The number of people who own emotional support animals (ESAs) has increased greatly throughout the U.S. in recent years. And there’s nowhere it’s more noticeable than in California. One of the reasons for the growth is that more people are turning to ESA ownership to help in their struggles with mental illness. Getting an ESA letter in California allows you certain privileges with your pet as well, so read on to see why a growing number of West Coasters are jumping on the ESA bandwagon.
What are emotional support animals?
An emotional support animal, or ESA, is a pet that provides you with help in dealing with symptoms of mental illness. People with a wide variety of mental illnesses or conditions – everything from depression and anxiety to PTSD – can find benefits from owning an emotional support animal. Their ESA often provides comfort and companionship and works to alleviate some of their symptoms (for example, by creating a calming presence for anxiety sufferers, or a reason not to isolate for people with depression). These animals can be pretty much any species, such as traditional pets like dogs and cats or more exotic kinds like hedgehogs and snakes. As long as you have a legitimate mental health condition and can see a benefit to owning an ESA, you can apply for a California ESA letter.
How can I get a California ESA letter?
To apply for a California ESA letter, you’ll need to consult with a state-licensed mental health professional (such as a therapist or psychiatrist) who can evaluate your condition and determine if owning an ESA would be helpful for you. If they think you could benefit, they’ll need to write a letter certifying your pet as an ESA. However, you need to be cautious that the letter contains all of the proper information (there are some scam websites that offer fraudulent ESA letters!). Make sure any letter you receive has the following information:
- The name of the mental health professional and what they specialize in
- The type of medical license, license registration number, issue date, and expiration date of the license
- Verifiable contact information for the provider
- The type of animal and name of the animal being registered
- The ESA certificate ID number
- The issue date and expiration date of the letter
If you don’t have a mental health professional that you’re working with, you can head to Mooshme. They can connect you with a licensed medical professional in California who can assess your need for an ESA and write a legitimate letter. Once you have your certification letter, you can use it to fly with your ESA and avoid housing discrimination. It can also be helpful to have on hand if you want your emotional support animal with you in a public place that doesn’t allow pets. Retailers and businesses are not required to allow you to have your ESA with you since ESAs are not considered service animals, but you might be able to use your letter to explain your situation to them.
Which emotional support animals are best for California?
The next question that comes after “Can I have an emotional support animal in California?” is usually “What sort of animal should I get?!” Luckily, pretty much any type of ESA will adapt well to living in California. The state’s climate is pretty varied, so you’re bound to find a comfortable place depending on what kind of weather you and your ESA like the best. Prefer cooler weather? Head to the beach or the mountains or travel inland instead for warmer temperatures.
As far as housing situations go, there’s also a wide variety to choose from throughout the state. Some busier cities, such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, typically have tighter living quarters (think smaller apartments) unless you have a lot of money to spend. However, once you head out to the suburbs, you’re more likely to find spacious homes. If you want a larger dog with more room to roam about, you might want to consider areas of California that are more rural or cities that offer homes with large backyards. If you’re thinking of owning a smaller ESA (such as a small dog breed or a rabbit), you basically have your pick of any housing situation. Just make sure that you can provide your emotional support animal with a safe and comfortable home, and you’ll be just fine.
What privileges do I get from owning an ESA?
The two main benefits to owning an ESA in California are travel and housing.
For travel, a certified ESA letter will allow your ESA to fly with you in the cabin of your plane at no additional cost to you. You will have to do some preliminary work before you fly (such as filling out forms for the airline), but it’s worth it to have your ESA with you during the flight – especially if you experience anxiety while flying. However, you should check ahead of time with the airline you’ll be flying with, since some airlines restrict which animals they’ll allow onboard.
In terms of housing, a landlord or building owner is unable to discriminate against you just for owning an emotional support animal. That means that they cannot legally deny you housing because of your ESA. You will have to provide proper documentation and ensure that your ESA is well-behaved and won’t disturb other tenants. But your ESA certification letter should help you avoid any unfair housing situations.
Why are more Californians getting ESAs?
A recent study conducted by researchers from University of California at Davis found that the number of emotional support animals has increased tenfold since 2000 – that’s a growth of almost 1,000%! So, what’s behind this growing trend?
There’s a couple of reasons, starting with ESAs’ general rise in popularity. The more people who know ESA owners or who have experience with the subject, the more the population of ESA owners will increase. This public acceptance means that more people are aware of the benefits of ESAs and are more tolerant of people who have them. This aspect has shown up in the airline industry’s acceptance of ESAs onboard and more retailers and restaurants being tailored to ESA owners. In fact, there are tons of these types of businesses in California, where it’s encouraged for people to bring their pets along with them while they’re shopping or eating out. And then there’s the most typical Californian reason – more celebrities are owning emotional support animals! Californians are well-known for their penchant of copying the stars, and owning ESAs is no different. This just adds further exposure to the usage of ESAs.
Overall, more people are opening up about their mental health struggles in general and the effort to erase the stigma of these conditions is creating a more open and honest conversation in our culture. This opening creates more exploration of how animals can help us through difficult situations in our lives.
So, if you’re thinking of getting an ESA to help lessen your social anxiety or as a companion to get you out of your depressive state, applying for a California ESA letter is an easy process. You’ll soon see the many benefits of owning an ESA in the Golden State!