and snakes, the type of ESA you choose depends on your personal preference.

An emotional support animal is similar to a pet you may have at home, except that their main purpose is to provide therapeutic benefits to the owner to help with his or her illness. Also, they do not have to be limited to a cat or dog, but can be a turtle, pig or even a snake. It all depends on the individual.

In comparison to a service animal, emotional support animals do not have to be trained and are not there to help with any physical disability. They are simply there to provide company and a sense of calm and well-being to the owner.

California Emotional Support Animal Laws

Now that you know what an ESA is, you may be wondering how to you get an emotional support animal in California. If you live in the sunny state of California, there are laws with regards to getting an ESA which you should consider first.

For example, California emotional support animal law only allows trained service animals and psychiatric service dogs in public places such as hotels, restaurants, and shops, but not ESA animals. It is important to be aware of the laws before getting an emotional support animal, as they are not protected like service animals, and you could easily be breaking the law without even realizing it.

The laws that do protect emotional support animals include the housing, travel and employment laws. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, landlords and housing managers must provide reasonable accommodations for people with emotional support animals. Also, no-pet rules and pet fees do not apply to emotional support animals.

Under employment laws, it is forbidden to discriminate on the basis of an employee’s disability, whether it be physical or mental. However, your animal should only be in the workplace environment if it plays a part in helping you with your job and day-to-day tasks, and it must not endanger the health and well-being of others. Even if animals are not allowed in the workplace, this rule must be waived for somebody with an emotional support animal.

In terms of traveling, the Air Carrier Access Act allows your ESA animal to fly with you as long as you provide documentation and give the carrier 48-hours’ notice. The documentation, which is usually a letter from a health professional, must be less than a year old in order to be valid.

Steps to Get an Emotional Support Animal in California

MooshMe - Worried Girl

The first step to get an ESA in California is to recognize that you have depression, anxiety or other type of condition.

Step One: Decide that you will actually benefit from an emotional support animal, and that it will help you with any emotional or mental disabilities. This can be done by going to see a psychologist or mental health professional.

Step Two: Once you have qualified for an ESA, a professional letter can be provided for you by the health professional. This must be on a professional letterhead, with the date of when it was written and the license type and number of the professional.

Step Three: When you have received your letter, you can then register your emotional support animal to show that it is manageable in public. There are various sites where you can do this, the most common being the National Service Animal Registry and the Service Animal Registry of California, where once you register, the certificate is valid in all other states, and it’s a lifetime registration that doesn’t require renewal. It’s worth noting that registration is not compulsory under law, but it is a helpful way to designate your animal’s status, for instance, to your landlord.

As you can see, it’s pretty straight forward to get an emotional support animal in California, but it’s ideal to be in the know when it comes to the different laws, such as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). These laws are in place to protect the rights of people with service and emotional support animals, although they do apply more to service animals.

Being knowledgeable about the California emotional support animal certification laws will not only ensure that you know your rights, but will also help you make the most of your emotional support animal. You’ll be more informed about where you can take them, you’ll avoid pet fees and you can keep them with you in the workplace.