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The use of emotional support animals (ESA) has been a hot button topic in recent years. Thanks to wide-spread abuse, individuals who suffer from debilitating mental or emotional disabilities may find themselves in a situation where they need to know their rights under California and Federal law.  Understanding the basic rules governing service dogs or support animals will allow you to be better prepared should any issue arise.

What is an emotional support animal?

While many people confuse support animals with service animals, it is important to note that they are different. A service dog provides the owners with a particular trained skill such as a visually impaired individual or someone that is blind or needs assistance with physical activities require a service animal. In contrast, animals that provide a therapeutic response would be considered a support animal.  A dog or other common domesticated animal that provides support to a disabled individual through companionship, affection, non-judgmental regard, or as being a distraction from issues can be an emotional support animal. Before an animal is deemed as an ESA, a diagnosis of a mental or emotional disability that significantly limits one or more of the daily major life activities must have been made by a qualified mental health professional. Animals that can be used for support may include other species; however, cats and dogs are the ones that typically come to mind. If the disabled person’s need is exclusively limited to a residential setting, any legal species of any age could qualify as an emotional support animal including cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, and ferrets. These animals are subject to the community’s species regulations, registration requirements, vaccination rules, and prohibitions. However, neither the federal government, the state of California or the city of San Diego requires any type of specialized training for an emotional support animal including basic obedience.

Types of protections for Emotional support animals

ESA Protections

The federal government enacted several measures designed to protect individuals who use service dogs or support animals. As well as adherence to the federal measures, California and San Diego have supported additional rules to govern ESAs.

 

Travel

Traveling can be an anxiety-producing task for anyone. For those who have severe emotional or mental illnesses, it can be debilitating. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) protects the rights of individuals using emotional support animals. Guidelines mandate that the animal is allowed to travel in the cabin along with their disabled handler for free. DOT rules for air travel allow for stricter regulations than compared to other accommodations. “Unusual” animals such as snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders and ferrets are not allowed due to safety concerns. In addition to these limitations, many air carriers have decided to require additional information before allowing travel with emotional support animals. Widespread abuse and the issues associated with them have necessitated that air carriers require proof from a licensed healthcare professional stating your mental health disability and the need for a service animal. This letter must be dated less than one year prior to traveling and follow a specific format. Contact should be made with the carrier well in advance of travel so that travelers have an adequate amount of time to gather all pertinent information. It is also recommended 48 hours prior to air travel; additional contact is made to ensure that there are no last-minute complications that would hinder your travel plans.

While the DOT has a separate policy for air travel, other forms of transportation (mass transit buses, commuter rails, ferries, etc.) is only required to make accommodations for individuals who use service animals and do not make a distinction between them and ESAs. The local provider is allowed to treat ESAs as pets under the same pricing policy, or they are allowed to ban them entirely. Additionally, neither the ACAA nor Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections cover ESAs in any type of transient lodging. Those wishing to travel with ESAs must be prepared to seek pet-friendly accommodations while traveling. Locations can also legally charge a pet-fee for emotional support animals, limit the types of animals and place additional requirements as they see fit.

Employment

Working With An ESA San Diego

As in all fifty states, employers in California are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. While the federal government has created a gray area when it comes to including those who use emotional support animals, California has decided to include support animals in the workplace an appropriate accommodation. Although the federal government only requires employers to have fifteen or more employees before they are subject to this law, California and San Diego make the law a requirement once the employer has a minimum of five employees.

Employers also have some protections under California law. If the accommodations would cause “undue hardship” exemption from the law might be warranted. Examples of “undue hardships” could be exuberant cost or the nature of the accommodation, the size and number of employees of the facility and the employer, the type of operation or how providing the accommodation would affect the facility and the employer. In addition to protections against undue hardships, employers have a right to expect any support animal to be free from offensive odors, has been housebroken, well behaved and not endanger the health or safety of anyone in the workplace including the handler.

Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) has mandated that tenants or potential tenants have rights regarding emotional support animals. Reasonable accommodations designed to ensure that people with disabilities have equal protection to use and enjoy an apartment or house are strictly enforced.

Reasonable accommodations, as in employment laws would be a change or exception to a policy that would prevent a disabled individual from performing one or more functions related to life such as working or living independently. Tenants who live in San Diego and require an emotional support animal cannot be denied the right to live with their ESA unless the animal poses a threat to the safety of others or would cause significant damage to the property of others. While some landlords may believe that speculation or fear of an animal is justification for not adhering to this law, the decision must be based on factual evidence of a specific animal’s conduct.

