You may have read about the countless mental, physical and social benefits that owning an emotional support animal can have on your life, but do you know about the amazing legal opportunities they offer to you? In this article, we’re going to explore the two most important emotional support animal laws and teach you how having that all-important ESA letter can allow you to benefit from them.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal, and How Do You Get One?
To benefit from the emotional support animal laws, it’s important to know what an ESA pet is and how you can get one. Emotional support animals are often confused with service pets, and most people automatically assume that an ESA pet is a dog. This is not the case at all. Service dogs are required to do extensive training, while an ESA pet is only required to behave in public spaces and be toilet trained. Service dogs are trained to help someone with a severe physical disability, most commonly blindness or deafness, while ESA pets help people cope with mental, psychological and minor physical illnesses.
It’s also important to note that an ESA pet doesn’t have to be a dog at all. You’ll often find cats, birds, gerbils and even snakes as emotional support animals. In order to get your ESA pet, you’ll need to get the all-important ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. With this ESA letter, you’ll be able to benefit from the amazing rights and laws open to emotional support animal owners.
What Are These Emotional Support Animal Laws, and How Can You Benefit From Them?
With an ESA letter, you’ll be able to benefit from the two most important emotional support animal laws. You’ll be able to fly with your pet free of charge on any commercial airline, and you can live with your pet regardless of any no-pet policies your current residence may have.
What Is the Law on Flying with Your ESA Pet?
The Air Carrier Access Act means that you are legally allowed to fly with an emotional support animal as it falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act. What does this mean for you if you have an ESA letter? It means that you can take your pet onto a plane with you inside the cabin. Unlike those without an ESA letter, your animal doesn’t need to be stored underneath the plane with the luggage. The airline cannot discriminate against you or your pet, but there are some best practices to follow when flying with an ESA animal.
Make sure you contact the airline at least 48 hours before your flight and let them know the size and breed of your pet. This will allow them to make changes to your seating if necessary. Bigger pets may require you to move near emergency exits or toward the front of the plane where there is more space.
Make sure to have your ESA letter on hand. Usually, you won’t be challenged, but without that letter, your rights change completely.
If your pet is antisocial in any way, particularly if it is loud or aggressive, it can legally be denied access to the plane.
If your pet is too large to fit on your lap, make sure to work with the flight attendant to find a mutually beneficial solution. Air travel can be stressful for all, so it’s smart to be safe rather than sorry.
Other than these simple rules, you’re free to fly with your emotional support animal on any airline in the United States. Rules vary slightly when flying internationally, so make sure to look up the laws in whatever country you may be visiting.
What Is the Law on Living with your ESA Pet?
Another law that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act is called the Fair Housing Act. This law means that once you have an ESA letter, you’ll be able to live with your pet and that the owner of any house or building cannot deny you the right to live with your emotional support animal. Although some building owners normally would have the right to charge you a deposit or fee for living with a pet, they will not be able to charge you if you have a valid ESA letter.
Here are some important rules and regulations to follow regarding your right of abode with your pet.
Your pet is expected to reasonably behave. They cannot be excessively antisocial.
Although no deposit or fee can be legally charged by a landlord, it’s important to note that if your ESA pet causes any destruction to the building, the owner will have every right to recuperate these fees.
The owner of the property doesn’t have the right to question your disability or ask you to make your ESA animal wear some form of identification to show that it is an emotional support animal.
If a landlord of building manager does not respect any of these rules, you will be allowed to pursue legal damages against them.
So How Do You Get an ESA letter?
Getting that ESA letter is actually a lot less difficult than you might think. First and foremost, you need to make sure that you aren’t just exploiting the emotional support animal laws and that you identify with having an actual mental illness that an emotional support animal can help you treat. Luckily, animals are scientifically proven to help treat the following disorders: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, phobias, anxiety, panic disorder, personality disorders, learning difficulties, social anxiety, personality disorders, mood disorders, separation anxiety and stress
If you identify a disorder on this list that you feel you might suffer from, you need to contact a mental health professional, typically a psychiatrist or therapist but any licensed mental health professional will work. This professional can write a letter for you laying out what your disability is, that you are a patient of theirs and that you have been diagnosed with an emotional support animal to help treat this disorder.
It’s as simple as that. With that letter, you’re entitled to all the emotional support animal laws mentioned in this article under the Americans with Disabilities Act.