Because the laws regarding emotional support animals are fairly new, many property owners do not know or understand the guidelines set forth by the federal or state government. If you have received your first ESA letter and are unsure of what to do next, there are few basic rules that you should remember. Additional requirements for individuals with ESAs is prohibited. For example, property owners are only entitled to the ESA letter from a qualified healthcare professional and are not entitled to any additional information or demands. Contact with the professional is limited to verifying that the letter is valid and does not include any specific medical information including but not limited to medications or course of treatment. In fact, directly contacting the healthcare professional is not advised. If a property owner or landlord suspects the information provided is fraudulent, such verification should be handled by legal representation.

ESAs cannot be required to wear identifying tags or garments nor can owners be assessed fees or deposits normally required for individuals with pets no matter what species or breed.

Property owners do have certain protections under the laws just as employers do. Though they cannot demand deposits or fees for emotional support animals, they can legally charge the tenant for repairs if the property has been damaged by the animal.

Unfortunately, public places are not required to admit emotional support animals regardless of the requirement to admit service animals. Many places in San Diego are friendly to emotional support animals however, there are just as many who do not understand their purpose. Being prepared to discuss the benefits of ESAs with misinformed businesses and individuals could help you advocate for yourself and others. Please keep in mind that although emotional support animals have numerous protections, it is imperative that ESA owners respect laws that are designed to protect others as well.

How to obtain an Emotional Support Animal in San Diego

If you feel you would benefit from an emotional support animal and live or work in San Diego, the first step would be to consult your licensed mental health professional. To legally qualify you must be certified as emotionally disabled by a licensed psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other properly licensed or certified mental health professional. Once diagnosed and it is determined that you would benefit from an ESA in California, a letter from that provider can be issued that outlines your specific mental or emotional disability and your need for that animal can be issued. It can take some time for this process but once completed you the benefits you will receive from your animal is worth the wait.

Give us a call at EZCare Clinic at (415) 966-0848; we’re open 7 days a week, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm PST. Or you can click here to schedule an appointment online to get your ESA today.


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Are you looking for a fun, loving, companion who is smart and loyal? Then you would be interested in our four-legged friend named the Bernedoodle. These dogs, also known as the Bernese Mountain Poo, is a combination of the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Poodle. Though it is not known when or why people began breeding these hybrids, what is known is that they were automatically loved by dog lovers everywhere.

Bernedoodle Appearance

Bernedoodles can be bred to produce various sizes of the breed. The primary breeding process includes all sizes of Poodles, as well as all sizes of Bernese. Sherry Rupke claims to be one of the first breeders of the Bernedoodle. Her kennel, SwissRidge Kennels, bred the first litter in 2003 of two Bernadodles. Rupke later added the Australian Labradoodle to her breed line. When looking at the appearance of the Bernedoodles, there are two main categories the hybrid breed falls under:

  • F1b puppies- the first generation cross of the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Poodle. F1b puppies are likely to be light shedders and suitable pets for people suffering from allergies to dogs.
  • F2 puppies-are the second generation of the F1 Bernedoodles crossed with another F1 Bernedoodle (It is important to note that F1 puppies have more attractive coats than F2 puppies; therefore,
    F1 Bernedoodles are more expensive and sought after)

The coats of a Bernedoodle can be solid or can have 2 to 3 different colors. These colors can include black, white, brown, and a mixture of all three colors. The most popular coloration of the Bernedoodle resembles the Bernese Mountain Dog. This breed can have a curly coat that has the texture of a poodle, or it can follow the Bernese’s genetic makeup. The weight of a Bernedoodle falls between 10 to 90 pounds depending on which parent the puppy takes after the most and their height ranges between 12 to 29 inches. These dogs have a solid build and have a well-formed body structure that reflects agility and strength.

Bernedoodle Character/Temperament

Bernedoodle Character Temperament

The Bernedoodle exhibits a laid-back personality, with a loving and loyal nature. They can be affectionate dogs, who tend to form strong bonds with their families and are usually suitable for
children. This breed is happiest with they are doted on and receive consistent affection from their owners as well as appropriate one on one time with their master. Bernedodles are often described as being gentle, active, smart, loyal and loving in homes that are frequently spending quality time with their pets.

Bernedoodle Health/Care

The lifespan of a Bernedoodle range anywhere from 12 to 15 years. A well-balanced diet will play a huge role in your dog’s health. When choosing a dog food formula for your Bernedoodle, make sure it has the right amount of vitamins and nutrients for your dog’s size. Smaller dogs have different nutritional requirements than larger breeds. Many pet owners make the mistake of feeding small dogs a large dog’s formula or vice versa. This mistake can create health problems for your dog later in life. Overall, a Bernedoodle is a healthy dog breed. Though they are not pure-bred dogs, they have a larger gene pool typically making them more robust than pure-breeds. However, this does not exclude them from certain health conditions that could arise on an individual basis.
Some common health problems that may arise in the Bernedoodle:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye problems
  • Skin issues
  • Elbow dysplasia

(It is also important to note that the F1b Bernedoodle has a higher risk of developing digestive or immune system disease because of the higher quantity of Poodle genes.) The Bernese parent can pass down problems with bones as well. Grooming a Bernedoodle is not complicated. Since Bernedoodle’s have hair and not fur, shedding is almost non-existent. However, they will need brushing regularly to prevent their hair from matting. Trimming a Bernedoodle every so often weeks will ensure their coats stay in good condition. Trips to a professional groomer should be scheduled at least every couple of months to keep their coats looking beautiful and healthy.

Caring for the Bernedoodle will also require an appropriate amount of daily exercise. Though they are a moderately active hybrid breed, Bernedoodles enjoy brisk walks, hiking, jogging with their owners, and any activity that promotes movement and interaction with their owners. These dogs do not need intense exercise, which makes them good dogs for seniors. To keep a Bernedoodle fit, one merely must spend time outdoors moving with them creating a positive outcome for both the dog and the owner.

Bernedoodle Training/Obedience

Bernedoodle TrainingIt is essential to train your Bernedoodle to ensure they exhibit their best behavior. All dogs need guidance and Bernedoodles are no exception to the rule. A well-trained dog is a well-behaved dog.

Training this breed should begin at an early age since puppies are often stubborn and resist training early on, but this typically passes quickly. Socialization and exercise will help your Bernedoodle settle into home life at a much quicker and relaxed pace. This breed can be easy to train if the owner does their homework and finds engaging activities for their Bernedoodle. Training can be fun for the owner and the dog if the right events are planned and carried out.
Here are a few fun training activities that will benefit your Bernedoodle:

  • Fetch
  • Long walks
  • Obstacle courses

No matter what activity or course of training you plan for your Bernedoodle, you can rest assured they will love every minute of it and the time they get to spend with you. Not only that, but Bernedoodles can make a great emotional support animal.

If you would like to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal letter for your pet, give EZCare Clinic a call at (415) 966-0848, 7 days a week, anytime between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm PST. You can also visit us online to schedule an appointment in-person or via telehealth with one of our licensed physicians.

Curious about more mixed breeds? Check these out:

What is a German Shepherd Husky Mix?

What Is A Labradoodle? Dog breed.

What is a Pomsky?


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For many years people living with disabilities have had the benefit of being able to use a service animal to aid them in their everyday life. Unfortunately, the use of service animals had not always been seen as a priority or a need for many individuals. Thankfully, the United States Government stepped in to provide specific accommodations and protections for those living with disabilities. Service animals today, are highly regarded as an extension of a disabled person, aiding and protecting those individuals from accidents. There are various kinds of service pets, seeing eye dogs for the blind, hearing assistance dogs for the deaf, even miniature horses that help individuals with balance and stability issues.

Though service dogs help many different disabilities, the recent explosion in support animals has reopened age-old questions concerning the validity of a person’s need for such an animal. The confusion between service and support animals is one of the underlying reasons people have begun to question the needs of disabled individuals.

 

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and service animal?

The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) has defined service animals as animals “that are individually trained to perform tasks for patients with disabilities.” An example of such work would be pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or relaxing a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many other duties. Service animals are working animals and not considered pets. The task the pet has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Unfortunately, animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not currently qualify as service animals under the ADA. Instead, these animals are classified as emotional support animals (ESA).

Emotional support animals are those that provide therapeutic benefit through support and companionship whether that is to ease symptoms from an emotional or mental disability, as a non-judgmental companion or even as a distraction from stresses associated with daily life.

 

How are ESAs treated or protected under the current federal laws?

Though there are a variety of rules associated with protections of service animals, support animals sometimes fall into a gray area where the federal government is concerned. A few states have decided that to prevent those suffering from mental or emotional disabilities to be lost in the shuffle, they would step in to provide protections whereas other states have chosen not to add any additional protections at all.

Individuals suffering from disabilities are protected when it comes to two specific areas, housing, and air travel, while a third area, employment, has some gray areas when it comes to accommodating ESAs. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Pets that support, assist or provide service to people with disabilities are protected under HUD’s regulations. Assistance animals are not considered pets under these rules and therefore can not be treated as such. Regulations prevent landlords or property owners from denying tenancy or charging fees associated with either service or support animals. In short, the government has determined that these individuals have the right to live in an apartment, condo or home with an animal they have chosen to assist them in their disability.

 

Housing With An Emotional Support Animal

The Fair Housing Act does not require that support animals be individually trained or certified, however, individuals who are requesting protection for support animals must follow specific rules. They must submit proper documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating the nature of their disability and the medical necessity for an assistance animal. Though the most common type of assistance animals are cats and dogs, other species also qualify under these rules as long as they are a legally accepted animal; mice, ferrets, hedgehogs, and even pigs can be eligible as support animals as long as they provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptom or effects of a person’s disability. Importantly, these animals are not required to have specialized training as they are not classified as service animals.

While it may seem that tenants have the most significant power when it comes to accommodations for support animals, it is important to note that property owners or landlords have some protections as well. It is perfectly legal and within their right to request for an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. While it is not required that specific medical information is divulged, certain information is necessary to determine eligibility. Your clinician must submit the required information on their letterhead, mainly serving as a prescription. It will state the nature of the disability and that a reasonable accommodation for a support animal is necessary. Even though the renter cannot be charged a pet fee or pet deposit, they can be legally held responsible for any damages that are caused by the support animal.
Additionally, if the support animal poses a threat to the health or safety of others or would cause property damage, an ESA can be denied. These exceptions are limited and extremely hard to navigate without legal advice. Both the tenant and landlord should exercise caution when browsing delicate issues such as this.

 

Travel With An Emotional Support Animal

Travel With An Emotional Support Animal

Patients who wish to travel with their emotional support animal have enjoyed strong support when it comes to traveling by air. However, due to recent abuses, more stringent policies have been enacted by many carriers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Air Carrier Access Act allows ESA owners to travel with their animals in cabin and free of charge as long as the animal is well-behaved and fits within the guidelines of the specific airline. Unusual animals such as snakes, spiders, ferrets, rodents, and reptiles are prohibited under the DOT’s rules. The airlines have strengthened the requirements for traveling with ESAs. To ensure travelers ample opportunity to obtain any additional required information, it is advised that contact is made with the carrier well in advance of travel and that no less than 48 hours before your departure time contact is made once again.

For individuals traveling from either JFK or LaGuardia Airports, both are very accommodating to emotional support animals. As with many other airports, you will need to submit your ESA letter in advance and get in touch with the airline you are traveling with to find out if they require any additional information before allowing you to travel with your support animal.

For those planning overseas travel, some accommodations have been arranged with many host countries but to ensure you will not have any issues, travelers must contact the State Department for additional information and resources. Keep in mind that foreign airlines traveling to and from the United States are only required to accept dogs in the cabin.

The DOT rules for individuals traveling with ESAs on other forms of public transportation (bus, commuter rail, ferries, etc.) do not require providers to consider emotional support animals as anything more than pets under their pricing policies. They can choose to treat these animals as they would service dogs or ban them entirely.

One last thing to consider when traveling, transient lodging establishments such as hotels or inns are not required to treat ESAs any different than other pets. ESAs can be subject to pet fees as well as not allowing them in the businesses. We suggest that travelers seek pet-friendly locations during their travels to avoid any issues.

 

Employment With An Emotional Support Animal

Disabled individuals, seeking employment or currently employed and need the assistance of an emotional support animal fall under the grayer areas of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA provides protections for disabled individuals in the workplace by prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees or potential employees with disabilities in all facets of employment including hiring, pay, promotion or firing and protects the employee from retaliatory behavior if they assert their rights under the law.

While the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers, those who seek to bring their emotional support animals to work with them fall in the cracks sometimes. Most employers will follow the same process as they would a service animal whose hander does not have a visible disability and request the individual to provide proof from the licensed mental health professional and their request to see their ESA letter. Unfortunately, federal law only comes into effect if an employer has 15 or more employees, small businesses may not fall under this guideline.

Employers have the right to expect those support animals, like service animals be free from odors and not be a danger to anyone. While employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations, there are times when these accommodations may cause undue hardship on the employer. To ensure adherence to the law, any business owner who feels that they would suffer an undue hardship should seek legal advice before denying any accommodation.

Read More Here About Emotional Support Pet Laws: Emotional Support Pet Laws You Should Be Aware Of

 

Getting An ESA Letter In New York State

While New York has made some strides to provide additional accommodations for individuals who use emotional support animals, improvements can be made. Neither the federal government nor New York provides protections for support animals in public areas as they do for service animals. To ensure that all individuals with disabilities have equal access improvements need to be made. Be sure to inform and educate yourself on laws and ESA letter duration if you are living with an ESA. Sometimes you are your own best advocate and can affect change by teaching others in a calm and understanding manner.

Call us at (415) 966-0848 from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm PST to schedule an appointment, or visit our website.


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